The Bucs scored early and often against the visiting Pioneers to record an 11-0 shutout win on Wednesday night at the Grand Haven Aquatic Center.
The win gave the Buccaneers a season sweep of East Grand Rapids. In their four meetings, Grand Haven has outscored the Pioneers, 46-11.
“We were solid tonight,” said Grand Haven head coach Bill Hamm. “We were conservative on offense, but very, very good on defense. That was a big reason why we did as well as we did on the scoreboard. This is the fourth time we’ve played them, so we knew their plan and knew what they were going to try to do. I think the guys were expecting a tough game, and they really showed up ready to play.”
Senior Grant Ruster recorded a hat trick and added six steals to lead the Bucs (12-9), while junior Joshua Koornneef also recorded a hat trick and five steals. Jon Hoffman added a hat trick of his own in the second half, while Mason Fritz added two goals in the first half.
“Grant Ruster always plays well on defense, and he was great again out there tonight,” added Hamm. “He has to be one of the best players in the state. Jon Hoffman got in the hole tonight and scored some goals for us as well. He took some good turns in the hole and had good control of the ball in traffic. We really got a great defensive performance from the entire team, though. That was the biggest key for us.”
The biggest challenge for Hamm this year might be trying to limit the energy level of one of his key players.
“Grant is our defensive stopper out there,” he said. “I told him last week that we needed him to play at eight (in terms of energy level) and not an 11. He always plays at 11, so we have to try and turn him down sometimes. He played at a solid nine tonight, and he was very effective for us.”
Passing is still an area that Bucs hope to get sharper at is the season progresses.
“The passing is improving ever so slightly,” Hamm added. “We are starting to be a smarter passing team, but some of the errant passes are still happening. So, that’s something that we have to work on every singe day.
“Water polo has a lot of natural aggressive mistakes that happen throughout a game anyway, so I would prefer to be a little more conservative with the ball. I would be much more pleased with a well thought out plan than rushing things. I’d rather see mistakes where we wait too long than ones where we are flying around and pushing the ball to the back of somebody’s head and throwing a bad pass.”
Junior keeper Matt Beals recorded his first career shutout in net for the Bucs with three saves on the night. The accomplishment didn’t go unnoticed by his teammates.
“I thought our team did a really good job defensively and had some key defensive blocks,” said Jon Hoffman after the game. “Matt Beals had a shutout tonight, so that was pretty impressive.
“One of our goals this whole season was to record a shutout, so it was really nice to see him achieve that goal tonight.”
Hoffman was happy with how he ended his night, but thought his overall performance was a little uneven.
“I felt like my whole performance was a little shaky in the first half,” he admitted. “Most of my goals came in the second half from driving out of the set and having a good pass to work with. I think both of my assists came from Grant Ruster, and he had a really great game tonight.
“I try not to be the last one down the pool. If we don’t score off the transition, I try and set up plays and get the ball moving around a little bit. Personally, I prefer to get the assist, but if the long shot is there, I will definitely take it.”
Grand Haven travels to the east side of the state this weekend to participate in a tournament hosted by Birmingham Groves.
“We’re excited right now,” Hoffman added. “We feel like we are playing well, and we are ready to test ourselves against some of the teams on the east side of the state this weekend.”
Junior varsity: Grand Haven defeated East Grand Rapids, 10-5. Griffen Kelly recorded a hat trick to lead the Bucs, while Matt Fahey added two goals.