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Fall Sports Preview: Boys Water Polo

Josh VanDyke • Aug 16, 2017 at 4:15 AM

The Grand Haven boys water polo team finished the year at 24-17 in 2016. After falling out of the top 10 rankings over the course of the season, the Buccaneers found their collective rhythm and accelerated through the playoffs, finishing third in the district and fourth in the regional to sneak into the eight-team state tournament.

At the final tournament of the season, the Buccaneers managed a sixth-place finish. The positive momentum created by last season’s finish has the Grand Haven squad optimistic that 2017 could mean bigger and better things for the program.

The Bucs graduated just three players from the program, most of which served on the junior varsity team for most of the regular season.

The firepower of their run through the postseason came from rising seniors Mason Fritz and Grant Ruster. Fritz, an All-State performer in 2016, led the way on offense, while Ruster, an All-Regional selection last season, anchored a stalwart defense. The dynamic duo is joined by returning impact players such as: Joshua Koornneef, Reilly Wisniewski, Jordan DeVries and keeper Matt Beals.

After their inspiring playoff run, the Bucs have high hopes for the 2017 season. Team chemistry is already created with the entire starting lineup returning and recent history is on their side.

“The team is going to be very competitive this year,” said Grand Haven head coach Bill Hamm. “It is a large group with over 20 players on the varsity squad, but the core of eight or nine players will be able to compete with any team in the state.

“Making the state tournament is one of our goals, and once we get there, these guys can accomplish anything. We lost three seniors from last year's team, and are going to be without incoming senior Jon Hoffman for a while, as he is coming back from an injury that will keep him out all season. That means that our team doesn't change much from last year. So the boys will be building upon a tremendous amount of experience, including several players that played on Grand Haven's summer water polo team that traveled to California to compete in the Junior Olympic tournament.”

The road to the postseason will be paved with some of the best competition in the state. Which might seem like a determent to some programs, but Coach Hamm and company view it as a challenge worth taking on.

“Our conference and district will have perennial high-performing teams from both Zeeland and Hudsonville. The region will also include defending state champions Rockford that also saw very little change to their roster. We’re used to going up against the best talent the state has to offer, and we use it as a test during the regular season to get use ready for what the postseason will bring.”

OUTLOOK

The Grand Haven boys water polo team might not finish the regular season with as impressive of a win-loss record as teams likes Rockford, but the Buccaneers will be just as battle-tested when the postseason rolls around.

“The boys' water polo program begins this season with a core of athletes that have been playing and loving this game together for many years now,” Hamm continued. “Their talents and determination will lead the program into a season with high hopes, tremendous goals, and I am certain, great success.

“The team is fast, strong, skilled and knowledgeable. They simply have to learn to play as a unit, understand each others’ skill sets and use each others’ talents to develop a winning technique and attitude for the entire season. Returning an all-state team member, as well as another all-regional member and several other athletes with exceptional and similar abilities to their own means this is a talented team that is ready to make a name for themselves.”

With a solid core of experienced playmakers, depth at every position, and an optimistic attitude on the course ahead, the Buccaneers appear poised to make some noise in 2017.

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