Haven polo finishes runner-up at regionals

Tribune Staff • Oct 31, 2016 at 1:58 AM

The Grand Haven boys water polo team finished 2-1 to take runner-up honors at this weekend’s Division 1 regional at Jenison High School.

The Buccaneers defeated East Grand Rapids (15-5) on Friday to advance to the regional semifinals against rival Zeeland.

The game started with plenty of action, with both teams combining for 10 goals in the first quarter of play. The Bucs defense would slow down the Dux attack in the second stanza, 3-0.

The third quarter saw Zeeland lose some of its discipline and suffer a defensive lapse that led to many ejections and enabled the Bucs to open a more comfortable 15-8 lead heading into the final quarter.

With a sizable lead, the Bucs decided to rest some of their starters, but the second team continued to put the pressure on the Dux and blanked them again, 2-0 in the quarter. The Bucs wrapped up a 17-8 win and a spot in the championship game.

“Though our defense played really well, our offense struggled,” said Grand Haven head coach Bill Hamm. “We managed 17 goals, but sadly, missed 32 shots. That sounds bad, but the exciting point is that we committed only three turnovers. Also, we spread the goals out over seven different players, so we were coming at them from several positions.”

Junior standout Mason Fritz led the team with eight goals, while Grant Ruster added seven assists and nine steals.

In the regional championship game, the Bucs faced No. 2-ranked Rockford.

Rockford took the first quarter, 3-1, and added two more goals in the second quarter to take a 5-2 lead into halftime. Grand Haven would answer with a strong offensive performance in the second half, but ultimately, it was too little, too late as the Bucs fell to the Rams, 12-9.

“We frustrated some of their shooters, played excellent defense in the center, however, the extra man advantages we gave them came back to haunt us,” Hamm added. “We did not play at full strength, missing a starter, but played really well for some significant minutes. I hope to get the chance to meet them again in the state tournament and see if we can give it another shot.”

Mason Fritz led the Bucs with five goals, while Joshua Koornneef added three.

Grant Ruster led the team with 7 steals, while goalkeeper Matt Beals was great all weekend with 36 saves and 10 steals over three games.

Grand Haven advances to play Ann Arbor Huron, who placed third at the East regional, in the state quarterfinals on Friday at 7:45 p.m. at Hudsonville High School.

The Bucs fell to the River Rats, 17-6, in the opening game of the season.

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