The Grand Haven girls water polo team has come leaps and bounds since kicking off their season and continued their journey Tuesday as they hosted East Grand Rapids.
The Bucs fell 8-3, but had reasons to be excited with a much-improved defensive effort.
“This was a different game than when we played (EGR) at our home tournament a few weeks ago,” said Grand Haven head coach Kaci Weibenga. “We had a defensive-focused game today. We have been working on getting back on defense and switching and helping out in transition, and the girls did that a lot better today.
“We would have liked to get more shots off, but our improvement was on the defensive end.”
Grand Haven took the lead off the bat, drawing a foul and scoring on the 6-on-5 opportunity in the first minute of play, courtesy of Alex Bergman. The Pioneers would even the score less than a minute later, kicking off a defensive battle into the first break.
The Bucs couldn’t find the net for the duration of the second quarter, while EGR scored with 6:11, 5:35 and 2:57 left in the half to take a 4-1 lead at intermission.
The Pioneers tacked on another goal to start the second half before Grand Haven’s Ellyn Skodack answered, cutting the lead to 5-2. From there, the Bucs’ defense locked down for the rest of the third quarter, killing a 6-on-5 play for EGR to hold their three-goal deficit.
In the fourth, a quick foul on Grand Haven gave the Pioneers their sixth goal, quickly followed by another before a minute had come off the clock. With 2:36 left to play, Crimson Draeger scored the Bucs’ final goal of the evening. EGR would score with 30 seconds left to push the game to its final tally.
While the Bucs’ stars played to their customary level, it was the effort and improvement of their younger players that made the difference Tuesday.
“The improvement came from the girls that have more room to grow,” Weibenga said. “Our starters played their typically good game, but our younger girls on varsity saw a lot of improvement from them tonight, especially on defense. From getting back quicker to being between their girls and the goal, to switching and helping each other out, it was all good things.”
The Bucs return to action Thursday as they visit Forest Hills at 7 p.m.