Grand Haven’s boys water polo team headed to East Lansing over the weekend to compete in the state championship tournament. After a hard-fought 14-8 loss to No. 1 seed Dexter, the Buccaneers dropped a 13-9 contest to Ann Arbor Huron.
There was a victory in Grand Haven’s final match of the season, as the Bucs defeated Ann Arbor Skyline in a consolation match to finish in seventh place.
“There wasn’t much left to do than sit back and let our guys play,” Grand Haven head coach Bill Hamm said. “I have had a long time with these boys, know them personally, and was really excited for them to have this last weekend. They should enjoy success and relish the team they have built.”
Last year, the Bucs would upset Dexter in the first round of the tournament on their way to a third-place finish. However, the Dreadnaughts were east Michigan’s top team, and gave the Bucs all they could handle.
“The boys were well prepared and came out hard,” Hamm said. “They had several great offensive opportunities early but had difficulty converting. We had a lot more success going inside in the early going.”
Senior Nick Wilson thought he had scored the game’s opening goal early on, but the shot was negated by an illegal throw attempt call. Dexter would score later in the quarter before junior Michael MacDonald replied for the Bucs to end the first period at 1-1. Although the Bucs took a lead in the second period through Wilson, Dexter found their footing shortly after as Grand Haven tired.
Dexter would go on to score 8 unanswered goals in the period and went into the halfway mark up 9-2. The Bucs scored the first 3 goals of the third period, but could only bring the deficit to 11-6 in favor of the Dreadnaughts.
Both teams would add a handful of goals in the final period to make the final score 14-8 Dexter.
“I was very proud of the way the boys stayed emotionally, physically and mentally in the game even after that second period,” Hamm said. “They were doing all the right things, supporting each other and having confidence in each other. They came to enjoy the occasion, give it their best and work hard. They did all those things and put a big good scare into a really good team.”
The Bucs went on to play Ann Arbor Huron on Saturday morning, and found themselves down 9-3 at the half. Wilson scored 3 goals in the third period to cut the lead to 10-8, but couldn’t convert the necessary chances in the final period. That match finished 13-9 in favor of Huron.
A consolation match with Ann Arbor Skyline loomed later in the day, and the Bucs ran into a determined opponent. The Bucs clung to a 3-2 lead after the first period, but got a reprieve in the second period as Skyline’s first-team all-state player Atticus Dewey was ejected, giving Grand Haven an easier time defensively.
After heading into the half up 6-3, the Bucs were able to wear down the Skyline defense and protect the ball, holding on to win 11-6. Wilson finished with 5 goals and 5 assists in the game while senior Carter Brown added a goal in the second period and fourth period to stop Skyline momentum. Senior Jack Timmer added 5 steals and 3 blocked shots, while goalkeeper Ethan Boos made 15 saves.
The Bucs finished their season at 20-14 and received a handful of postseason honors. Nick Wilson was named as a first-team all-West region player by the Michigan Water Polo Association, Thomas MacDonald received second-team honors while Michael MacDonald was listed among the honorable mention. The three were also given all-conference honors in the O-K conference.