The Rams celebrate capturing second in the MWPA State Finals. ~ Contributed Photo
The Rockford water polo team showed why they are considered a dynasty by claiming runner-up in the Michigan Water Polo Association’s State Finals, May 31-June 1. The Rams kicked off the Finals facing off against Okemos and enjoyed a 7-2 victory. In the semis, the Rams took on Grand Ledge and came away with a 9-5 win to earn the right to play for the State title. Rockford then faced off against No. 1 Hudsonville in the Championship tilt. The potent Eagles came away with a 7-4 victory.
“The biggest thing that stood out this weekend was the team defense our girls played,” shares Ram head coach Katie Clarin. “It was noticed by many people outside of our program as well, teams were having a hard time getting shots off much less even scoring in the first couple games. Earlier in the year, we played Okemos and allowed them to score nine goals. They didn’t score until the last three minutes of the game on Friday. We were able to shut down their hole set all game and they became very frustrated.”
The first two games the Rams tallied 16 points, while holding their opponents to just seven. Snyman registered 25 saves in goal. Folcik recorded eight goals, three assists and 11 steals. Boss had two goals, one assist and seven steals. Gamm notched two goals, three assists and two steals. Paige Beers tallied one goal, one assist, four steals, Rylee Davis three goals, and five steals, Grace Bargwell one steal and Blockland one assist and one steal.
“The Grand Ledge game was obviously a huge win for us,” continues Clarin. “They had been ranked No. 1 for a good portion of the season this year. So, having to play them in the semi-finals was a big task. We knew we didn’t have an easy path to make it to the finals, but the girls were very determined this weekend and weeks leading up to the State Tournament. Our team defense once again was the major difference in the game. We were able to completely take Grand Ledge out of their comfort zone and didn’t allow them to do anything they wanted. Our team has a lot of speed, as does Grand Ledge, so when we didn’t allow them to swim on us and took away their drive opportunities they struggled to get any good shots.”
In the finals, the Rams sure gave Hudsonville some heart palpitations in the first quarter, jumping off to a 2-0 lead, with Sabrina Boss and Rachel Gamm both finding the back of the net for Rockford. Hudsonville answered in the second quarter, scoring four goals. Rockford’s Boss nailed another one to see the game move to 4-3 with Hudsonville holding the narrow lead heading into halftime. The tough Eagles defense stymied the Rams for the entire second half, with Gamm again scoring in the third quarter, but that was the total of Ram scoring with the Rams ending up on the wrong end of a 7-4 score.
For the game, Jillian Snyman had an impressive game in goal for the Rams, tallying 12 stops for the game. On defense, Boss paced the Rams with four steals, Folcik tallied two, and Gamm and Kaleigh Blockland had one apiece.
“Of course, the final game didn’t end how we wanted it to but at the same time I am incredibly proud of this team,” Clarin concludes. “We took an early lead in the first quarter going up 2-0. But Hudsonville game out in the second quarter and scored four goals to our one. That quarter was the difference in the game. We just were never able to recover completely from that big quarter they had. Our girls never showed any signs of quitting though. We always knew if we could get a little run we still had a chance.”
Clarin looks back on the year with great fondness.
“We started the year with a lot of question marks and really went through some difficult and rough stretches in our season where our will and confidence could have been shaken but, the girls understood the process and continued to work and trust in each other. It paid off brilliantly this weekend when everything came together and we had so many different people contributing in different aspects.”
The Rams say goodbye to three senior captains, Grace Bargwell, Jillian Snyman and Samantha Tow with great fondness and gratitude - for their contributions to the team both in and out of the pool.