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  • Writer's pictureMWPA News Wire

2022 Boys Preseason Poll Announced

The 2022 Michigan Water Polo Association (MWPA) Boys Preseason rankings have been officially released.

Each week, the MWPA will release the Top 10 with a breakdown of each team and their spot in the polls.

Next up - the breakdowns, 1-10 and On the Line for the Boys teams.

#1 Hudsonville Eagles

2021 Finish: State Champions, West Regional Champions, District 1 Champions, OK Conference Champions

2021 Record: 17-0

Vs. Top Ten Teams: 8-0

Key Losses: Colin McDowell, Nate Chalmers, Gabe Ecenbarger, Eli Boonstra

Head Coach: Josh Ahrendt

The State Champion Eagles were quite nearly untouchable a year ago. They played few close games and dominated their way to states where they tackled their quarterfinal in a six-goal win, a closer semi-final by three (Ann Arbor Pioneer) and the State Championship by four (Dexter). The Eagles, unanimous number one, did lose quite a bit. State MVP and All-American Colin McDowell is gone. Gabe Ecenbarger and Nate Chalmers who had a slew of postseason awards of their own both graduated, as well as starting keeper Eli Boonstra. Still, Josh Ahrendt’s Eagles return perhaps the States best player in Micah Bayle, who shoots with equal velocity and motion with BOTH arms. Cooper Randall received postseason minutes in goal last year, and the Eagles had 13 kids on the 2021 roster that were juniors. Expect them to be big, experienced, and stifling defensively.

#2 Ann Arbor Pioneer Pioneers

2021 Finish: State 3rd Place, East Region Runners Up, District 4 Champions

2021 Record: 17-6

Vs. Top Ten Teams: 11-6

Key Losses: Jack Shemke, Liam Herbert, Cam Williston

Head Coach: Don Packard

The Pioneers are the ultimate grind-you-down roster and slot into the first MWPA poll at the #2 spot under master game-planner and reigning men’s coach of the year, Don Packard. The losses of Shemke, Herbert (Both All-Staters), and Williston loom large, but are dimmed by a junior class of 13 from last year that is set to return. Gabriel Sanchez Burks, an All State Tournament second teamer is still just a junior. Mathieu Ruelle was masterful in goal in the State Championship Tournament, and Alex Farmer, Luke Packard and the rest of the senior class bring back a ton of depth and experience on a team that has its eyes set on winning their first State Title since the epic 2011 upset of crosstown rival, Ann Arbor Huron.

#3 Grand Haven Buccaneers

2021 Finish: State 4th Place, West Region Runners Up, District 1 Runners Up

2021 Record: 13-8

Vs. Top Ten Teams: 7-7

Key Losses: Thomas MacDonald, Michael MacDonald

Head Coach: Bill Hamm

The Buccaneers are certainly going to have a job replacing Thomas and Michael MacDonald’s two-way production, but like the teams ahead of them, the Bucco’s were largely made up of returners. Ethan Boos returns in goal and didn’t get as much attention as he maybe deserved for his extremely strong postseason run. Garrett Barry also returns and brings another solid two-way presence; he was All State Tournament Team Honorable mention in a star-studded state tournament a year ago. The Buccaneers drew tough postseason assignments, getting Hudsonville twice, state runner up Dexter, a physical Birmingham Groves team that took them to overtime, and Ann Arbor Pioneer in their final game. The Buccaneers if nothing else, are battle tested.

#4 Dexter Dreadnaughts

2021 Finish: State Runners Up, East Regional Champions, District 4 Runners Up

2021 Record: 18-3

Vs. Top Ten Teams: 11-3

Key Losses: Tony Golin, Sam Sterlitz, Ben Duncan, Clayton Kinnard, Leo Varitek

Head Coach: Kait Verbal

Gone is longtime program staple and winningest coach in school history, Brian Semple, who led the Dreads to back-to-back state runner up finishes. The job is in the hands of Kait Verbal, who inherits a boys squad that graduated, essentially, their entire starting line-up. The mustachioed lethal weapon known as Tony Golin, All-State Team Goalkeeper, is graduated and off playing at Mercyhurst. Long arms of the law and All-American Sam Sterlitz, as well as Leo Varitek, Ben Duncan and Clayton Kinnard have all graduated as well. It will be a very new look Dexter squad in a District with strong Pioneer and Skyline squads, and they’ll need to grow quickly to maintain their hold on District 4.

#5 Rockford Rams

2021 Finish: State 7th Place, West Region 3rd Place, District 2 Champions

2021 Record: 21-4

Vs. Top Ten Teams: 9-4

Key Losses: Hudson Verwys, Nate Hopkins, Brenden Saur

Head Coach: Craig Peterman

They were the state leader in total victories in 2021, but they were a team that went through a late season gauntlet. In fact, headed into the Regional Semi-Finals, the Rams had lost just one game on the year. But Rockford drew a murderers row of tough opponents and lost three of their last five games, finishing seventh in the state. Both losses at the state tournament came by a goal (one in overtime) and their regional semi-final loss to Grand Haven came just by two. The Rams will have a job replacing All Staters Hudson Verwys and Nate Hopkins, as well as All-Region honoree Brenden Saur, but like #2 and #3 in the poll, return their goaltender Joe Reinsma. Christian Wagen returns, as well as both Cheney brothers for the Rams who lost a sizable senior class but still retain a lot of youth and depth at the varsity level. In what looks like a wide open top end of the state, the Rams have as good a shot as any and making things interesting come May.

#6 Ann Arbor Skyline Eagles

2021 Finish: State 5th Place, East Region 4th Place, District 4 3rd Place

2021 Record: 13-11

Vs. Top Ten Teams: 4-10

Key Losses: John Evangelista, Dan Koselka

Head Coach: Ashley Hower

One of the State Tournament’s pleasant surprises, the Ann Arbor Skyline Eagles pulled off a fifth place finish despite being the East’s bottom seed out of regionals, and they went ANYTHING but quietly. They ground down Hudsonville in the first game, upended Rockford in their second, and held off Birmingham Groves in their final game of the year. Give a lot of credit to then SOPHOMORE goaltender Ian Root who is a certified problem for opposing shooters in big games. In a state tournament that saw goaltenders make a lot of big saves, the youngest starting keeper in the tournament turned as many heads as his older contemporaries. It was a team largely led by juniors in Ben Deininger, Ben Edlund, and Evan McKelvey. All are back and have District 4 on red alert.

#7 Birmingham Groves Gators

2021 Finish: State 6th Place, East Region 3rd Place, District 3 Champions

2021 Record: 14-10

Vs. Top Ten Teams: 5-10

Key Losses: Max Zalewski, Ryan French, Rocco Prindle, Jack Darbonne

Head Coach: Steven Curry/Bob Sala

The Gators really tested themselves last season, and the early returns were not pretty in the W-L column, but in terms of progress over the season, they grew more than many teams. That said, potentially, no team in the top ten lost more than the Gators did this past offseason. Star goaltender Max Zalewski, offensive powerhouses and some of their physical size Rocco Prindle and Ryan French graduated along with Jack Darbonne. Jake Sazgari, Sam Sundberg are also graduated amongst the masses. 2022 will be a test of what they did to prepare for it. Bob Sala has plenty of experience growing teams from the ground up. One thing for sure, they’ll be physical and will play to the final horn.

#8 Zeeland Polo

2021 Finish: State 8th Place, West Region 4th Place, District 1 4rd Place

2021 Record: 5-13

Vs. Top Ten Teams: 1-11

Key Losses: Nathan Kollen, Aidan VanSoest, Bryce Ketchum

Head Coach: Zac Geschwendt

Zeeland basically played their season over the course of the last week of April till the State Tournament after running into shutdown issues early,but made the most of their five wins. They had two postseason wins, one to avoid the District 2 Champion (Rockford) in the regional quarterfinal and one top ten win, and it came on the road in the regional quarterfinal. They move into 2022 without Aidan VanSoest and Bryce Ketchum, and also lost starting keeper Nathan Kollen, but return Keaton Draeger in goal who, while raw, showed potential in limited postseason action. They had a line up filled with youth last season and will hope for quick development to get them back to the state tournament.

#9 East Grand Rapids Pioneers

2021 Finish: Regional Quarterfinalist, District 2 Runners Up

2021 Record: 11-8

Vs. Top Ten Teams: 4-7

Key Losses: Paul Williams, Tucker Schulz, Max Jung

Head Coach: Raheem Brown

This may have been the group that grew the most in the state in 2021. With a good strong core of seniors in the electrifying goaltender Paul Williams, as well as Tucker Schulz, Max Jung, Trey Bolling and the rest of their six-man senior class, they made great strides to move up under Raheem Brown’s tutelage. And the work Raheem Brown did, as West Region Coach of the Year, brought them close to a major goal last season. Now they’re looking to kick down the door with returners Kenny Pontius, Logan McCahill and more. Though a bit younger in experience than a year ago, Coach Brown develops talent quickly, and his experience as one of the MWPA’s all-time goaltending stars should help ease the transition for whomever fills the space Paul Williams left.

#10 Okemos Chiefs

2021 Finish: Regional Quarterfinalist, District 2 3rd Place

2021 Record: 9-6

Vs. Top Ten Teams: 0-6

Key Losses: Peyton Rose, Thomas Yan, Eric Huang

Head Coach: Greg Kohler

The Chiefs (they have a new mascot, time to learn it, everyone!) were always tough to play against in an uneven season, shortened like Zeelands, by shutdowns. Greg Kohler’s squad ran into a hot Grand Haven team in the Regional Quarterfinal and bowed out, and now will have to go to work replacing the offensive production of dominator Peyton Rose. Jason Latimer returns and has a cannon, Viktor Lewis will also be depended upon to eat minutes. Okemos will go as far as some of their youth takes them. Five freshmen were listed on the varsity roster last season, and the Chiefs will need to find some puzzle pieces to make a climb back to the state tournament this season.

On the Line: Ann Arbor Huron (109), Birmingham Seaholm (54), East Kentwood (45), Grand Blanc (45)

Understanding the Poll: The poll, open to all MWPA Head Coaches, is ranked via a point-percentage scoring model. The points column is percentage of points scored by voters against the maximum total, which is based on number of voters. The period that would signify percentage has been dropped off the beginning of each number. Unanimous first place ranking nets a score of 1,000 points. What is On the Line?: On the Line is the first three teams outside of the MWPA Poll. Coaches vote weekly during the season. Polls will be updated Monday's at 11 am (Girls) and noon (Boys) ET. Inquiries on the poll can be directed to the chat feature on the MWPA website. Answering times may vary.

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