2022 Girls Preseason Poll Announced
The 2022 Michigan Water Polo Association (MWPA) Girls 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. The first poll is below.
Next up - the breakdowns, 1-10 and On the Line for the Girls teams.
#1 Hudsonville Eagles
2021 Finish: State Champions, West Regional Runner Up, District 1 Champions
2021 Record: 21-3
Vs. Top Ten Teams: 11-3
Key Losses: Marley Persch, Sofia Biriouk, Macie DeJonge.
Head Coach: Ian Hewett
The Eagles are winners of four consecutive state titles, and they were threatened all season long for their spot atop the MWPA world by previously unbeaten East Grand Rapids. Yet it was Hewett’s Eagles who would come out on top, handing EGR their only loss of the season with a 7-6 victory on June 5th. Repeating will have to be done without All-American Sofia Biriouk and All-Stater Marley Persch. Still, the Eagles were extraordinarily young considering their top end losses, the roster featured seven juniors and eight sophomores including breakout star Taylor Wilson. Sydney Kline and Jenna Kuiper also return for Hewett’s squad in their bid to hold on to the second longest streak on top of the mountain in MWPA girls history (Ann Arbor Huron, 1993-99).
#2 Grandville Bulldogs
2021 Finish: State Tournament 3rd Place, West Regional 4th Place, District 1 Runners Up
2021 Record: 25-9
Vs. Top Ten Teams: 12-8
Key Losses: Isabel Castro, Lauren Potyraj
Head Coach: Mitch Fountain
With just two seniors, the Grandville Bulldogs marched to their highest finish in program history at the 2021 State Championship, besting Rockford 8-5 for a third place finish. Those two seniors loomed large all season, but it was mainly a team made up of a monster class of 12 juniors, all of whom return, including All-American Goalkeeper, Leah Green. The Bulldogs gave state runner up East Grand Rapids a stout test in the Regional Semi-Final, and eventual state champion Hudsonville a close call in the District Championship Game (8-6 loss). With a majority of the squad back, the Bulldogs have a real shot at their first ever state title. The Dawgs led the state in victories (25, tied with East Grand Rapids) and will lean on Alyssa and Maddie Light, Sarah Kelly, Isabelle Bargenquast and the rest of their big senior class to attempt to take their first ever state title.
#3 Rockford Rams
2021 Finish: State Tournament 4th Place, West Regional 3rd Place, District 2 Champion
2021 Record: 24-7
Vs. Top Ten Teams: 13-7
Key Losses: Paige Beers, Rylee Davis
Head Coach: Katie Clarin
Much like a good chunk of the state, the Rams played a large group of players without a ton of varsity experience in 2021, but was in every sense, a contender all year. The losses of Paige Beers and speedster Rylee Davis may hurt offensively, but they bring back goaltender Sophie Stallworth, who had a strong postseason, the strong Josie Geers, and a massive class of juniors coming into the 2022 season to fill out some of the depth. The Rams won just one less game than the eventual state champion East Grand Rapids Pioneers, who the Rams looked up at in their district all season. In what may be one of the most wide open season starts in a long time, the Rams are poised to again compete for a State Title.
#4 Ann Arbor Huron River Rats
2021 Finish: State tournament 5th Place, East Region Runners Up, District 4 Champion
2021 Record: 17-6
Vs. Top Ten Teams: 7-6
Key Losses: Dre Hubers
Head Coach: Mary Chatigny
This is, potentially, the East’s most dangerous unit in a few seasons. The River Rats are absolutely loaded on experienced returners and bring back one of the State’s top individual players in All American Emma Kaipainen. They return a senior and postseason award winner in goal in Lydia Hargett, as well as Zannah Baker and Margo Leone amongst the group. The Rats ran into a little postseason trouble - after toppling Ann Arbor Skyline in the District tournament, the Eagles stunned the Rats and returned the favor to grab the East side’s top seed, thus the Rats drew the Rockford Rams and fell in a 6-4 State Quarterfinal. Seeking revenge, the Rats are all positioned to bounce back into the state’s top four.
#5 East Grand Rapids Pioneers
2021 Finish: State Runners Up, West Regional Champions, District 2 Champions
2021 Record: 25-1
Vs. Top Ten Teams: 15-1
Key Losses: The entire senior class
Head Coach: Grant Anger (First Year)
The East Grand Rapids Pioneers entered 2021 with their best shot to win a state title since 2005. Their bid to unseat three-time consecutive champion Hudsonville fell agonizingly short by a goal in a thrilling state title game. The season was historic for the Pioneers who were well worth the price of admission, running a 25-1 mark including going 15-1 against top ten foes. 2022 is a different year; the senior class lost star Claire Witting (Division I, Indiana), as well as lefty Kamryn Kerr and goalkeeper Annika Lampen who committed to playing collegiately as well. The varsity roster of 11 featured six seniors last year who helped carry the Pioneers to the State Title game. West Region Co-Coach of the Year Justin Hulsebus also stepped away in the offseason and young Grant Anger takes the helm of the program. In terms of reasons for optimism, the 2021 roster did feature some impact juniors - Anna Milnes, Hallea Mitchell and Barbara Bart will be counted upon to take up the mantle in the challenging District 2 this season to try and get the Pio’s back for a third straight trip to the state tournament.
#6 Ann Arbor Skyline Eagles
2021 Finish: State Tournament 7th Place, East Regional Champions, District 4 Runners Up
2021 Record: 14-14
Vs. Top Ten Teams: 5-14
Key Losses: Ella Enrique Shakespeare, Aly Guevara, Lauren Sloan
Head Coach: Rebecca Godek
No matter how the Eagles start, reigning coach of the year Rebecca Godek will have them playing as the team literally no one wants to see come postseason. It starts in goal with Alia Tracy, who skyrocketed into the upper echelon of MWPA goaltenders last year who has excellent range. As a freshman, Allie Deininger turned heads with a strong state tournament and is going to be a thorn in everyone’s side for the next three seasons. They will be younger, with losses up and down the line up including Ella Enrique Shakespeare, Aly Guevara and Lauren Sloan amongst others, but the Eagles are always a team that peaks later. For the record, we still are not outside the range of teams that have a shot to win the whole deal this year.
#7 East Lansing/Okemos/Dewitt (ELOD)
2021 Finish: Regional Quarterfinalist, District 2 Third Place
2021 Record: 12-6
Vs. Top Ten Teams: 4-6
Key Losses: Chloe Krumm, Mady Gott
Head Coach: Madi Zink
In a case of what if’s, you could wonder aloud what might have been had East Lansing/Okemos made the state tournament? They were young but talented, had a take-over-the-game player in Chloe Krumm, and were battle tested. But eventual state third place Grandville drew East Lansing/Okemos and in a close call, the Bulldogs advanced. Part of that comes when you finish third in a district where the two teams in front of you combined for a 49-8 overall record and 28-8 against top ten teams (Rockford, East Grand Rapids). Of East Lansing/Okemos, one coach in the state said of this year’s squad, “This team has weapons everywhere, they can be scary” about the 2022 squad, and they’d be right. Losing Krumm is a fairly large hole to fill, but Ava Meeker, Faye McInerney, Erin Ruster and Esther Woolcock all have a wealth of experience from last season, and figure to have this mid-Michigan squad threatening the top of the polls all season long. They are a true contender again this season.
2021 Finish: State Tournament 6th Place, East Regional 3rd Place, District 4 Third Place
2021 Record: 10-9
Vs. Top Ten Teams: 4-9
Key Losses: Audrey Cook, Sydney Anderson, Elizabeth Burchart
Head Coach: Alli Littlejohn (First Year)
Saline-Milan (formerly just Saline) have hit the reset button - graduating most of their offense and varsity experience in All-Stater Audrey Cook and All-Region selections Sydney Anderson and Elizabeth Burchart. They also have a new bench boss in alum Alli Littlejohn who brings a great energy to the squad, who are trying to bulk up their roster numbers. In the deadly District 4, they'll have to rely on a far younger squad than they did a year ago. That said the three losses account for less than half of a starting line-up - there certainly will be players in the water who saw a TON of minutes last season for Saline. Saline did swing an early season upset on Ann Arbor Skyline last year and firebombed the regional quarterfinal to punch their ticket to the state tournament, so certainly, success is already in their DNA.
#9 Birmingham Seaholm Maples
2021 Finish: State Tournament 8th Place, East Regional 4th Place, District 3 Champions
2021 Record: 13-6-1
Vs. Top Ten Teams: 0-6
Key Losses: Emily Jacoby, Katie Gillette, Elise Liddell
Head Coach: Kellie Howe
It was a season of firsts for the Maples, who made their first state tournament in program history, defeating postseason Cinderella Chelsea in the regional quarterfinals. A lot of that came on the backs of all-state selections Katie Gillette and Emily Jacoby, as well as all-region honoree Elise Liddell. All three are gone - with Jacoby’s goalkeeping spot now wide open for the Maples. They went 13-6-1 overall - but the state tournament was a bit of an eye-opener for the Maples, who thankfully, do return a sizable roster. Penny Lange, Lauren Terlep, Hope Edwards, Makena Cazal and Meghan Murphy will be depended upon to fill some of the offensive gaps left by Gillette and Liddell this season - the Maples figure to fare well in District 3, the key will be attempting to repeat to avoid any of the top three seeds out of District 4 in the Regional Quarterfinal.
#10 Jenison Wildcats
2021 Finish: District Quarterfinals
2021 Record: 6-10
Vs. Top Ten Teams: 2-8
Key Losses: Rylee Webb, Olivia Zimmerman
Head Coach: Spencer Sanders
The J-Cats were stunned into a season-ending loss in the District Quarterfinals, falling in an upset to Grand Haven. That said, the Cats return two key players in Rachel Huyser and Caroline Norton as well as their starting keeper who had the job as a sophomore. The Wildcats have some reason for optimism as it was a varsity roster that played just two seniors a year ago. The Wildcats did lose a big piece to the program in one of the state’s strongest tacticians in head coach Nicole Vos, who moved on in the offseason. But Spencer Sanders is well-versed in Jenison polo and has a unique opportunity to try and play spoiler in the deep District 1 that has the top two teams in the MWPA preseason poll (Hudsonville, Grandville).
On the Line: Zeeland (107), East Kentwood (80), Ann Arbor Pioneer (20)
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.