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MWPA Quarterfinal Preview | Hudsonville vs. Groves


The 2022 Boys State Tournament is a two-site affair, and opening Ann Arbor Skyline's half of the bracket, a battle between the three-time defending state champion Hudsonville Eagles and the Birmingham Groves Gators. The Eagles, unbeaten and unblemished this season have been the class of the state all year. The Gators are attempting to dethrone what is becoming a potential dynasty, returning to the state tournament for the second consecutive year, narrowly missing out on a top four finish a year ago.


Meet the West Region Champion Eagles

Record: 34-0

Prior Match Ups: 1-0, Hudsonville Leads - (17-5 win, April 23)

This Year: District 1 and West Regional Champions

Head Coach: Josh Ahrendt

Award Winners:

Micah Bayle - West Region Regular Season & Tournament MVP

Ethan Holwerda - West Region First Team, West Region Tournament First Team

Cooper Randall - West Region Second Team, West Region Tournament First Team

Tyler Chalmers - West Region Second Team, West Region Tournament Second Team

Casey Fields - West Region Tournament Honorable Mention


Not much to say here other than the Eagles are an absolute freight train. A 34-0 record. A CRAZY four lefties in the normal starting line up. And a dominant finish at the Regional Tournament. Josh Ahrendt has the Eagles playing well when it matters most. But they face a gauntlet. They're headed into a hornets nest playing in the backyard of two teams they've already battled in tight contests, and they get the physical Birmingham Groves Gators in the opening round.


Leading the way is polo Artist Micah Bayle with his absurd creativity level and skill, the West Region Regular Season and Tournament MVP. Ethan Holwerda appears to have been made in a lab by every genius polo coach on the planet on how to do the little things to perfection. Hudsonville's defense is certainly strong, but not enough credit is given sometimes to Cooper Randall who makes a lot of tough saves in a region with a lot of good shooters. The depth, size, strength and skill will be a great challenge to overcome.


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Meet the East Region's Fourth Seeded Gators

Record: 13-10

Prior Match Ups: 0-1, Hudsonville Leads - (17-5 loss, April 23)

This Year: District 3 Champions, East Region 4th Place

Head Coach: George Googosian, Bob Sala

Award Winners:

Erik Paluda - East Region First Team, East Region Tournament Second Team

Jack Knoper - East Region Honorable Mention, East Region Tournament First Team

Drew Varda - East Region Tournament Honorable Mention


Resilient. It's probably the best way to put it for the Gators. They rebounded from a district seed loss to their cross town rivals to defeat them a few short days later, and propelled themselves back into the state tournament for the second consecutive year with a win over Dexter in the East Regional Tournament. They played the second most top ten games in their district, playing the fourth strongest schedule in the East Region (13 games vs. top ten), and got better as the year went along.


Erik Paluda leads the way for the Gators in most categories, but the supporting cast doesn't drop off from there Jack Knoper and Drew Varda have both played well of late. They'll need to be on top of their game defensively to slow down Hudsonville, but the Gators, always physical over the history of their program, do have a certain ability to frustrate opponents. Nothing has seemed to sway them off course. Not losses of a massive chunk of a very good roster from a year ago, not a couple of mid-season game cancellations, not a loss to a close rival, so nothing will surprise them here at the state tournament.




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