Two of the most storied programs in MWPA history are set to meet Friday at Saline in the second quarterfinal in the Saline half of the bracket when Rockford meets Ann Arbor Huron. From 1972-1990 Huron RAN the MWPA, winning HALF of the titles in that span. Overall, they have 11 championships and 18 state championship game appearances. However since the turn of the century, the Rockford Rams have overwhelmed the state with 13 titles, all since the year 2000, good for the most all-time titles in the MWPA. While the two are in very different places than they've been traditionally, their match up brings intrigue in some of the star power involved.
Meet the West Region Runner Up Rams
Prior Match Ups: Rockford leads 1-0 (11-6 win on April 23)
This Year: West Region Runners Up, District 2 Champions
Head Coach: Craig Peterman
Christian Wagen - West Region First Team, West Region Tournament First Team
Nate Cheney - West Region Second Team, West Region Tournament Second Team
Joe Reinsma (G/U) - West Region Second Team, West Region Tournament Honorable Mention
Chay Chino - West Region Tournament Second Team
The Rams come into the state tournament probably glad to have had their three weeks of prep and rest, given the torturous schedule at the West Regional Tournament. Three physical games, two close, one into overtime, but the Rams managed two wins to get the second seed out of the West showing they can handle the storm. They've done it all year. They've won games out of state, beat top ten teams, played close games, and are one win from being only the second team this year to hit 30, as a win puts Craig Peterman's Rams in the top four.
They come to play with some impressive talent too. Christian Wagen has brute strength and handles both ends of the pool well. Wherever Craig Peterman elects to play Joe Reinsma, he should be fine. Joe can be effective in goal and in the field at an All-Region level of play, which is a nice luxury to have. Chay Chino seemed to have a magnet on him at the West Regional tournament as the ball found him if not on every possession, most of them. Add Nate Cheney and Logan Stevens amongst others and you have an experienced group looking to climb back on top of the mountain for the 14th time in team history.
Meet the East Region's Third Seeded River Rats
Prior Match Ups: Rockford leads 1-0 (11-6 loss on April 23)
This Year: East Region and District 4 third place
Head Coach: Paul Barnett
Graham Baker - East Region First Team, East Region Tournament First Team
Jaden Martin - East Region Tournament Second Team
Ozan Uyulur (G) - East Region Tournament Second Team
Michael Shahine - East Region Tournament Honorable Mention
It was a rough start for Ann Arbor Huron, no bones about that, but the stick-to-it nature of the River Rats is the reason they're here. They recovered nicely the second half of the season, very clearly grew up fast, and committed big-time to the defensive end of the pool. In terms of toughness of schedule, they played 18 games against ranked teams. Rockford played the same, and only Pioneer played more (22). They also won a lot more of those games down the stretch than at the beginning, another illustrator of their impressive growth under Paul Barnett.
Graham Baker drives the bus for Huron. 104 goals is 55 percent of what Huron has tallied this year, and they belong to the SOPHOMORE (COME ON! a SOPHOMORE?!). But they also got strong Regional Tournaments out of Jaden Martin, Michael Shahine and Ozan Uyulur in goal. Also big shoutout to the Baker family who has sent our broadcast crew a TON of material to work with (we won't spoil it here). The Baker's have some experience with good water polo - Graham's FOUR sisters all starred for the River Rats over the last few years. When you have an offensive weapon like Graham, you have to be prepared to be excellent on the defensive end of the pool - if Huron can continue to conjure up what they've done over the last few weeks, they'll have every opportunity to be in this one.