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MWPA Quarterfinal Preview Rockford vs. Pioneer


These two teams have combined for more state titles than any two boys teams in MWPA History (25 of the 48 state championships awarded have gone to Pioneer or Rockford) and they will meet in the first round of this MWPA Tournament at Hudsonville.


Meet the second seeded Pioneers

Record: 15-5

Prior Match-Ups: Rockford Leads Series 1-0 (April 17 @ Rockford, 12-9)

This Year: District 4 Champions, East Region Runners Up

Head Coach: Don Packard

Award Winners (Below)

Liam Herbert - All-Region First Team, All-Region Tournament First Team

Jack Shemke - All-Region First Team, All-Region Tournament First Team

Luke Packard - All-Region Tournament Second Team

Mathieu Ruelle (G) - All-Region Tournament Second Team

Gabriel Sanchez-Burks - All-Region HM, All-Region Tournament HM

Cam Williston - All-Region HM

Alex Farmer - All-Region Tournament HM


The Pioneers have done what they typically do best: play great teams hard and give no one an easy out. Under Don Packard, they were District Champions over rival Dexter and then fell in a sudden death thriller to the same Dreadnaughts a week later at Regionals. Now, they get the Rockford Rams, the team they are trying to match by winning their 13th MWPA Championship.


"It's an honor to be at the State Tournament this weekend. I want to thank those at MWPA that have put in the time and energy to make this all possible," Head Coach Don Packard said. "During times like these, we see that Sport in general, water polo in specific, is much more than a game. It's a time to test ourselves among friends and rivals that brings a sense of normalcy to our lives. I'm thankful that we have the opportunity to get together and play this game we all love so much."


As for the Rams, one prior meeting, way back on April 17 (nearly two full months ago) is the only history between the two this season. The Rams took it 12-9 in their own pool.


"Rockford is a deep team that has a high water polo IQ," Packard said. "We've always had a friendly, yet hard fought, rivalry, and I look forward to that continuing this weekend and for years to come."


The Pioneers are well tested, of their 20 games played, 14 came against top ten teams and they have a 9-5 record in those games this year.

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Meet the third seeded Rams

Record: 20-2

Prior Match-Ups: Rockford Leads Series 1-0 (April 17 @ Rockford, 12-9)

This Year: District 2 Champions

Head Coach: Craig Peterman

Award Winners (Below)

Hudson Verwys - All-Region First Team, All-OK Conference, All-Region Tournament Second Team

Nate Hopkins - All-Region First Team, All-Region Tournament First Team, All-OK Conference

Brenden Saur - All-Region HM, All-OK Conference, All-Region Tournament Second Team

Joe Reinsma (G) - All-OK Conference HM

Christian Wagen - All-Region Tournament HM

Will Cheney - All-Region Tournament HM


They are the only 20-win boys team in the state, and with the number of games left on the schedule, they will be the only team to accomplish that feat this season. Now, their attention is turned on trying to win their MWPA leading 14th State Championship, all have come since 2000.


"It is an extreme honor to play for a state championship," Head Coach Craig Peterman said. "I know any team would love to have the opportunity to play at this level. The state tournament is a special tournament and to play for a championship is something to be extremely proud of. Making it to the state championship is always a goal we have in mind."


Peterman fully understands the scale of the task at hand in taking on the one of the East Region's all-time power programs.


"Ann Arbor Pioneer is a fantastic team and they have shown this year and year out," Peterman said. "Their coaches know what works for them and what they need to adjust in time of adversity. Don Packard is one of the greatest, and skilled minded coaches of the game. You never know what he is going to throw at your team. Ann Arbor Pioneer is a team that has very few weaknesses and they will capitalize at any moment they can."


The Rams are 8-2 this year against top ten teams, the most top ten wins of any team in the West Region.



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