Skyline, Dexter making fresh waves in girls water polo tournament
For years, Huron and Pioneer high schools have been fixtures at the Michigan Water Polo Association state championships and once dominated the sport for nearly a decade.
Skyline High School, in only its third year with a varsity squad, is joining in the fun.
“It’s fun. We’re setting traditions now that will last for so many years,” said Skyline coach Rebecca Godek, who leads the Eagles into a two-day, eight-team state championship tournament that starts Friday at East Lansing High School.
The Eagles, who finished third at last year's state finals, aren’t the only fresh face from Washtenaw County making a run at a state title. Dexter, the highest-seeded local team, joins Skyline and Huron in the pool.
Huron has eight girls water polo state championship banners hanging at its pool, including seven straight from 1993-99. Pioneer has won three state titles, the latest in 2009, and finished as runner-up six times. Saline joined the ranks of local powerhouses recently, finishing as state runner-up in 2009 and 2010.
Angela J. Cesere | AnnArbor.com
The local tides have started to change again with the emergence of Dexter and Skyline.
Godek points out that it wasn’t an easy road to becoming a contender and that playing against the top-notch local competition has helped improved her program.
“That’s what makes us better. That’s how you grow. You cannot have success without some speed bumps," Godek said. "You play against teams that are better than you for a reason. I’m not surprised (at the success) because they showed me from day one they can do it.”
The climb (or swim) to the top has been rapid and, according to Godek, a lot of that has to do with the leadership of captains Meredith Bell and Susie Stevens.
“They have great leadership qualities. They really make their teammates want to be there,” Godek said.
Two of those teammates, Lexi Beemer and Kim Graziano, were named to the MWPA East All-Regions first team. Joining them on the team was Dexter’s Molly Keenan and Huron's Jamie Hibbs.
Dexter’s run to the final eight nearly didn’t happen. The Dreadnaughts used an overtime victory over Birmingham Groves in the first round of the East regional tournament to kickstart a run to the finals.
The Dreadnaughts used the momentum to reach the East Regional finals, where it lost to Okemos. The top four teams from each regional advanced to the state championship.
Okemos and West Regional champion Rockford are the top seeds this weekend.
Godek admitted she is pretty unfamiliar with the teams from the West region, but also said that means those teams won’t know what to expect from Skyline either.
Regardless of familiarity, Godek knows her team will be ready for whatever challenge faces them. The Eagles took third in last year’s tournament and the disappointment they felt from coming so close has fueled the team this year.
“We’ve worked all season to get back here. They’ve gone two-a-days all season, to win three games.”
The MWPA state championship schedule:
Game 1: Okemos vs. East Kentwood at 4 p.m.
Game 2: Zeeland vs. Skyline at 5:15 p.m.
Game 3: Rockford vs. Huron at 6:30 p.m.
Game 4: Dexter vs. Hudsonville at 7:45 p.m.
Game 5: Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser, 8 a.m.
Game 6: Game 3 loser vs. Game 4 loser, 9:15 a.m.
Game 7: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, 10:30 a.m.
Game 8: Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 11:45 a.m.
7th-place game: Game 5 loser vs. Game 6 loser, 3:15 p.m.
5th-place game: Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 4:30 p.m.
3rd-place game: Game 7 loser vs. Game 8 loser, 5:45 p.m.
Championship game: Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner, 7 p.m.
The entire tournament will be broadcast by SkyTV ($22.95 for a tournament pass).