The Huron water polo team capped off an outstanding season by taking sixth place this weekend at the Michigan Water Polo Association (MWPA) State Championships at East Kentwood. The River Rats opened with Grand Haven on Friday and lost a 16-6 game to a very strong Rockford team to drop to the loser’s bracket.
Huron responded on Saturday with a 16-11 win over Zeeland. The victory sent the River Rats to the five-six game where they faced Dexter, a familiar rival all year.
“We were playing without our leading scorer Edwin Barnett who aggravated a leg injury in the first quarter of the Zeeland game,” said Huron Coach Paul Barnett. “Our boys really responded playing our best defensive effort of the year.”
Huron fell 7-6 to the Dreadnaughts in a “great game.”
Dylan Schmitzerle, who capped off a great year with a remarkable postseason, scored five goals and Dane Hubers notched the other goal for Huron.
“Our seniors, Hubers, Jon Wang, Brandon Geng, Borun Bhattacharya and Eric Cardwell, were outstanding on defense as well as junior George Gueorguiev,” Barnett said. “Our goaltender Nick Kaipainen played his best game of the year.”
Okemos defeated Hudsonville 11-10 in five overtimes to win the state title. Rockford was the third-place team, followed by Grand Haven, Dexter, Huron, Grand Blanc and Zeeland.
Barnett and co-coach Mike Gottliebsen were both pleased with Huron’s season and postseason run.
“I was very happy with the tournament,” Barnett said. “We were happy to make it to states and hope to build on this year’s success next year.”
While the River Rats will lose several high-quality seniors, the strength of the team was the junior class. Barnett, Schmitzerle, Kaipainen, Gueorguiev, Sean Underwood, Ben Hires and Manit Patel were all starters at various times during the season helping give Huron a bright future.
Huron finished the season with a 28-25 record.
“We played a lot of games this year against the best competition in the area, traveling to Grand Rapids several times for tournaments as well as playing a tournament in Cincinnati,” Barnett said. “I believe we have played more games than any other team in the state, all against quality opponents, and that experience has really paid dividends in the post season.”
This year’s captains were Dan Hubers, Jon Wang and Dylan Schmitzerle.
Barnett was the team’s leading scorer and Kaipainen was a force all season in goal.
Post season awards included:
Edwin Barnett. All State Second Team; All East Region First Team; Eastern Region All Tournament Second Team.
Dylan Schmitzerle. State All Tournament Second Team; All State Second Team; All East Region Second Team; East Region All Tournament First Team.
Nick Kaipainen. All Eastern Region Honorable Mention.
Academic All-State honors (3.65 GPA or higher): Dane Hubers, Jon Wang, Borun Bhattacharya, Brandon Geng, Dylan Schmitzerle, Ben Hires, Nick Kaipainen and Sean Underwood.