It was only fitting that the Pioneer-Huron water polo match on Tuesday night would go down to the final seconds. And even though his Pioneers came out on the short end, Pioneer coach Don Packard loves the sport so much that he appreciated such a well-played game.
“Of course, we would have liked to have won the game but it was such a great game that you can’t be too disappointed,” Packard said.
And Packard sees the big picture – especially with the seeding tournament coming up on Saturday.
“Playing in a close game against great competition is only going to help us in the postseason,” he said. “It’s only going to make us better.”
And that’s what it’s all about at this point of the season.
Huron scored in the final seconds to break the deadlock and swim off with a 9-8 victory over the visiting Pioneers in a matchup of the two best teams in the state.
Huron came into the match ranked fourth in the state while Pioneer was ranked fifth. The game was a back-and-forth matchup with the scored tied 3-3 after one and 4-4 at halftime. The River Rats took an 8-7 lead into the final period.
“We expected a close game and that’s what we got,” Packard said. “It was a great game. I was really proud of how we played.”
Max Fraser, Edwin Barnett and Sean Underwood scored goals in the first quarter for the River Rats. Aidan McCoy had two goals and Jack Shemke scored for the Pioneers as the teams headed to the second period tied at 3-3.
In the second period, Henry Schneehagen scored for Pioneer and Dylan Schmitzerle scored for the River Rats.
McCoy, a senior, scored three goals in the third period for the Pioneers. Schneehagen and Luke Packard had fourth-quarter goals for the Pioneers.
Schmitzerle and Barnett each scored twice and Ben Den Houter scored once in the second half for the River Rats.
The teams move on to Saturday’s seeding tournament at Saline. Pioneer will face second-ranked Dexter at 10:30 a.m. Huron plays Saline at 1 p.m.