The 2016 season was a rebound year for the Okemos girls water polo team and Matt Latham was able to guide the Chiefs to a deep state tournament run.
Coming off a state championship in 2014, Okemos did not qualify for the state tournament last year.
The Chiefs beat Rockford to advance to this year’s state semifinals and ended up in fourth place.
“This year was pretty wide open across the state. There were a lot of teams that were kind of in rebuilding mode that were trying to improve their roster. We were a very young group. We had one senior on the team,” Latham said. “I thought we could compete with anybody in the state and the sky was the limit even though the tear before we didn’t qualify. …
“I think the girls met and exceeded those expectations. Fourth at states was a good learning experience.”
Led by junior player of the year Sarah Williams and a large junior class, Latham hopes the run can propel the returners to big things next year.
“I certainly hope that it is a confidence boost. Back when we won the state tournament in 2014 that confidence was important. They knew exactly what they needed to do and how much work they had to put in. After we missed it I was wondering where that confidence level was,” Latham said. “But getting back and seeing what that atmosphere was like and seeing the hard work that it took, now it’s kind of about taking that last final step like we did back in 2014.”
The Chiefs took second at a regional two weeks before the state meet, falling to Ann Arbor Pioneer in the final. Okemos entered that tournament as district champion, beating three opponents by a combined score of 52-10 in mid-May at Birmingham Groves High School.
Okemos finished with an 8-0 record against East District 3 opponents in the regular season with all wins coming by 10 or more goals.