There's an old adage in sports that it is very difficult to beat a team three times in a row — and Water Polo's valiant 8-7 playoff loss Monday night to Roosevelt proved that.
The Islanders (4-14) faced steep odds at the North League Playoffs at the King County Aquatic Center (KCAC), with four teams fighting for the two remaining spots to the state tournament. While Bellevue advanced in the winner's bracket by defeating Bainbridge Island, 9-6, the more competitive match turned out to be the Islanders-Roughriders match-up, with Mercer Island fighting and swarming for every ball.
Islander David Rudokas played relentless defense throughout, tallying 5 steals and a field block over the course of the game and Sebastian Aron had the Islanders leading 4-1 at the close of the first quarter.
Tough defense from Connor Gullstad and senior goalie Kenny Trowbridge kept the Islanders ahead at the half, and Trowbridge brought the crowd to their feet with a blocked a shot at point blank inside the two meter line to end the half with the Islanders leading 6-2.
“He has been the cornerstone of our team all season," said Coach John Jacobson. "He makes all the saves he should and a couple incredible ones each game.”
In spite of Trowbridge’s superb game (18 saves), however, Roosevelt adjusted their defense and held the Islanders scoreless in the third quarter. Double-teaming Roosevelt's top-scorer Tim Sherwood left Mercer Island exposed on the wing and the other Rider players started to take advantage, narrowing the Islander lead down to 6-5 to end the third quarter.
The momentum stayed with Roosevelt after they forced a key turnover and tied the game, 6-6, midway through the fourth quarter and traded a pair of goals with the Islanders as time wound down to the final minute.
Roosevelt's winning goal came at 1:13 remaining with a 5-meter goal by Roosevelt. The Islanders fired right back but the shot was scooped out of the goalmouth before completely crossing the line and ruled a no-goal. MI did not see the ball again until 9 seconds remained and could find no outlet as time expired.
“I think the team got tired," said Coach Jacobson. "When we get tired we tend to cluster on offense and get out of our system which leads to us getting countered. I would do everything the same. It came to executing our game plan when we were tired and we had a few slip ups that cost us some goals.”
The last time the Islanders had faced the Roughriders was two weeks ago in a tough 14-7 home loss Oct. 10 at the . The league-winning Newport Knights had already secured their spot in state as the automatic bid after finishing first in league play.
Next up for the Islanders is a loser-out game Wednesday night 8:45 p.m. vs. Bainbridge Island.
MI 3 3 0 1
R 1 1 3 3
Sam Peterson – 4 goals, 1 steal
Sebastian Aron – 1 goal, I assist, 1 steal
Austin Ralph – 1 goal, 2 assists
Quentin Guyer – 1 assist, 1 steal
David Rudokas – 1 goal, 5 steals
Kenny Trowbridge – 18 saves