What a difference a year makes.
The Islanders are boasting a 4-0 start to the season, with North League opponents Roosevelt, Inglemoor and Rain City in their wake. And not just winning, but turning in dominating, high-scoring performances and beating opponents by margins of 10 or more goals per game. But perhaps no North League victory was sweeter than their victory on Wednesday.
The Islanders' Sept. 19 matchup at the Mercer Island Country Club was sweet revenge against Bainbridge, drowning the “other” Island 18-5. The score had been nearly the reverse when they played in 2011.
The Islanders kept the pressure on at both ends of the pool throughout the Bainbridge game with fast breaks and forced turnovers. They commanded a dominating 7-2 lead at the end of the first quarter. Goals continued to pour in with 9 different players scoring throughout the game. Islander scoring was lead by lefty Sebastian “Seabass” Aron with 5 goals. On the defensive end, Connor Gullstad had 5 steals and Freshman goalie Matt LeProwse had 4 blocks in the first half.
The Bainbridge victory seemed emblematic of a major turnaround after a tough 2011 season. Last year, a young Islander team endured a winless league season where nothing seemed to go right. In 2011, only one field player had played varsity-level high school water polo and the inexperience showed as they were routinely routed by opponents.
The 2012 team is a team with new found confidence, having lost only one player to graduation. All field starters returned, many having built their skills in the off-season with club water polo teams Tualatin Hills of Oregon and Rain City based out of Bellevue. The results of all that off-season training seem to be showing up on the scoreboard.
When asked why the Islanders were off to such a strong start this year varsity coach Erik Grosshans summed it up in one word: Teamwork.
”We have 17 guys on varsity and we played every single one of them during the game." he said. "Being able to play so many guys is a huge advantage. We have great depth and good teamwork and that is really important.”
Next up for the Islanders is the Tualatin Hills tournament this weekend in Beaverton, Oregon — a traditional test for the Islanders that Coach Grosshans said the team is looking forward to.
“They will be able to go play and challenge themselves against Oregon’s best,” he said.