A spirited, rowdy crowd of over 100 spectators cheered on Islanders boys water polo under the bubble at the Mercer Island Country Club as they took on arch rivals and current state title holders Bellevue Wednesday night.
The Islanders (15-2) were hungry to beat Bellevue in the final game of the regular season after losing 5-8 in their first contest early October. Besides the bragging rights that a win would bring, the Islanders were looking to secure a higher seed for the State tournament. The Islanders played aggressive from the start, winning the opening sprint and scoring in the open seconds to seize control of the game and a lead they would never relinquish. Six Islanders scored, led by sophomore Topher LeCrampe with four.
"I thought they came out fired up," said Bellevue water polo head coach Ed Brovick. "They won more 50/50 balls and their goalie did an awesome job."
Mercer Island's strong defense both across the pool and in the hole forced Bellevue to take off-target shots from farther out, or giving freshman goalkeeper Matt LeProwse more time to make one of his six blocks in the game. The Islanders defense also keyed the winning effort, with Connor Gullstad pulling in 7 steals and dishing out 3 assists.
"I think the whole team came out and really put in a good effort," said MIHS senior and varsity co-captain David Rudokas. "That was probably the best we've played this season."
It was an exciting game for the Seniors who had endured a win-less season just last year. This year they were able to come out on top, sharing the same 9-1 North League record with Bellevue, and each team's single league season loss came at each others hands.
"It's been a big year after last year," said Islanders water polo head coach Erik Grosshans. "We came out firing and played a great four quarters."
A yet-to-be-determined system will be used to decide who is seeded higher for the State tournament, though the Islanders hold a one-goal advantage in goal difference — a possible factor in the selection.BOX SCORE Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 F Mercer Is.
3 2 4 1 10 Bellevue 2 1 1 2 6
Mercer Island actually faced a much closer contest earlier this week against Roosevelt on Monday, Oct. 22. As against Bellevue, the came out strong, winning the sprint and immediately scoring. The Islanders shooting was off and the Roosevelt goalie had lots of blocks (don't know how many and they were not keeping a book).
The Islanders went into half-time down 7-8. Sam Peterson scored with 18 seconds left in Q3 to take the lead 11-10. Sam Peterson connected again from an assist by Anthony Pedreira to put the Islanders up 12-10 at the start of Q4. The Roughriders scored with 4:22 remaining in the game to bring the game within 1 but Sam scored again at 2:29 to put away the game at 13-11.
Following last night's game, both Mercer Island and Bellevue's water polo teams headed off to San Diego, CA for the San Diego Open water polo tournament, Oct. 25-28. The Islanders first face Steele Canyon at El Capitan High School in Lakeside, CA this afternoon at 3:50 p.m.
The Washington state water polo tournament is scheduled for Nov. 7-10 at Curtis High School in University Place and Rodgers High School in Puyallup.