The Islanders had not won the big prize since 2006 and were hungry and tired of Runner-Up finishes. Last night's victory is Islander Head Coach Ian O'Hearn's 4th State Championship with Mercer Island, and the Islander's 5th overall.
The Championship game at Memorial Stadium opened with a quick goal by Bainbridge Island's (BI) Jacob Knostman, and a quick answering goal by Mercer Island's Zac Stickney. But the Islanders went on a steady scoring mission in the remainder of the first half, with Matt Shields adding 2 goals and Doug Mahoney adding 1, taking the Islanders into the half-time break with a comfortable lead of 4 - 1.
The action died as scoring stalled for both teams in the 3rd quarter, with MI's Stickney finally finding the net early in the 4th quarter to put the Islanders up 5-1. The comfortable lead did not last long, as BI's Alex Crane added two goals, bringing the Spartans within 2 goals with 4:58 left on the clock (5-3 MI). The Islanders were able to hold on to this "too close for comfort lead," in the 4th quarter thanks in part to two steals by MI's Peter Iani and 4 additional saves by MI's goalie Brian Bernstein.
Head Coach Ian O'Hearn was clearly pleased the Islanders brought home the trophy. O'Hearn said his main goal is to "consistently field one of the best teams in the state and in the country," pointing out that even though the Islanders were state runners up last year, they were ranked 21st in the country. "Winning the state championship game is a great bonus," he said. The turning point this year, added O'Hearn, was two non-league losses earlier in the season. Last year the team went undefeated all the way until the state final, which added to the pressure. "The losses this year took the pressure off."
Although MI's varsity team is losing 12 seniors, O'Hearn expects to be back at the state championship next year. "We have a great class coming up," he said. "Last year we lost 14 seniors, and we just won state."
O'Hearn said he was ready to celebrate. He has a zero tolerance policy regarding alcohol and drug use for his players, and follows the same rule himself. "I haven't had a beer in 3 months," he said.
Islander Special Honors:
Washington State All-American: Doug Mahoney
Washington State Academic All-American: Brian Bernstein
First Team All- State:
Matt Sheilds (A), Doug Mahoney (M), TJ Blackburn (D)
Second Team All State:
Connor Bernal (M)
Third Team All State:
Ryan Blumenstein (D), Brian Bernsteain (G)
Honorable mention All State:
Alex Medlock (D)
Championship game stats:
Zac Stickey (2 G), Matt Sheilds (2 G), Doug Mahoney (1 G, 2 Ass), and Colten Knebel (1 Ass); Goalie Brian Bernstein had 14 saves.