Mercer Island water polo earns third in San Diego tournament

Mercer Island goalie John Ahalt blocks a shot during the Islanders’ tournament in San Diego last week. The team finished third overall against some of the best teams on the West Coast. - Pat Fox/Contributed photo
Mercer Island goalie John Ahalt blocks a shot during the Islanders’ tournament in San Diego last week. The team finished third overall against some of the best teams on the West Coast.
— image credit: Pat Fox/Contributed photo

By Pat Fox

Special to the Reporter

The Mercer Island High School Boys Water Polo team earned third place in the San Diego Open Water Polo Tournament this weekend in La Jolla, Calif. The Islanders won three games and lost two on their way to earning their highest finish in four years in the 35-team tournament that includes some of the top players and teams in the country.

“While everyone got to play and improve, our seniors really stepped up by providing consistency throughout the tournament,” said head coach Ryan Hall.

Seniors Henry Fox and Eugene Chong were two of the seven players in the tournament to earn First-Team All-Tournament honors.

In the first game of the tournament, the Islander boys met Westview High School. Mercer Island came out with a strong offensive effort in the first quarter and then turned on the defense in the second, holding Westview scoreless and resulting in a comfortable halftime lead of 10-3. The Islanders continued to cruise, winning the match 20-9 with seniors Eugene Chong and Henry Fox leading the scoring with nine and eight goals respectively. Sam Peterson, Eric Benca and Evan Moline each scored one. Goalie John Ahalt knocked down 15 saves to contribute to the win.

The second game for the Islanders matched them up against the perennial powerhouse and eventual tournament champion, Bishops School in La Jolla. Bishops effectively capped the usual offensive output of Mercer Island, limiting Fox and Chong to one goal apiece in the game. Ethan Hallowell led MI scoring with two goals, and Eric Benca and Sam Peterson also scored a goal each, as the Islanders fell 12-6.

In the next game against Valhalla High School, the Islanders got back on track both offensively and defensively, winning 17-2. Chong led the scoring with five goals, while Henry Fox and Evan Moline each added four goals. Ethan Hallowell and Eric Benca scored three and one goals respectively. Defensively Fox led with six steals and goalies John Ahalt and Ken Trowbridge had nine and two saves respectively, holding Valhalla scoreless in the first half.

In the quarterfinal game against Mt. Carmel High School, Mercer Island again demonstrated offensive and defensive balance. Fox and Chong led scoring but it was the defense that was on display as the Islanders won 16-8. Goalie John Ahalt knocked down five saves and then goalie Ken Trowbridge added four in the fourth quarter alone to turn back the Mt. Carmel shooting onslaught. Contributing to the MI defensive effort was sophomore Sam Peterson’s four steals. Fox and Chong each had five goals, Evan Moline and Ethan Hallowell had two each, and Kalen Hopkins and Jim Deiparine each added one.

The tournament ended for the Islanders with a 10-18 loss to Santana High School. The Islanders came out strong, playing to a 3-3 tie at the end of the first quarter. But the game got tougher for the Islanders in the second quarter after Santana adjusted their defense to aggressively collapse on Fox and Chong, and then worse after Chong got charged with a second ejection, forcing coach Hall to sit him for the rest of the quarter. Despite best efforts from freshman Kalen Hopkins who scored 2 of his 3 team-leading goals that quarter, the MI offense couldn’t keep up with Santana’s. The second half was similar to the second quarter with Santana continuing to add their differential.

“It was a great weekend of water polo, and we will need to apply this experience and continue to work hard if we’re going to be successful at state this year,” said Hall of the trip.

Ahalt also earned tournament honors during the trip, being given an honorable mention for the All Tournament team for his play in the net.

The state tournament will take place at King County Aquatic Center this weekend.

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