MIHS water polo takes 11th straight state title

The MIHS boys water polo team won its 11th straight state title last weekend. - Pat Fox/Contributed photo
The MIHS boys water polo team won its 11th straight state title last weekend.
— image credit: Pat Fox/Contributed photo

By Pat Fox

Special to the Reporter

Last weekend the Mercer Island High School boys water polo team won the Washington state championship for the 11th year in a row, finishing the season with a win-loss record of 19-3.

The team’s tough defense was on display throughout the tournament at the King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way and defense was the difference in the championship game victory against CPA. Previously in the season, the Islander boys had split two games with CPA, a club team comprised of year-round athletes whose respective high schools do not offer water polo.

“This was a huge team victory,” said Mercer Island coach Ryan Hall. “I always know we are going to score goals, so it is the play of our defense that will determine if we will win or lose. Tonight our defense was outstanding.”

In round-robin group play on Friday evening, Mercer Island dispatched Roosevelt and Newport 19-6 and 14-4, respectively. Mercer Island honed its defensive technique in the game against Newport, holding the Knights scoreless through the first three quarters.

The Islanders arrived at KCAC on Saturday afternoon expecting to play Bellevue in the semi-final game. However, earlier in the day Roosevelt had upset Bellevue, so the Islanders were forced to play Roosevelt again in the semis. Mercer Island jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the first quarter and then cruised to a 15-6 victory.

In the championship game against CPA, both teams came out with aggressive defense, but Mercer Island was the first to strike midway through the first quarter when senior Henry Fox received the ball between two defenders and fought to launch a shot before getting sunk.

The Islander defense held strong — limiting CPA shots while senior Islander goalie John Ahalt pulled down five saves, but CPA managed to find the back of the net shortly before the quarter’s end, knotting the score 1-1.

During the break, coach Hall made offensive adjustments that enabled the Islanders to take advantage of the speed and counter-attacking skills of seniors Eugene Chong and Ethan Hallowell. In one sequence, senior goalie John Ahalt pulled down a CPA shot, then made a precise outlet to Fox on the right side, who passed to Chong sprinting down the left side, who then connected with Hallowell who was a body-length ahead of his defender. Hallowell slammed his shot in the lower left corner for the Mercer Island goal. Chong also scored later in the quarter and the Mercer Island defense didn’t allow a single CPA goal. The halftime horn blew with an MI lead of 3-1.

The third quarter saw more of the same – tough Islander defense and more Islander goals. Fox and Hallowell each scored again, and Evan Moline was also able to add one for the Islanders on a fast break on the right side. Hallowell’s goal featured a surprise backhand shot around his defender at 2 meters that trickled in the lower left corner of the goal. The score at the end of the third quarter was 6-1 in favor of Mercer Island.

The fourth quarter got a little more interesting as CPA went on a scoring spree, pouring in four goals. However the Islanders were able to keep the margin comfortable with another goal from Fox and counter-attack strike from freshman starter Kalen Hopkins. Mercer Island knocked down a last-second CPA shot to end the game, winning 8-5. Fox led Mercer Island scoring with three goals and three steals. Chong had one goal and three assists. Hallowell had two goals and one assist. Kalen Hopkins and Evan Moline each had one goal. Sam Peterson had two steals.

Several individual honors were bestowed on Mercer Island. Eugene Chong, Ethan Hallowell, and Henry Fox were named to the First Team All-State, and Henry Fox was named Tournament MVP. Senior goalie John Ahalt and sophomore driver Sam Peterson were named to Second Team All-State, and Freshman Kalen Hopkins received an Honorable Mention.

Mercer Island convincingly beat South Sound champion Curtis High School earlier in the season 19-6, leaving little doubt about the Islanders statewide dominance in 2010.

“I want to wish our 11 graduating seniors the best of luck, and I look forward to seeing our younger players on both the varsity and JV teams continue to work hard and step next year,” said Hall.

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