A spirited, rowdy crowd cheered on the Mercer Island boys water polo as they took on arch rival and defending state champions Bellevue Wednesday, Oct. 24. The Islanders won 10-6.
The Islanders 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, the Islanders were looking to secure a higher seed for the state tournament and a portion of the North League regular season title.
The Islanders played aggressive from the start against Bellevue, winning the opening sprint and putting in an Anthony Pedreira goal 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.
After Bellevue received possession, the ball changed sides twice from steals until Bellevue converted to bring the score to 1-1. The ball was stolen again by the Islanders and this time Mercer Island scored and never looked back half-way through the first quarter. The Islanders kept the momentum going, maintaining the lead during the rest of the entire game. The Islanders were able to score from a variety of players and positions including a key lob shot by junior Chris Apodaca and a push-in off a rebound by senior David Rudokas.
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 Senior Connor Gullstad pulling in seven steals and dishing out three assists.
Earlier in the week, the team beat Roosevelt 13-11 in another conference game. The teams were tied 4-4 at the end of the first quarter, and Roosevelt was up 8-7 at half time, but a strong second half by Mercer Island, featuring a four goal third quarter and two goals in the final minutes gave the team the edge.
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 top finish in North League with Bellevue. Both teams finished with a 9-1 record, each team's single league season loss came at each others hands. A yet-to-be-determined system will be used to decide who is seeded higher for the state tournament. However, the Islanders lead on the typical tie-breaking formula of goal differential. The state tournament will take place Nov. 7-10.