By Carol Lewis Gullstad, Special to the Reporter
Mercer Island’s drive to win a state water polo championship ended on the final day of the state tournament, after the Islanders lost to Curtis in the state semifinals. The team would go on to finish fourth overall.
The team entered the tournament as the No. 1 seed, but fell to Curtis 11-7 in the semifinals.
The Islanders were caught flat-footed as the Vikings jumped to a 6-0 lead in the first half, scoring three in each quarter. The Islanders were shooting, but Curtis’ All-State senior goalie, Griffin Collins, proved formidable, blocking four shots in the first quarter and six in the second, while Curtis continued to score.
Mercer Island did not get on the board until Topher LeCrampe lobbed a shot with 4:16 remaining in the third quarter. With 3:15 remaining, the Vikings’ lead had built to 9-1 and the Islanders’ dream was fading. But, the Islanders rallied and began to connect with the net, closing the gap to within four goals, down 10-6 at the end of the third.
Islander goalie Matt LeProwse was able to steal the ball in the opening seconds of the fourth, leading to a goal by Sam Peterson. The momentum dramatically shifted and all of a sudden it looked like the impossible could occur as the Islanders were down 10-7 with 6:30 remaining in the fourth. Curtis, though, proved stubborn and used the clock to their advantage to grind out the minutes. The Islanders were able to get off six shots in the four but two barred out and three were blocked leading to a final score of 11-7 with Mercer Island coming up short.
The Islanders path to the semis included a 26-6 win over Bainbridge, 11-4 final score against Puyallup and beating Auburn-Riverside 14-10. The Islanders ended the tournament with a loss to Newport in the 3rd/4th place playoff game 9-8. The Islanders had beaten the Knights in their two previous regular season games.
In addition to the fourth place finish, three Islanders were named to the All-State teams. Sam Peterson earned first team honors, while David Rudokas was named to the second team and Connor Gullstad earned honorable mention.
“I am really proud of the way these guys came together as a team,” said head coach Erik Grosshans of the season. “They had the desire and work-ethic and team play. They became a defensive powerhouse. They showed themselves worthy of a top-four finish at state. “