The Mercer Island High School water polo team faced Bellevue in the state championship game Saturday night at Curtis Aquatic Center in University Place. Despite clawing back from a six-goal halftime deficit, the Islanders’ run at state ended with a loss to the defending state champion Wolverines 12-9.
“I think the team improved a lot defensively,” said Mercer Island coach Ryan Hall. “In the beginning of the season, we gave up a lot of goals to mediocre teams. We learned from our mistakes and started playing great team defense by the end of the season.”
The championship game atmosphere was intense as the teams entered the water for the fourth and final matchup of the year. Bellevue won the opening sprint, but the Islanders were the first to score on Jack Larkin’s lob shot that found its way into the back corner of the cage. The Wolverines responded with a couple goals of their own to go up 3-1. A goal from Mercer Island’s Topher Lacrampe brought the Islanders within one before Bellevue answered again, ending the first quarter ahead 4-2.
The second quarter was all Bellevue, with the Wolverines posting four more goals to take an 8-2 lead into halftime. It was the Islanders’ biggest halftime deficit of the season.
The Islanders regrouped in the second half, ending their scoring drought in the third quarter with a goal by Trevor Gullstad. After another Bellevue goal, the Islanders responded with two more goals from Gullstad and Larkin. But after three quarters, Mercer Island still trailed 10-5.
The Islanders opened up the fourth quarter with a goal from Anthony Pedreira, followed by a goal from Chris Merritt. Merrit then connected with an assist to Lacrampe, bringing the score to 10-8 with 4:30 remaining in the game. Bellevue responded, but another goal from Lacrampe kept the Islanders within two, trailing 11-9. But it was as close as Mercer Island would come, as the Wolverines sealed the victory with a final goal in the closing minutes to win 12-9.
“I think our resiliency was a trait that defined us,” Hall said on the season. “Our team never quit, no matter what the score was. We battled back in a lot of tough games to win or put ourselves in a position to win.”
Four Islanders garnered state honors. Jack Larkin and Anthony Pedreira were named to 1st team All-State. Trevor Gullstad and Topher Lacrampe were named to 2nd team All-State. Four Islanders garnered state honors. Jack Larkin and Anthony Pedreira were named to 1st team All-State. Trevor Gullstad and Topher Lacrampe were named to 2nd team All-State.