Sports

Islander girls golf 75-match winning streak ends

Mercer Island’s Whitley Pearson prepares to tee off during the Islanders’ match against Bellevue Thursday, May 1 at Overlake Golf Course.  - Joseph Livarchik/Mercer Island Reporter
Mercer Island’s Whitley Pearson prepares to tee off during the Islanders’ match against Bellevue Thursday, May 1 at Overlake Golf Course.
— image credit: Joseph Livarchik/Mercer Island Reporter

Mercer Island golf captain Katie Rorem said golf is a funny sport because you can always improve, no matter how good you are.

“Sometimes the golf ball falls in the hole and sometimes you take an extra stroke here and there,” she said. “You know how good you’ve played, but you can’t always do it every day.”

The ball was falling on the final day of the season, but for the first time in seven years, it was for the other team.

Mercer Island’s 75-match winning streak came to an end against Bellevue Thursday, May 1, with the Wolverines besting the Islanders 226-237 at Overlake Golf Course. It was Mercer Island’s first loss since April of 2007.

Mercer Island golf coach Don Papasedero said when he talked to his girls after the match, he resorted to one of his favorite pieces of advice: flush it and move on.

“I encouraged them not to do the blame game and not have a pity party, just move on and not dwell on it,” said Papasedero. “But I was crying, they were crying. But the same thing happened last year [after winning the last match], I was crying, they were crying. That’s the way we are.”

“It was really emotional,” said Rorem. “It was a feeling I hadn’t had to feel in four years, and to have it happen on our last match against our rivals was pretty emotional. I’m lucky to say we went 11-1 this season and I guess the loss had to happen at some point, but it was kind of a new feeling for sure. I didn’t think it would happen for a few years because we have such a strong class.”

The Wolverines boasted three of the lowest overall individual scores, with Lauren Patrick having a career round, shooting a 39 to earn medalist honors, and both Tiffany Huang and Alexis Choi shooting a 43 on the par-36 course. Rachel Fuji was a medalist for Mercer Island, also shooting a 39. Carsen Harkins shot a 47, and Kate Peterson and Molly White both shot a 49 to lead the Islanders. The final tally was Bellevue’s second-lowest score of the season, while Mercer Island shot its second-highest.

Plenty was riding on the match heading into Thursday’s meeting between the two rivals. Besides Mercer Island’s winning streak, both teams were undefeated and vying for the KingCo title.

Harkins said with the streak on the line, it was the first golf match that caught her school’s interest. And Rorem was particularly nervous about Bellevue based on standings, scores and how the two teams fared against Mount Si. Bellevue won outright, while the Islanders were coming off a playoff win after tying the Wildcats. The coach and both captains praised Bellevue’s performance.

“Kudos to [Bellevue] to having their best day and beating us,” said Rorem. “I’m sure they felt the pressure just as much as us. We both went into 11-0 and it was a match for the KingCo title. You got to give it to them to be able to handle that.”

The loss ended an incredible run for Mercer Island girls golf. According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, the 75-match winning streak ranked seventh nationally and was the No. 1 active streak. Record-holder Hingham Notre Dame Academy of Massachusetts had its streak of 188 consecutive matches unbeaten ended last year. The Islanders’ last dual match loss came against Skyline in 2007.

“The interesting part of that, going into it we had won ten in a row and lost,” recalled Papasedero. “The year before, we won ten in a row and lost to Newport. We’ve only lost three times since 2005.”

Assistant coach and former Mercer Island golf captain Catherine Chamberlain attributed the Islanders’ success during the streak to Papasedero’s emphasis on golf as a team sport through partner golf.

“It was especially something to be proud of, seeing how far the program has come since I’ve been there,” she said. “Every team out there has one good player, and we have a team of girls shooting consistently well.”

While the sting of defeat may still remain, it hasn’t kept the Islanders from moving forward and looking ahead. Harkins said even though the team may be sad, they’re moving on and getting excited for the KingCo tournament. “I think the girls are proud to be on a team that had that winning streak for so long,” she said.

And if nothing else, the loss hasn’t robbed Papasedero of his humor.

“I bet it’ll be easier to schedule matches next year, people will want to play us again,” quipped the coach. “We’ve had a hard time with that. Obviously, we’re not bulletproof.”

Mercer Island’s top six players will compete at the KingCo league tournament at Snohomish Golf Course Monday, May 12. The top 18 will earn a spot in the district tournament the following week.

 

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