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Water polo earns ninth state title
For the first time in 11 years, the Mercer Island boys water polo team did not enter the state tournament as the No. 1 seed. But the Islanders did continue another streak, winning their ninth straight state title.
“We have had some ups and downs this year with this young group of guys,” said Mercer Island coach Adam Massmann. “But I think they are seeing how hard work is more important than talent.”
The Islanders showed that they have both work ethic and talent during the finals against Newport, a team with seven seniors. The Islanders came into the game with an 8-1 record in league play, with the one loss coming against the Knights.
Newport began the game with a score during its first possession. But with thoughts of avenging its only loss, Mercer Island built a 5-2 lead by the end of the first quarter. The offensive barrage included a 10-6 advantage in shots-on-goal. Henry Fox, who was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, led the Islanders during the first quarter with two goals. The most surprising goal of the game came three minutes into the first period as Peter Zajak flipped the ball from behind his back — without looking and fending off a defender — past the Newport goalkeeper.
The Islanders’ onslaught continued into the second period by extending their lead to 9-3. Islander Quinn Sterling led the team with two goals during the quarter, including a goal with a Newport player on his back but no foul called.
The third quarter, dominated by defense, saw Mercer Island outshoot Newport, 10-2, but only outscore the Knights 2-1.
Newport would make a run at the Islanders during the final seven minutes of the contest, but Mercer Island’s lead would prove to be too much, winning 12-9.
The state tournament was shorter this year, as Mercer Island only had to play two games to reach the finals.
Mercer Island dominated its first game, flooding Bainbridge Island 21-0. But the semi- finals would prove to be more of a challenge against Roosevelt High School. The Rough Riders and Islanders finished regulation tied at 13-13, forcing a rare shootout.
“I don’t think I have ever been involved in a shootout,” said Massmann.
Each team took 19 shots during the final action, with Mercer Island winning the game 33-32.
Fox, Kenan Adams and Sterling earned first team all-state honors. Islander Theo Danciu earned second team honors.
The champions finished the season with an overall record of 25-4-1 and placed sixth at the national San Diego tournament a week ago.