The seven-year glitch

Islander boys lacrosse misses state title game

Matt Phelps
Mercer Island Reporter

High school coaches can only do so much to prepare their teams. Good scouting of opponents during the playoffs can mean the difference between winning a title and going home. The Mercer Island boys lacrosse team had a good scouting report on Issaquah during its state semifinal game, but the team could not execute the game plan. The result was a 10-4 loss and a premature trip to the offseason.

“We just failed to listen to the coaches,” said Mercer Island senior Michael Choe. “We should have been shooting high instead of at his feet.”

The Islanders made Issaquah’s back-up goalkeeper look better than a brick wall Wednesday at Issaquah High School. The loss prevented the team from playing in the state title game for the first time in seven years.

“He came up with some big saves, but our shots were off,” said Mercer Island coach Ian O’Hearn. “We weren’t sure which team was going to show up, and the wrong team showed up.”

The inconsistency of the Islander offense came to the forefront as backup Issaquah keeper Nick Yaap picked up 14 saves on 18 Mercer Island shots. But the Islander defense’s struggles during the first half put the team in a deep hole.

Five and a half minutes into the game, the Eagles scored back-to-back goals in 30 seconds. Islander Steven Taylor got one back with a bounce shot at the 5:35 mark of the first quarter but the Issaquah barrage was just beginning. The Eagles finished the quarter with a 5-1 lead and an important ingredient: confidence.

“We couldn’t maintain possession,” said O’Hearn. “If you don’t have the ball you can’t score.”

The Islanders’ play during face-offs made the scoring threat snowball as Mercer Island barely touched the ball on some possessions.

Issaquah continued to hammer the Islanders on the scoreboard, building a 7-1 lead before Daniel Shields found Jon Wettack in front of the net for the Islanders’ first goal in nearly 15 minutes.

The 7-2 halftime deficit lead to Islander frustration and some substitutions. The Islanders first drive down the field during the third period summed up the team’s troubles on offense as a player took a shot five feet in front of the goal and missed entirely.

“We needed to give more effort,” said Choe. “This is the first time in a long time that we have not been to the championship game and the seniors have to take responsibility.”

Mercer Island finally gained some momentum with a sharp pass from Choe to Shields that led to a goal. A minute and a half later, Choe found Taylor for a goal that cut the lead to 9-4. But the momentum was short-lived as Issaquah scored one more time before the final horn.

The game was the second loss this season against Issaquah. The Eagles defeated Mercer Island 14-5 on March 18. The last time Mercer Island was held to just four goals was against Bainbridge Island on April 11 (13-4).

One bright spot for the Islanders was the performance of backup keeper Hap Giraud, who played the entire second half, allowing just three goals and making seven saves. But now the talk turns to next season.

“We will have most of the team back next year,” said O’Hearn.

The Islanders finish the season with a record of 10-3.

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