Sports

Islander polo takes title

Team fends off Newport threat to seven-year dynasty

By Matt Phelps

Mercer Island Reporter

During the past six years very few boys water polo teams in Washington state have come close to playing at Mercer Island’s level. And with eight of the last nine state titles being won by the Islanders their was some question as to weather the dynasty would ever come to an end. This year, with a coaching change, injuries and very few games with a solid starting lineup for Mercer Island, the Newport Knights took their best shot at slaying the kings.

The result was a narrow 8-7 win, as Mercer Island held on to the state crown.

“I was definitely nervous during the entire game,” said Mercer Island head coach Lauren Ayers. “It was an extremely close game and (Newport is) a very good team. But this means a lot to me and all of us, with all the pressure we have had all season.”

The Mercer Island victory comes on the heels of a turbulent season that included a third-place finish at the San Diego Invitational and two uncharacteristic in-league losses to the Knights during the regular season.

“We were ready for them,” said Islander Charlie Horton. “It was a little surprising to lose the first game to them, but it feels good to win the state title.”

Mercer Island began the game with an inside goal by Chris Ferrell and a rocket shot by Horton for a quick 2-0 lead. But unlike in years past, their opponents didn’t quit under the pressure of the Islander mystique. The Knights got on the board during confusion following an Islander ejection. But Horton brought the team back by finding teammate Brian Chong inside for a hard shot and the 3-1 lead to end the first quarter.

“Our goal is to win state every year,” said Chong, who was voted offensive MVP of the tournament. “We had control the entire game because of our defense.”

That defense was helped by freshman goalkeeper Freddie Crothamel, who took over mid season for senior Will Webster.

“He came up huge,” said Horton. “He worked really hard and became a huge asset.”

Newport came out strong to start the second quarter with a goal despite a deflection by Crothamel on the initial shot.

Two goals by Sam Sussman built the Islander lead back to 5-2, their largest of the game before Newport scored, again in the aftermath of an Islander ejection. Newport drew within 5-4 following the half. The Islanders went on the attack on the ensuing possession as Horton took a shot that was deflected. Sussman moved quickly to chase down the ball as most players took the loose ball as a change of possession. Sussman narrowly got the ball first, drawing the keeper out from the goal. Noting he had one shot, Sussman flipped the ball at the goal from behind his back, scoring the Islanders’ sixth point of the game.

Despite two more goals by the Islanders, Newport made it interesting by pulling within one point with 25 seconds left. But the Islanders ran out the clock as Horton threw the ball into the air in celebration at the final horn.

“I was always worried but I knew we just had to play great D,” said Horton.

Tournament trek

Pool play

Mercer Island 18,

Eastside Catholic 6

Mercer Island 17,

Kentridge 7

Mercer Island 20,

Bellevue 3

Quarterfinals

Mercer Island 15,

Sammamish 4

Semifinals

Mercer Island 11,

Eastside Catholic 2

Finals

Mercer Island 8,

Newport 7

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