Sports

Water polo tops KR 8-0

By Matt Phelps

There were a lot of lingering questions during the preseason for the Mercer Island girls water polo team. Two of the biggest were whether the team could regain the winning edge that personified the program over the last seven years and who would step up on defense.

The Islanders gave emphatic answers to both questions during their first game of the season, a 8-0 shutout of the Kentridge Chargers.

``We played pretty good, we're pretty confident,'' said Islander Katie Hall. ``We need to improve on finishing our drives and we need to work on our defense, but it was pretty good.''

The win came without head coach Jeff Lowell, who missed the game. In his place was first-year Islander assistant coach Mike Goldstein.

``The coaches really had us ready to play, despite being a bit shorthanded,'' said Islander Sara Boehler.

The Islanders began the game slow on offense, scoring just once on their first seven possessions. A pass from Islander Danielle Welch inside to Hall resulted in a hard shot that smacked the back of the goal for an early 1-0 lead for Mercer Island.

Kentridge had its opportunities during the first quarter as well, but never seemed to get on track. The best Charger shot-on-goal hit the Mercer Island cross bar and skipped into the warm-up pool.

``We should have scored more during this game but that will come,'' said Hall.

The Islanders came out of their offensive slumber during the second period. Just 30 seconds in, Hall flung a high lob pass to Boehler. The Islander had to fight for position, but eventually gained control and powered a shot past the Kentridge goal keeper.

But the scoring did not stop for Mercer Island. A botched pass attempt on offense for Kentridge was stolen by Welch as she swam straight for the Charger goal and scored. The Islanders led 3-0 and were not about to look back.

Boehler earned another goal on a cross-pool pass from Hall. The bullet shot-on-goal gave the Islanders a 4-0 lead.

The Chargers began to look bewildered and tired. The Islander onslaught continued, as Hall stole another bad Charger pass and gave it to Boehler on a breakaway. The Kentridge goalkeeper flailed her arms to block Boehler's shot attempt but the ball skipped on the surface of the water under the keepers arm for the Islanders' fifth goal of the half.

Mercer Island got three more goals during the game, but Kentridge never cracked the Islander defense.

The questions about who would take over net-minding duties this season was partially answered against the Chargers. Islanders Rosemary Boos and Jane Billbe split time in goal and neither player was close to giving up a goal. The defense in front of the keepers was a big factor.

``Our entire team stepped it up a notch on defense,'' said Boehler.

Mercer Island earned 16 steals during the game, as Hall, Welch and Georgia Gier had three each. Boehler's two steals moved her into a tie for third place in career Islander steals.

The Islanders were led by Boehler's three goals and Hall's four assists during the game. Hall and Welch had two goals each.

``We're short a few veterans and really key players that haven't gotten in enough practices yet,'' said Boehler. ``But the younger players really contributed.''

Mercer Island took on another south sound team, Kentwood, at the King County Aquatic Center Tuesday (after Reporter deadline). The Islanders next game will be at Bainbridge Island, at 3:20 p.m. Friday. The team's next home game won't come until 3:40 p.m. Friday, April 8 against 3A KingCo rival Newport.

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