A showdown of epic proportions was on display as the Mercer Island Islanders and Liberty Patriots faced off on the soccer field.
Liberty, who won the Class 2A state title in 2017 and Mercer Island, who earned the Class 3A state championship in 2017, lived up to the pregame hype. The Islanders rose to the occasion in front of their hometown fans, earning a dramatic 2-1 comeback victory against the Patriots on Sept. 25 on Mercer Island. The Islanders improved their overall record to 5-0-1 with the win while Liberty dropped to 4-1-2. Mercer Island is in sole possession of first place in the 3A/2A KingCo division.
With the score tied at 1-1 with less than a minute left in regulation, Islanders senior forward Nicole Mandt connected on the game-winning goal, completing the comeback win. Mandt maneuvered past two Liberty defenders before uncorking a shot that found the lower left part of the back of the goal. Mercer Island sophomore defender Emily Yang had the assist on the play.
“We came into this game really nervous, to be honest. Liberty is a super good team and is probably the toughest team we’ve played all season. We came into the game knowing we had to be confident no matter what, no matter how nervous we were. It paid off,” Mandt explained. “We had a positive mindset and we knew we could do it.”
Liberty took an early 1-0 lead on a Myka Carr goal in the 55th minute of play. Mercer Island senior Elaina Martin tied the game at 1-1 in the 65th minute. Mercer Island head coach James Valles wasn’t surprised to see two of his seniors (Martin and Mandt) come through in the clutch with the outcome of the game hanging in the balance.
“Those players have been playing on this team for a long time. This is their last year and they don’t get rattled in big games,” Valles said.
Valles believes the victory against a formidable Liberty squad will give his team an abundance of confidence as they move toward the second half of the 2018 season on the pitch.
“This was huge. Being in first place in the middle of the season isn’t great but it gives us that much more of a separation from the next 3A team (in their league). I think the other 3A teams were looking at this match and were saying, ‘If they get beat by Liberty, we’ve got a chance.’ Now they know we are who they thought we were,” Valles said proudly.