The Mercer Island Islanders boys water polo team captured third place at the state tournament on Nov. 12 at the Curtis Aquatic Center in University Place. The Islanders, who trailed Roosevelt 5-1 in the third/fourth place game at halftime, earned a 10-9 comeback victory. Photo courtesy of Ann Marie Guedel

Mercer Island captures third place at water polo state tournament

Things didn’t look good at halftime of the third place/fourth place game in the Puget Sound water polo state tournament for the Mercer Island Islanders against the Roosevelt Roughriders.

The Islanders, who trailed Roosevelt 5-1 at halftime, made key adjustments in the locker room at halftime that paid dividends. The Islanders outscored the Roughriders 9-4 in the final 14 minutes of play en route to a comeback 10-9 win on Nov. 12 at the Curtis Aquatic Center in University Place. Mercer Island senior Jacob Guedel scored the go-ahead goal on a shot he lofted just above the head of the Roosevelt goalie and into the back of the net, giving his team a 10-9 lead with 56 seconds left in regulation.

Guedel scored three goals in the victory for the Islanders. Mercer Island junior Sammy Vacca, who scored a game-high four goals in the contest, was thrilled to see his team respond to the four-goal deficit in the second half.

“We were down a lot. This was a good win. We beat them once in the regular season and we lost to them once. It was a great way to end our season and a great way for our seniors to go out in their last game,” Vacca said.

Mercer Island head coach Andrew Smith-Jones believed the halftime adjustments and his team’s mental toughness were the keys to victory.

“We just had to dig deep. Ultimately in the first half we just had a couple of mental breakdowns that led to goals Roosevelt capitalized on. At halftime, we adjusted some of our defense as well as our offense,” Smith-Jones said. “We were hoping that a slight change in our tempo would help. It proved that we were able to wear them down a little bit as the game progressed.”

Smith-Jones said his team benefitted from its 11-6 defeat to the Curtis Vikings in the semifinal contest on Nov. 11. Curtis defeated Bellevue 11-6 in the title game on Nov. 12.

“Last night in the semifinal game we gave Curtis a really great game,” he said. “Up until there was about four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, we were only down 7-5. We ended up losing 11-6, but the fact we were able to play that well against a team that won state last year and has gone undefeated so far this year was big for us.”

Mercer Island senior Eric Raisys scored two goals in the win against Roosevelt. Carson Coe added one goal as well.

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