Photo courtesy of Debby Wilson
                                The Mercer Island Islanders girls water polo team will compete at the state tournament from May 24-26 at Curtis High School in University Place.

Photo courtesy of Debby Wilson The Mercer Island Islanders girls water polo team will compete at the state tournament from May 24-26 at Curtis High School in University Place.

Islanders girls water polo team earns berth at state tournament

Mercer Island defeats Puyallup in regional playoff game.

Mercer Island Islanders girls water polo head coach Calvin White is throughly confident in his team’s chances for success at the state tournament from May 24-26.

The Islanders, who put together an overall record 6-2 in league play during the 2018 season, defeated the Puyallup Vikings 11-6 in a winner-to-state, loser-out regional playoff game on May 19.

“Our defense led the way. We just played really smart. We had a couple of quick goals, had a couple of steals and were able to press them. Our plan was very effective,” White said.

Mercer Island players Annie Ritcey and Annie Pearse, who both captured first-team all-league honors, anchored the Islanders defense not only against Puyallup but throughout the entire season.

“They’re studs and they’ve led us defensively,” White said. “Annika Jorgenson our first year sophmore goalie has played phenomenal.”

Jorgenson earned second-team all-league honors for her play between the posts. Laine Hooper earned second team all-league honors as well. Tess Ritcey earned a third-team, all-league nomination.

The Islanders captured fifth place out of eight teams at the state tournament during the 2017 season. This year, the Islanders are determined to place higher than they did exactly 12 months ago. White said a heartbreaking loss to Newport in the 2017 state tournament prevented his squad from placing in the top three slots.

“That game will haunt me forever. We had a one goal lead. We had a turnover in the last 17 seconds and Newport tied it up to force overtime and then we lost in overtime,” White said. “We’re hoping to overcome that heartbreaking loss from last year.”

The Islanders will face the Gig Harbor Tides in the first round of the state tournament at 5 p.m. on May 24 at the Curtis Aquatic Center in University Place.

“They’re the four-time defending state champions. We’ve got our work cut out for us. Even if we lose our first game we can still come back around and get third place which would be a great goal for us if we are unable to beat Gig Harbor,” White said. “We are banking on our defense this coming weekend.”

White said the Islanders program continues to ascend each season. The Islanders are a youthful squad featuring four juniors and six sophomores on the 2018 roster.

“This isn’t a one year deal. For these sophomores and juniors this is going to be their show next year. They’ve really stepped up for us,” White said.

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