By CHRIS VACCA
Special to the Reporter
The Islanders came into 2019 with some holes to fill from last year’s graduating senior class. Entering the season, senior captains Jacob Swerland and Oliver Schaaf are optimistic about this year’s team. Because the league has become a bit more balanced than in years past, Mercer Island has as good a chance as any to make some waves this year.
The season opened at home against a Roosevelt team that some say could win the state tournament. Mercer Island played a solid overall game with exceptional play by senior goalie Jacob Swerland, but the Islanders came up short losing 15-13.
They split their next two games, beating Ingram and then subsequently losing at home to Bainbridge Island.
The water polo crew then had a local weekend tournament where they went 3-2. With no rest for the Mercer Island team, the Islanders played three games in as many nights against the defending state champion Curtis Vikings, cross-lake rival Bellevue and Newport.
MI brought its “A-game” against Curtis, playing stellar defense and matching their opponent goal for goal in the first half. Curtis pulled away in the second half and eventually won 11-4.
With less than 24 hours of rest, Mercer Island had to be ready to play rival Bellevue. With the help of a hyped-up crowd, the Islanders got out to a dominating 5-0 lead. Bellevue chipped and clawed its way back into the game. In the end, Mercer Island was too strong for the Wolverines, winning 18-10. Mercer Island was led by junior Max Vacca, who had eight goals. The student section was standing-room only and once the final whistle blew, the whole student body rallied and made a tsunami-type wave when all jumped into the pool to celebrate the win over Bellevue.
Still trying to catch its breath from playing eight games in four days, Mercer Island was back in the pool facing a strong Newport team. Mercer Island came out strong to start the game. It was an even match until the fourth quarter, with the Islanders finding themselves down 11-7. The Islanders fought back to get the game to 11-10, with a key counter goal by senior Justin Jradi, but Newport held on to secure the win.
The Islanders will trek down Interstate 5 to face the Curtis Vikings again on Oct. 10.