Mercer Island lacrosse program to make trip to Russia

Photo courtesy of Laura Jantos Mercer Island lacrosse players Max Jantos and Will St. Mary team up with a few Mercer Island Lacrosse Club youth players during a gear drive at QFC on Mercer Island on July 15. The Islanders boys lacrosse team will visit Russia from From July 27 through Aug. 8.

Members of the Mercer Island boys lacrosse team will partake in a trip of a lifetime this summer overseas.

The Islanders, who captured second place in the Washington High School Boys Lacrosse 3A state tournament this past May, will travel to Russia as a team from July 27 through Aug. 8. The purpose of the trip is for Islanders athletes to not only play lacrosse with Russian teams, but simultaneously teach and develop the sport of lacrosse with the youth of Russia as well. The Islanders lacrosse club has been invited by the Russian Lacrosse Federation and men’s lacrosse clubs from Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Mercer Island lacrosse club program director Ian O’Hearn, who has also been the Islanders varsity lacrosse head coach for the past 16 years, said his team has gone to Victoria, Canada each season, but has never traveled to another continent.

“I think it is a unique experience for our players. First of all, they will get the international experience of lacrosse in another country but also gain the cultural experience as well. I think it’s really good for the development of the sport in other countries. I think by us going there, we’re going to help bring exposure for the sport of lacrosse developing in Russia. It is great growing the game in other parts of the world,” O’Hearn said. “The fact we are going across the world for a trip is huge. It will build team chemistry and will be good for team bonding. It is a sport they love, and they are getting to teach the sport to kids in another country. It is going to be really cool.”

O’Hearn’s players are excited about the opportunity to share their lacrosse knowledge and expertise in Russia. Islanders lacrosse player Max Thilen said during his childhood, lacrosse wasn’t as popular as it is today, and he wants to help continue the growth of the sport.

“Growing up, I always had great leaders that helped me learn the sport that I loved. Being able to spread the love of lacrosse, and especially in a different country, is a really cool opportunity that I will probably only get once in my lifetime,” Thilen said.

Mercer Island defender Derrick Hicks concurred with Thilen’s sentiment.

“We have a lot of events that we will be doing. We are not only teaching the kids about lacrosse, but we are also learning about the culture there. It should be pretty fun,” Hicks said.

Max Jantos, who traveled to Russia in the summer of 2016, can’t wait to share his knowledge of lacrosse during the course of the trip as opposed to being a tourist.

“It is going to be really cool going back. This time, I’m going to be coming at it from a very different angle. I’m actually going to be meeting and working with the people there. That is going to be really cool,” Jantos said.

Junior Donnie Howard is one of those players with immediate family ties to Russia. His mother Loulia is from Russia and speaks Russian fluently.

“I haven’t been there in years. I don’t really remember much from Russia but I’m excited to see my family and also teach the game of lacrosse. I think it is going to be very interesting to try to teach the sport to people who don’t speak the same language as you. Visuals are going to be very key to our success,” Howard said. “I know a little bit of Russian myself. I’m going to do my best to understand and try to translate to the rest of the team members. It is going to be something we are going to have to face.”

Howard’s mother Loulia played a pivotal role in making the Islanders trip to Russia a reality. Loulia said plans for the trip this summer began more than 12 months ago.

“It is going to be the first US (United States) lacrosse team of any caliber actually traveling to Russia. We are making history. It is huge and is very exciting,” Loulia said. “We are going to bring lacrosse to this country (Russia). This is something special for the entire (lacrosse) program.”

More in Sports

Maya Virdell, left, and Susie Lepow, right, will compete at the USATF Nationals Junior Olympic Track and Field Championships, which take place from July 22-28 in Sacramento, California. Photo courtesy of the Mercer Island Cross Country Booster Club
Mercer Island athletes compete at USATF Region 13 track and field championships in Tacoma

Maya Virdell and Susie Lepow will travel to California for Junior Olympic Track and Field Championships.

Mercer Island Islanders boys basketball player Nigel Seda, left, drives to the hoop in a game against the Interlake Saints during the 2018-19 season. Seda will be one of four returners to the starting lineup during the 2019-20 season. Photo courtesy of Patrick Krohn/Patrick Krohn Photography
Islanders prove their mettle at Gonzaga team camp

Mercer Island Islanders boys basketball squad is an experienced group.

Alex Edwards captured USA Swimming All-American honors for his stellar 2018-19 season with the Mercer Island Islanders. Photo courtesy of Bruce Edwards
Edwards earns USA Swimming All-American honors

Stellar 2018-19 season garners recognition.

Mercer Island Islanders midfielder Matt Capone (right), passes the ball to a teammate in a contest against the Juanita Rebels during the 2019 season. Capone will play soccer at Northwest Nazarene University this fall. Photo courtesy of Patrick Krohn/Patrick Krohn Photography
Attaining a dream on the soccer field

Mercer Island 2019 grad Matt Capone will play college soccer at Northwest Nazarene University.

Mercer Island Islanders 2019 graduate Teague Conder (pictured) will continue his baseball career at Whitman College in Walla Walla. Photo courtesy of Teague Conder
Conder to continue baseball career at Whitman College

Former Mercer Island third baseman embraces the action.

Peacocks roam the neighborhood of Beards Cove in sportswriter Shaun Scott’s childhood hometown of Belfair. Shaun Scott/staff photo
Running alongside a beautiful creature

Peacocks roam the streets of the neighborhood I grew up in.

Mercer Island Islanders sophomore Tegan Yuasa is currently the top-ranked male 55-kilogram athlete in the sport of Judo. Yuasa will compete at the Cadet World Championships, which will take place from Sept. 25-29 in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Photo courtesy of Mark Yuasa
Yuasa earns first place in the USA Judo Elite Senior National Championships

Mercer Island High School sophomore Tegan Yuasa captured first place in the… Continue reading

The Mercer Island FC Maroon girls soccer team earned a 2-1 victory against the PacNW Blue in the President’s Cup D2 championship contest May 12. Photo courtesy of Tom Hill
Maroon girls soccer team completes journey with a championship

Teamwork propels Maroon soccer team to third title in five seasons.

Mercer Island senior Matthew Capone, left, dribbles the ball up field while being guarded by Juanita sophomore Andrew Taylor in a game on April 11. Capone earned first-team all-3A KingCo honors as a midfielder during the 2019 season. Photo courtesy of Patrick Krohn/Patrick Krohn Photography
Islanders athletes capture all-league honors

Bevy of Mercer Island soccer/baseball players garner recognition.

The Mercer Island Islanders tennis doubles team consisting of Kevin Chen/Chris Elliott earned first place at the 3A state tennis tournament on May 25 in Kennewick. Photo courtesy of MC Chen
Doubles duo attains a coveted goal on the tennis court

The doubles team of Kevin Chen/Chris Elliott goes undefeated at the 3A state tournament.

Coach Don Papasedero, Gihoe Seo, Grace Shaddle, Annelise Rorem, Katelyn Travis, Lilly Pruchno and coach Tim Okamura take a team photo with the 3A third place trophy on May 22 at Hawks Prairie Golf Course in Lacey. Photo courtesy of Billy Pruchno
Mercer Island girls golf team captures third place at 3A state tourney

Islanders’ girls golf squad rises to the occasion in final tournament of 2019.

Mercer Island player Glen Mahony (No. 9) leaps on the back of Will Wheeler (No. 14) during the 3A state championship game against the Bellevue Wolverines. Mercer Island defeated Bellevue 14-6 on May 25 at the Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila. Photo courtesy of Rick Edelman/Rick Edelman Photography
Islanders win 3A state lacrosse championship

Mercer Island finishes 2019 season with 18 victories.