The Mercer Island girls lacrosse team found itself in a familiar place on Friday. The Islanders trailed Seattle Prep by seven points and seemed to be falling further behind with every face-off draw.
Many teams have been able to get ahead of Mercer Island this season, but not too many have been able to knock them out. Islanders would earn their biggest comeback win of the season to beat the Panthers, 17-16.
“I knew it was bad at one point, but not that bad,” said Mercer Island girls lacrosse coach Craig Van Der Horn, about the deficit. “This team just has a ton of character. All of our leaders stepped up.”
Stepping up meant outscoring Prep, 12-4, and taking control of a game that was all but over.
“We started getting the draws and began playing smarter and more aggressive,” said Van Der Horn. “Those goals at the end of the first half really were the key.”
The Islanders outscored the Panthers 3-1 to end the first half. But the biggest difference in the team’s offense was the diversity of shooters, as Caroline Mahony, Ellen Haas and Margaret Greutert attacked the Prep goal.
“We knew that we had to pick it up,” said Haas. “But we need to get better starts. During the playoffs, every one counts, and we can’t have bad starts.”
“We need to have Caroline creating for other players,” said Van Der Horn about the state’s top goal scorer.
The second half was all Islanders. The team scored four unanswered goals to start, as Mahony, Kasey Swedstedt and Haas picked their spots.
Greutert scored again with a hard shot that the goalie blocked but then rolled into the net, cutting the lead to 13-12.
Seattle Prep would manage to stay just ahead of the Islanders during the next 15 minutes of play.
A big save by goalkeeper Amy Judd kept the Panther lead to just two. But Haas’ goal put Mercer Island back to within one point before Talia Homchick came up big for the Islanders.
The play began with Mahony winning the draw and passing to Homchick. The junior brought the ball up the far side of the field. With the flick of her wrists, she found Mahony directly in front of the Prep goal for the game-tying score.
“I was just looking toward the goal, and she was in the right place at the right time,” said Homchick.
Prep won the next draw, but Homchick showed her defensive side, picking a pass out of the air. With the Panther defense chasing her, the junior sprinted 30 feet and fired a hard shot into the back of the Prep goal to take a 16-15 lead.
“I knew we could do it,” said Homchick. “We just had to work for it.”
A Mahony goal on the next possession proved to be insurance and finish off a 10-2 run.
The Islanders are now 7-2-2 on the season. The team played at Curtis on Monday (after Reporter deadline) and has two games left in the regular season. No. 5 Mercer Island trails No. 4 Holy Names by one point in the standings. The top eight teams qualify for the state playoffs.