The uncharacteristic struggles of the Mercer Island girls water polo team came to an end on Friday with a dominating 10-4 victory against Roosevelt at the Edgebrook Club in Bellevue.
“We have a lot of new people this year, but we have really improved in a short amount of time,” said Islander goalkeeper Caitlin Russell.
Mercer Island began the year with a 1-5 record thanks to a non-league tournament at the King County Aquatic Center.
“We were a little slow to get started, but I think that really motivated us,” said Russell.
But since that time, the team has come together around first year Islander coach Matt Jones and has begun the regular season 1-1.
“We are halfway through the season, but it seems like it’s just the beginning,” said Jones. “We are getting better in every game.”
That last statement is not just a cliché. Mercer Island began the game against Roosevelt down 3-1, despite getting many opportunities to score.
“I think we played better during the first half than the second half,” said Jones. “We just didn’t make our shots.”
Islander Hayley March scored her team’s first goal of the game with just 2:15 left in the first quarter. Roosevelt took a two-goal lead just before the end of the first quarter. But Mercer Island would not let that lead stand for long, as Russell found March deep down the side for a long outlet pass. March in turn slung a pass to Veronica Bone in front of the Roughrider goal to bring the Islanders back within one point.
Islander Christina Weed tied the game at 3-3 just before halftime with a hard shot from 10 feet out.
The second half belonged to Mercer Island. As the third quarter began, March held possession 30 feet from the Roughrider goal. A quick pass to the left to teammate Laura Horton came right back to March as she fired a bullet into the back of the opponents’ goal, past an unprepared goalkeeper.
Horton assisted on the next goal as well, feeding the ball to Bone for the 5-3 lead. Horton would take the shot herself for the Islanders’ sixth point of the contest. Horton earned another assist as she passed the ball to very well-covered March, who spun around and flipped the ball onto Roosevelt’s goal. The Roughriders cut the lead back to three points at 7-4 just before the end of the third quarter.
The fourth quarter began with March picking off a Roughrider’s pass and swimming to the Roosevelt end of the pool with a defender on her heels. Despite bobbling the ball on the shot, March picked up her fourth goal of the game. She would score one last time two minutes later to give the Islanders an insurmountable 9-4 lead. March picked up an assist with a tip pass to Emma Nelson for the 10th goal of the contest.
The transition to another head coach, the team’s fourth in six years, has been aided by the team’s captains, Allison Stoney and Weed.
“They have provided good leadership,” said Jones. “Stoney leads more by example, but they even go to the junior varsity games, and that shows leadership.”
The Islanders’ next game will be against arch rival Newport at 4 p.m. on Friday at Edgebrook Pool.
“We just need to work on cohesiveness and get everyone on the same page,” said Russell.