The No. 1-ranked Mercer Island High School men’s water polo team took its 5-0 record to Newberg, Ore., losing only to the host team, 9-6, during the finals of the tournament last weekend. The 20th annual event included the best 16 teams from Oregon and Washington.
Mercer Island allowed only 15 goals through the first four games of pool play in beating Reynolds, 21-3; Southridge, 14-5; Aloha, 14-5; and Sandy, 15-2. Theo Danciu recorded 10 steals, and John Ahalt recorded 18 saves in the cage for the Islanders during pool play.
The quarterfinal game against Newberg would be the first of two much anticipated games between the cross-state rivals and defending state champs, as both would eventually advance to Saturday evening’s championship game. The quarter final contest was a defensive affair with no scores tallied by either team during the first period. During the second period, Newberg would go on a three-goal run, while the Islanders scored on a shot by Henry Fox that found the back of the net before half to make the score 3-1. Mercer Island pitched another shutout during the third period. A Fox steal at the end of the quarter led to a quick goal by Peter Zajac to bring the Islanders with one point, 3-2. During the final quarter, the Islanders took control of the game with three consecutive goals from Quinn Sterling to put them up 5-3 with 1:30 left. However, the lead would not last, as Newberg would earn a questionable penalty shot to bring them within one and then score again with 20 seconds left to end the game in a tie.
Saturday’s semi-final game saw the Islanders come up against in-state rival Bellevue. The improved Wolverines gave the Islanders all they could handle, but Mercer Island prevailed 9-6 behind six goals from Fox and two from Kenan Adams.
The championship game saw a rematch between Newberg and the Islanders. It was the second game between the two powers in four hours, and the fifth game of the day for each squad. Newberg would earn a penalty shot at the beginning of the game to go up 1-0. The Islanders answered with a goal from Sterling from two meters out. However, Newberg would then outscore the Islanders 4-1 to end the half with a 5-2 lead. As they had in the earlier game, the Islanders came back to close the gap to 6-4 on scores by Fox and Adams at the end of the third quarter. Unfortunately for the Islanders, they were whistled for two additional five-meter penalty fouls during the fourth quarter, which allowed Newberg to put up two unanswered goals and put the game out of reach on the way to a 9-6 victory. It was the Islanders’ first loss of the year and moves their record to 10-1-1.
The Islanders will face Bainbridge in a league game at 6 p.m. on Friday at Edgebrook Pool in Bellevue.