The Mercer Island boys soccer team is among the best in the state. Ranked No. 4 and with a 12-0-1 record, very few teams have been able to keep pace. The only tie for the Islanders came in an early preseason game against a 4A school. But this kind of success is not new for coach Steve Newman.
“These guys are really good, and we have depth,” said Newman, whose team clinched the 3A KingCo regular-season title on Friday with a 3-1 win at Mount Si. “These guys are in the top three as far as teams I have had.”
Newman is among the best in the state, making it to the state playoffs most of the past nine years at Mercer Island. His teams have placed third twice and second once during the past decade.
“We are playing for the banner,” said Newman. “Each year, we take them in the gymnasium and look at the banners. They want to know where the state banner will go.”
The Islanders’ talent was on display Tuesday, when they dismantled Liberty High School, 4-0.
“We have won the first seven [in-league] games, and the results speak for themselves,” said Chris Morris. “But we have to get better and get ready for state. We don’t finish all of our opportunities. You can’t let the opportunities go where we want to be.”
The Islanders wasted neither time nor chances to get on the scoreboard first against the Patriots. Mercer Island’s Diego Corvalan found teammate Danny Strome up the far side of the field for a perfect pass and shot as Strome put the ball into the back of the Liberty goal during the eighth minute.
“We like to pass the ball around, and not a lot of high school teams can handle that,” said Islander James Kashima.
Another stiff pass, this time from Morris to Matt Johnson, led to the Islanders’ second goal of the game during the 21st minute. Johnson didn’t mess around and took the ball up the middle straight at the goalkeeper, challenging and winning the play.
“We still need to work on our touches,” said Morris. “We haven’t played a full 80-minute game yet.”
The Patriots may have wanted to get on the bus at halftime, down 2-0 and with just one shot-on-goal. But Liberty went on the attack during the second half. And a diving save by senior keeper Forrest Marowitz at the 42nd minute mark kept the shutout intact.
Liberty would have few chances during the final 38 minutes. Instead, the Islanders controlled the game with their offense. A goal during the 58th minute came as Strome took a pass from Johnson and challenged the keeper one-on-one. A fake on the left and a shot to the right resulted in a 3-0 lead for the Islanders.
Mercer Island’s final goal of the night might have been the most technically perfect of the contest. Morris brought the ball up the left side and was prevented from passing the ball until he got near the corner end-line. But a quick strike to the ball from his foot gave Kashima a big opportunity as he charged up the center of the field. One touch of the ball sent it hurling toward the upper right post, narrowly sneaking inside the corner for the goal during the 66th minute.
“He just sent a great ball back, and I just tried to hit it towards the frame,” said Kashima.
Mercer Island will travel to Interlake on Friday and Juanita on Tuesday for 7:30 p.m. games to finish out the regular season.
“Our biggest test will come during the state playoffs,” said Kashima.