Most sports fans would think that a 4-3 score between Mercer Island and Interlake High School would be a baseball or softball game. It would also be a typical water polo final or a low-scoring lacrosse contest. But when an Islander soccer team vying for the 3A KingCo title blows a comfortable three-goal lead at halftime to the second worst team in 3A KingCo, eyebrows raise and jaws drop among the Islander fans in the stands.
“A win is a win,” said one Mercer Island player during a post-game huddle as his teammates disputed who was to blame on Friday at Interlake High School.
But that clich/ never rang so true, as the Islanders barley escaped disaster with an overtime victory over the Saints.
The game was just three days after the Islanders redeemed themselves with a 2-1 victory over Mount Si, a team that handed the Mercer Island boys a season opening loss.
“We were a little shaky but it shows the toughness of this team, to refocus, and pull it out,” said Islander Radcliffe McDougald.
The shaky aspect of the Islanders’ game could be in part to four key players, three of which are starters, taking spring-break vacations and another being injured. But coach Steve Newman was not looking for excuses.
“It shouldn’t matter,” said Newman. “We have the experience to come out here and play with a little more heart … This never happens again.”
The Islanders dominated a soggy first half against Interlake. Islander Leandro Kimura put the Islanders up 1-0 early, with a penalty kick goal during the 15th minute.
Seven minutes later, Islander Keegan Tomita struck the ball from 30-yards out, which hit the Saints keeper in the chest and slid past him and into the goal for a 2-0 lead.
Islander Nick Ward received a pass from Derek Johnson in front of the Saints goal. Ward sent a bouncing trickle shot under a diving goalkeeper to extend the lead to 3-0 with 11 minutes left to play during the half.
“When we pass we play really well,” said Islander goalkeeper Forrest Marowitz. “We know what we have to do.”
That passing on offense disappeared as players began to take solo shots with no mystery about where they were coming from. As a result, Interlake held the Islanders scoreless during the next 54 minutes of play.
But along with a breakdown on offense, the Islander defense began to falter as well. The Saints scored during the 52nd and 53rd minute on consecutive possessions. Interlake tied the game on a corner kick during the 72nd minute of the game. Frustration arose as two Mercer Island players picked up yellow cards during the game.
“I think it really surprised us,” said McDougald. “I think we thought we had them.”
McDougald took the game over during the first over time. Three minutes into the overtime McDougald took the ball past three Interlake defenders, drawing the goalie out of the box and sent a hard shot past the keeper pushing the net out the back of the goal.
“I saw it open up and I know how to be aggressive,” said McDougald.
The goal sent a shock of relief through the parents in the visitors’ stands and Newman.
“[Interlake] did this to us a few years ago,” said Newman. “This can be a very dangerous team.”
Mount Si was dangerous at the beginning of the season, beating the visiting Islanders 3-1. That loss was at the forefront of all the players’ minds April 10 at Islander stadium. Mercer Island junior John O’Meara got the Islanders on the board to start the game after receiving a pass from Kimura just five minutes into the game. Kimura set up teammate McDougald, during the 62nd minute as the Islanders rolled to a 2-0 lead late in the game.
Mount Si’s offensive attack was a too little too late as they scored their lone goal with one minute left in regulation. But the goal brought up a touchy subject with the defense — goals allowed late in the game.
“It happens a lot lately with us,” said Marowitz. “Players get tired and it’s wet, who knows? But we need to stop giving them up.”
The two victories allow Mercer Island (7-2-1) to keep pace with Newport (8-0-2), just four points behind the league leaders.
Mercer Island played Issaquah on Tuesday (after Reporter deadline) and travel to Newport April 19 at 6:30 p.m. for a game the Islanders must win to over take the Knights in the division.
“It turns out that this was a great week,” said Newman, referring to the wins and missing players. “We’re on a roll of sorts but we have to beat Newport.”