Islanders destroy Kentridge, 25-6, in opener with youngest team in years
By Matt Phelps
Mercer Island Reporter
In high school boys’ water polo, an offense receives one point for putting the ball into the opposing defense’s goal. The Kentridge Chargers found out that even though the high school game has just 28 minutes of play, those points can add up fast against Mercer Island.
Two teams faced off in the season opener on Sept. 11 and Mercer Island made a dominating statement with a 25-6 victory at the King County Aquatic Center.
“Well, it shows we have an offense,” said Mercer Island boys’ water polo head coach Lauren Ayers. “There were some definite positives and it definitely gives us some good momentum.”
The rout by the Islanders comes against an admittedly young Kentridge team. But the Islanders are not young either with five freshman on varsity for the first time in the program’s history.
“We have a freshman goalie, and he is getting the jitters out,” said Ayers. “But he played well.”
Despite the goals allowed, Islander Freddie Crothamel finished with eight saves. Ayers said that she was more disappointed in the six goals given up than the lopsided score.
“We were a bit lazy on defense,” said Ayers. “But that means we have some areas to work on.”
Mercer Island began the game with a pass from senior Sam Sussman to Quinn Sterling in front of the Charger goal, who put the ball into the back of the net for a 1-0 lead.
Two minutes later freshman Eugene Chong, in his first high school game, gave Mercer Island its second goal.
“It’s a lot of the same people I play with in club, but there is a wider range in ages,” said Chong. “It’s a lot more fun in high school because it is more of a team game.”
A steal by Christopher Ferrell and pool length pass gave Sussman his first of six goals during the game to pace the Islander offense.
“A lot of us haven’t played together much, but our offense shouldn’t be a problem,” joked Sussman. “But defense wins games.”
The Islanders finished the first quarter with a 5-1 lead before turning their offense loose. Mercer Island held an 8-1 lead before Kentridge scored its second goal on a rebounded save.
The score, along with the Chargers’ second goal of the game, didn’t faze Mercer Island as it built a 15-3 lead heading into halftime.
With a 16-4 lead, Ferrell scored one of the luckiest shots of the game. With his back to the Kentridge goal, he backed down the goalie. With the keeper guarding the right side of the net, Ferrell flipped the ball over his head without looking, scoring the Islander’s 17th point of the game. Mercer Island finished the game on an 8-2 run.
The Islander offense was so complete that all but one player other than Crothmel did not score during the game. But Mercer Island could have had more as they were 25-for-44 in shots-on-goal.
“It was nice to finally see how the guys will play together after a long preseason,” said Ayers. “I think the upper- and lower-classmen are going to meld well.”
That is a good thing, because Mercer Island only has three starters from the 2006 state championship team. The Islanders also have an interesting dynamic with five seniors, five freshmen and just three other middle classmen.
The Islanders will have few home pool advantages again this year as they will play all of their home games at the King County Aquatic Center. But the sacrifice in distance to games will make the Islanders better for out-of-state tournaments; the KCAC doesn’t have a shallow end, unlike the Mary Wayte Pool on Mercer Island.
“It is real water polo,” said Sussman, of the endurance factor. “We would still like to see our fans come down to see a few games.”
Mercer Island played Roosevelt at the KCAC on Tuesday (after Reporter deadline) and will enter an early season Washington state tournament Friday and Saturday at the KCAC.
The Islanders’ next big challenge will come from KingCo rival Bellevue on Sept. 25 at the KCAC.