By CAROL GULLSTAD
Special to the Reporter
The Mercer Island boys water polo team kicked of the 2018 season in a newly aligned division expected to provide tough competition.
Mercer Island’s Division-1 opponents span Seattle to Tacoma with Newport, Bellevue, Roosevelt, Bainbridge Island, Curtis and Puyallup in the league. Islanders boys water polo head coach Calvin White is excited about the challenge.
“We now have three divisions that provide more balanced contests state-wide. Division-1 is the top seven teams from the previous year’s state tournament. Division two is the next best 10 to 12 teams. They also will play each other and non-league games against Division 1. Division 3 is club teams or combo teams working diligently to get school approval for club or sport recognition. This realignment will allow more time for training and less blowouts in the first couple of rounds in post season,” White said.
The Islanders posted a 17-11 victory over Newport in the opening contest. Sophomore Max Vacca lead on both sides of the ball with five goals and eight steals. Senior Evan Hill put in four goals in the net, while Senior Leif Gullstad had three steals. Two new goalies premiered in the game, junior Jacob Swerland and freshman Finn Friedland combined for nine saves.
Folowing the win in the season opener, the Islanders lost to Roosevelt 14-12 and Bainbridge Island 9-7.
“Even with a 1-2 start we are in the hunt, each loss was by two goals. A steal here or a quick turnover their can change the outcome of either game. We need to keep working hard on defining roles for our players and put them in positions to be successful. Once these guys realize their potential and start playing at that level the future is bright,” White said. “I have high hopes for this team, they are a great group of guys. We are asking our seniors to step up in ways they aren’t accustomed to. Our senior leaders are Will Cero, Nate Robinson, Evan Hill and Leif Gullstad. We also expect key contributions from juniors Jacob Swerland, Oliver Schaaf and Justin Jradi; sophomores Lucas Peng and Max Vacca and our new frosh goalie Finn Friedland. Yes, we graduated a ton of talent and leadership, I believe these guys are ready to take that mantel and show that it is truly their time!”