The Mercer Island Islanders girls volleyball team undoubtedly had Sept. 20 circled on their calendar before practice sessions kicked off in late August.
Mercer Island rose to the occasion against their biggest rival, earning a 3-1 victory against the Bellevue Wolverines on Sept. 20 at Bellevue High School. The Islanders improved their overall record to 5-0 with the win while Bellevue dropped to 5-1 overall with the loss.
“The rivalry is huge. They had been talking about it all week. They get so excited to play Bellevue,” Mercer Island head coach Susan Rindlaub said. “It definitely gives us some confidence moving forward.”
The Islanders were victorious in the first two sets (25-23, 26-24) which were decided by the slimmest of margins. Bellevue responded with a convincing 25-17 triumph in the third set. In the fourth set, the Islanders closed out the Wolverines with a four-point victory (25-21), clinching the match between powerhouse Class 3A programs.
“I was really proud of the way we finished the first, second and fourth set. All of them were really tight at the end. We were aggressive and we were composed,” Rindlaub said.
Rindlaub was ecstatic with the way her team responded after dropping the third set of action.
“The third set was the worst we’ve played all year. Sometimes that happens. I think we were almost too excited to win so it was just really frantic but then we were able to focus all of our energy, get recomposed and battle it out. I’m really proud of them for being able to mentally recover from that (loss in third set),” she said.
Bellevue Wolverines assistant coach Jamie Pearsall believes her team will recover from the first defeat of the 2017 season. The Wolverines had multiple leads in the first, second and fourth sets against the Islanders but couldn’t close them out.
“We had good plays but we just got to be able to dig deep and pull it out,” Pearsall said of her squad. “We got to be able to play our game regardless of the opponent and regardless of who is across the net from us.”
Bellevue outside hitter Callie Weber dominated play throughout the duration of the matchup against Mercer Island.
“She is always our go to (player) but knowing that we got a lot of good arms on our side, being able to utilize everybody to make sure she can be the most effective is key for us,” Pearsall said.
The Islanders were led by setter Jessie Bontatibus, outside hitter Adara Hamilton and outside hitter Tessa Fisk.
“Jessie just started playing in the front row and is one of our setters. She did a great job of blocking and hitting. She had some key hits for us. Adara had some really smart plays and Tessa had a bunch of kills and blocks. Overall it was definitely a team effort. It was nice everyone stepped up when they needed to,” Rindlaub said.