By CHRIS VACCA
Special to the Reporter
The Mercer Island boys water polo team entered as the No. 5 seed in the Washington state water polo tournament.
The first game on Thursday was against Newport, who they had previously played four times during the season, with a 2-2 record. The Islanders came out a little lethargic and Newport capitalized, getting out to a 5-2 lead. Newport never looked back and continued to roll against Mercer Island, beating them 17-8.
On Friday, the Islanders faced a less-experienced Puyallup team. The Islanders were ready for this game as senior Jack Shoop scored five goals and Max Vacca and Torger Peterson added three each. Goalie Finn Freidland was a brick wall, notching 20 saves.
With the win, the Islanders were now going to start their Saturday morning against Bainbridge Island. At stake was the opportunity to play for third place. Bainbridge came away with the win, dropping the Islanders down to the fifth/sixth-place game against the Ingraham Rams.
The Islanders’ final game of the year against the Rams went back and forth all game and went down to the wire. The Islanders found themselves down by one goal with 1:30 left in the game. On their last offensive possession, multiple shots were taken and missed by Mercer Island. However, the last one was batted away by the Rams goalie, and Shoop battled among other defenders for the ball right in front of the goal and with determination, he muscled the ball from the goalie to tie it up. Unfortunately for the Islanders, Ingraham was able to overpower the Mercer Island defense in the last seconds to seal the win 14-13. Mercer Island finished sixth place this year.
Head Coach Calvin White had this to say about this year’s state tournament, “We were led during the state tournament by our standout junior, Max Vacca. Followed up by our seniors Oliver Schaaf and Jack Shoop. Those three carried us throughout the tournament and strong goalie play from sophomore Finn Friedland. We didn’t start out state on a strong note, but we were happy with the way this team battled in every game and never gave up. Even when they were down multiple goals, they battled back to never give the opposing team an easy out.”
For the future of Mercer Island boys water polo, White added, “The team will look to rebound next year and improve on their sixth-place finish.” Mercer Island will be led by seniors Vacca, Lucas Peng, Aaron Kann and Quinn Staples, junior Friedland, sophomore Peterson and standout freshman Jackson Barker.
For those boys and girls that are not in high school and would like to get their kids involved in water polo, there is Midlakes, a recreational water polo league in the summer. In addition, there are also two local clubs that play year round, Rain City Water Polo Club and Northwest Water Polo Club, for the competitive athlete as well as the recreational athlete.
For more information:
Rain City Water Polo Club – www.raincitypolo.com
North West Water Polo Club – www.northwestwaterpoloclub.com