Even before heading into the Newberg boys water polo tournament in Oregon, the Mercer Island team suffered a setback. The tournament fell on the same day as the SAT exam for many of the players and, as a result, just two seniors — Sam Sussman and Kip Holl — made the trip.
But the youth of the team continued to make great strides as the Islanders finished second, going 6-1 during the two-day marathon of water polo contests.
Mercer Island dominated the first six games that they played with wins against South Eugene, 14-6; Aloha, 18-2; Lake Oswego, 11-5; Beaverton, 15-4; David Douglas, 17-9; and Westview, 18-3.
Every team had trouble defending the two-headed offensive monster comprised of senior Sam Sussman and freshman Eugene Chong. Sussman paced Mercer Island during the first six games with 26 goals, while Chong was not far behind with 21. Mercer Island goal keeper Eric Benca played tough, earning 28 saves during that stretch.
Outmanned and out-experienced by a Newberg team with the same starting lineup as 2006, the Islanders headed to the finals with nothing to lose.
The experience of Sussman resulted in four goals, but the rest of the team combined for three points. Mercer Island struggled to stay in the game as Newberg raced out to a 9-1 lead. The Islanders battled back but lost 17-7.
With the loss, the Islanders’ record fell to 16-1. Head coach Lauren Ayers said that she thinks the tournament and finals losses were a good learning experience that will help the team during the final two tournaments of the year. Mercer Island will travel to San Diego for the San Diego invitational on Oct. 25-27 and then return to Washington for the state tournament at the King County Aquatic Center, Nov. 2-4.
The Islanders took on Bainbridge Island, Tuesday (after Reporter deadline) at the KCAC and will play Newport in a grudge match of last year’s state finals teams on Oct. 16, also at the KCAC.