Respect the champs

MI looks to prove last year was not a fluke

MI looks to prove last year was not a fluke

By Matt Phelps
Mercer Island Reporter

Three consecutive state titles is a sign of domination, if not a outright dynasty. But the last-second goal by Kevin Mahony during the championship game last year and a rocky 2006 regular season had a chilling effect on the Islanders place in the state’s elite. Archrival Bainbridge Island is ranked No. 1 heading into the 2007 season.

“People like to say that we got lucky but we just had a slow start,” said Mercer Island head coach Ian O’Hearn, whose team will get a chance to prove their worth as they host Bainbridge Friday. “But people aren’t looking at us and taking aim and that is OK.”

Mercer Island came into last season ranked No. 1 with a 37 game winning streak within the state. This year the Islanders have all their offensive players back except Kevin Mahony.

“I think it just provides us with extra motivation that the state doesn’t believe we are still No. 1,” said Mercer Island senior Tim Wettack. “But our goal every year is to win state.”

The Islanders have made the state playoffs each of the five seasons that head coach Ian O’Hearn has led the Islanders onto the field. All three school titles have also come under the head coach. But O’Hearn has never won coach of the year.

“I want to continue what we have had here for the past five year and keep MI the dominant program,” said O’Hearn, who added that he cares more about the state title than personal awards.

This season maybe the tipping point for how long the rest of the state can deny how good the Islander program has become, but it will have to start on defense. Wettack leads a group of young players that are all new to the varsity level of play.

“We lost all of our defense,” said O’Hearn. “We have two very good goal keepers and Wettack is very good. But this will be his first year with a long pole.”

Junior Adam Bowen and freshman Hat Geraud will battle it out for the starting spot in front of the net as Wettack learns how to play in front of them.

The biggest weapon for the Islanders on offense is be Greg Mahony. The senior will take his place among the best to out on the uniform this season. But O’Hearn wants to diversify his attack this season by incorporating all the players into the offense instead of relying on a Mahony — as it was last year.

“I want five guys who can score this year, not just Greg,” said O’Hearn. “Taylor Dawson had four goals in the state title game last year so I know we have it.”

A plethora of seniors this season will be in their second varsity year and will help to broaden the Islander attack including AJ Ellis, Matt Wright, Dawson and Stephen Frankel. Junior Sam Franklin has played so well that he was voted one of the team captains.

The issue of respect is also brought up when talking about the sport as a whole in high school level in Washington state.

“There is a stigma when you’re a club sport,” said O’Hearn. “We are really growing. There are about five new teams each year.”

The boys and girls lacrosse teams in the state will make a bid in another year or two to become members of the Washington Interscholastic Athletic Association. Only the WIAA can sanction school sponsored sports.