The Mercer Island girls water polo team won their eighth state title last season by beating long-time rival Bainbridge Island 10-6 during the state finals. The meeting between the two teams had great significance to start the 2007 season. But the game looked more like target practice for Mercer Island. Instead, it showed how far one team can fall in one off-season, as the Islanders were victorious 18-1, March 9 at Bainbridge Island.
“I felt bad beating them like that,” said Islander senior and co-captain Katie Stadius. “We weren’t expecting much with all the starters they lost but not that.”
Bainbridge Island lost seven starters from last year’s team but the Islanders and Spartans are known for being able to reload every year.
“I was surprised,” said Mercer Island head coach Mike Goldstein. “It is too bad because we need to have those rivalries.”
Stadius led all scorers with five goals, while teammate Emma Peterson contributed four. But Stadius’ most embarrassing goal came against the Islanders as a Bainbride Island pass ricocheted off her arm and into the Islander goal to end the shutout.
“I felt awful,” said Stadius. “It would have been nice to have the shutout for our goalkeepers.”
The rivalry with Bainbridge is important for both schools. The Islanders count on the tough games during the year so they don’t get board. Mercer Island hosted Cowlitz High School on Friday and the contest took on more of a serious practice feel for Mercer Island than a game that meant something to their record.
“We have to set goals during these games and work on our plays,” said Stadius.
The Islanders built a 8-0 lead to start the third period before Goldstein took out all of his starters. The two teams called the varsity game after just three quarters of play so that the junior varsity could get their game in.
“We try to help the other teams to develop but we also have room for improvement,” said Goldstein.
One big game the Islanders know they can count on this season is a burgeoning rivalry with Newport. The two teams will meet April 5 at their mutual home pool of Mary Wayte.
“They are one of the tougher teams and we are excited to see what they got this year,” said Goldstein.
But without a threat from Bainbridge, the state title could be the Islanders’ to lose this season.
“The Curtis tournament will be a test,” said Goldstein. “That is when all the roles on our team will be straight and we will know what we have.”