The Mercer Island girls water polo team has been about as steady as the sports yellow ball sitting on top of a whirlpool. A loss to rival Newport before spring break lit a fire under the team. The renewed spirit of competition led to 35 goals in two games last week against Roosevelt (20-8) and Shorewood (15-5). But an uncharacteristic fifth-place finish at the annual Curtis Tournament raises questions about Mercer Island’s continued dominance in the sport.
“We still need to develop an offensive threat from the outside,” said girls water polo coach Mike Goldstein. “We have to take advantage of mistakes.”
The Islanders were near flawless against Shorewood, allowing the first goal of the game but then scoring nine unanswered points.
“This is the best game I have ever coached,” said Goldstein. “But we have the habit of starting with the attitude ‘Oh yeah, we’re playing now.’ It is not good and we have to change it.”
The fifth and sixth goals of the game showed just how good the Islanders can be in transition. Both times Islander Maggie Lawrence stripped the ball from her opponent and flung it ahead to a teammate for a break away score. The plays seemed to make the Shorewood players apprehensive on offense.
But the Islanders continued to struggle from five meters out. Mercer Island could have gone into halftime with an 11-1 lead instead of a 7-1 lead if not for errant shots.
“I have sailed four over the cage this year,” said Islander co-captain Katie Stadius. “We need to connect on those shots.”
Despite the missed shots, Mercer Island continued to dominate well into the second half. Islander senior Georgia Gier proved that she can score from almost anywhere, firing a rocket shot from mid pool past the keeper late in the game.
“That was scary,” said Stadius, who was nearly hit with the speedy ball. “I was a little in the way.”
Mercer Island’s momentum continued into the weekend as they torched Wilson High School 15-6 thanks to six goals by Gier. The Islanders slammed Sammamish 11-6 during the second round and proved that Bainbridge will have to step up their play to contend for the state title as they fell 11-2 as Lawrence finished with a tournament-high four assists.
The Islander team seemed to be cruising until they drew the host team during the semifinals. Seven saves for Islander keeper Ann Shay and a game-high two goals for Hayley March was not enough against Curtis as Mercer Island lost 5-4.
The Islanders seemed to have their spirits broken with the loss as they dropped the consolation final as well, 8-7 to Tacoma Hills.
“We have to work everyone in and make everyone a threat on offense,” said Goldstein. “We have to get our shooting percentage up.”
Mercer Island will host Eastside Catholic at 4 p.m. on Thursday at Mary Wayte Pool. The Islanders, who are now 11-6 overall, still have six games until the state tournament, including a rematch with Newport on May 10.