by JOE LIVARCHIK, Mercer Island Reporter Staff Reporter, updated Oct 4, 2014 at 7:32AM
Falling to Bellevue in last year’s water polo state title game, the Islanders had their Sept. 30 rematch against the Wolverines circled on their calendar. On Tuesday, they didn’t take long to make that clear.
Building an early lead and getting two crucial penalty shot blocks from goalie Hunter Peshkin, Mercer Island boys water polo exacted their revenge against the state champs, beating the Wolverines 13-11 at Mercer Island Country Club. The Islanders improved to 4-0 in league play and 11-1 on the season.
“I knew it was going to be a good game,” said coach Andrew Smith-Jones after the win. “It was nice to get off to a great start, up in the first quarter 5-2, holding onto the lead for the majority of the game. I think we can pick it up a little bit in the second and third quarters, but we were able to finish the game hard. Hunter was blocking it, everyone was just playing good team defense and good team offense, which is something we’ve been working hard on the last week or so. It was nice to see that all coming together.”
Mercer Island led virtually throughout the contest, trading the lead only once in Tuesday’s game. A goal from Erik Raisys put the Islanders ahead 5-1 in the first quarter before Bellevue responded with four unanswered goals, tying the game in the second. The Wolverines kept it close after storming back, not allowing the Islanders to extend its lead beyond a goal in the middle two quarters, while tying the game five times.
After trailing 7-6 at the half, back-to-back Bellevue goals to open the third quarter gave the Wolverines its first lead of the game. But it proved short-lived, with the Islanders reclaiming a 9-8 lead behind goals from Topher Lacrampe and Conner Vacca.
Then with Mercer Island ahead 10-9 in the third, Bellevue earned its first of two second-half penalty shots. But the Wolverines couldn’t get the five-meter shot passed Peshkin. After the Islanders extended their advantage to a two-goal lead, Bellevue had another penalty-shot opportunity with four minutes left in regulation. Once again, the shot didn’t make it past the Mercer Island goalkeeper. A final goal from Vacca provided the necessary insurance for Mercer Island.
Vacca led the Islanders in scoring with five goals, while Jack Larkin had four and Topher Lacrampe pitched in three. Peshkin posted 10 saves in the net for Mercer Island.
After the game, Peshkin said defending the five-meter shot was actually something he liked to do.
“You never know what’s going to happen with [penalty shots] and you can’t really get mad at yourself for them because it’s kind of an unfair shot,” he said. “I was just really excited. I was happy that my team could play that well and I was just happy that we won.”
Smith-Jones said Peshkin’s play in goal may have served as the difference-maker in the Islanders’ win.
“We win by two and you get two penalty shot blocks, you can’t ask for more as a coach in terms of a free shot like that,” said the Mercer Island coach.
Next up, Mercer Island will take on Newport at 7:45 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 7 at Mercer Island Country Club. The Islanders won its previous matchup with the Knights, 13-7.