Still winless after opening the year against three of last season’s top four teams, Mercer Island boys water polo earned its first win of the season in emphatic fashion, hammering Sammamish 20-3 Thursday, Sept. 24 at Samena Swim and Recreation Club.
The Islanders were out and at their opponents, scoring seven goals in the opening period. Eight players registered goals for Mercer Island throughout the contest. Erik Raisys and Ford Witman each scored 4, while Kirk Robinson and Conner Vacca each recorded hat tricks for the Islanders.
The game marked the first time the Islanders reached double figures in scoring as a team this season.
The MI water polo team was still searching for its first win heading into the team’s rivalry game against reigning state champs Bellevue two days prior at Mercer Island Country Club. Though the Islanders showed at times the drive that earned them a third-place finish at last year’s state tournament, the reigning champion Wolverines left Mercer Island still seeking for that first win.
Behind four first-half goals from Cameron Hayes, Bellevue claimed a six-goal halftime advantage and held off a second-half Islander rally to beat Mercer Island 12-8.
“It’s early in the season. We’re going to play Roosevelt, Curtis and Bellevue again,” Mercer Island coach Andrew Smith-Jones said after the Bellevue loss. “There are a lot of things we did really well, there are some things we didn’t do very well, but we can work on those and build on those positive things and see what we can continue to do.”
Mercer Island’s only lead of the contest came on the first goal of the game, with Ford Witman putting the Islanders ahead 1-0. Hayes responded, scoring two goals to claim the lead for the Wolverines. After Sammy Vacca tied the contest with 2:32 left in the period, Bellevue closed the quarter with goals from AJ Rossman and Jess Hainze to lead 4-2 after one.
The second quarter was all Bellevue, as the Wolverines exploded for five goals, getting two each from Hayes and Zach Rossman to lead 9-3 at the half.
Mercer Island upped its offensive intensity after the break, as the Islanders rallied for four goals in the third quarter, with Witman, Conner Vacca and Nic Lacrampe all finding the back of the net. A goal from Erik Raisys pulled Mercer Island within two with 1:28 left in the third. But a deep shot from Hayes with one second left beat the buzzer to give Bellevue some added breathing room, leading 10-7 heading into the final period.
Mercer Island again pulled within two on a goal from Conner Vacca with 2:53 left to go, but couldn’t score the rest of the way. Hayes and Zach Rossman would provide added insurance for the Wolverines to ensure the win.
Hayes led Bellevue with six goals, while Zach Rossman recorded a hat trick for the Wolverines. Raisys, Witman and Conner Vacca each scored twice for Mercer Island, while Hunter Peshkin registered 14 saves in the net.
In the losing effort, Smith-Jones said he was encouraged by his team’s added intensity and defensive effort in the game’s second half.
“We allowed nine goals in the first half. They’re on pace to score 18 goals, thats absurd,” Smith-Jones said. “We end up holding them to 12 [goals] with two in the final minute, that’s great. You can see the huge difference there. Our defense was leading into our offense, and that was a huge positive.”