After suffering losses at Roosevelt and Bellevue the week before, Mercer Island Polo entered the Curtis Invitational determined to turn the tide.
The team went 3-2 in the tournament, earning a win over Roosevelt — the first victory for the Islanders this season over the Roughriders after losing the previous two matchups.
“As the tournament progressed, we figured it out and played Mercer Island Water Polo. We didn’t let them (Roosevelt) dictate what was happening in the game. We played our own offense,” said Mercer Island coach Andrew Smith-Jones.
Captain Conner Vacca added, “Conrad (Gordon) wasn’t playing, but we worked really well in that game. A double-deep pool was to our advantage. We have put in a lot of work and we are playing better as a team.”
Gordon has played on the U.S. National Team and leads Roosevelt. He sat out the game due to injury.
Buoyed by their Invitational performance, the Islanders propelled forward with a 12-5 win over Sammamish and an 11-10 victory over Newport in league play. Smith-Jones was particularly pleased with the Sammamish game, saying “It was a great game to have our bench players get lots of minutes.”
Freshmen Killian Riley and Nate Robinson scored one goal each. Erik Raisys led the team with four goals and Cole Nielsen registered six saves.
While the Islanders were victorious over Newport, the tenacious Knights fought to the wire scoring five goals in four minutes during the fourth quarter.
Islander goalie Hunter Peshkin had two crucial blocks in the final 50 seconds to secure the win.
“We were ahead most of the game, but the fourth quarter ended up being close, which was a completely new experience for our guys. It was a great opportunity to hold that and take those positive results into San Diego and the post-season,” said Smith-Jones.
Vacca led the Islanders with six goals for the game. Nielsen and Peshkin had four saves each.
“We have had an attitude shift in practice,” Vacca said about the recent success. “We have been a lot more structured in practice. The coaches are keeping our spirits high and intensity and discipline.”
The Islanders are 5-4 heading into their final league game at 7:45 p.m. versus Shorewood at home on Wednesday.