MI Reporter – Polo Downs Shorewood and San Diego Invite Recap

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Mercer Island boys water polo closed the season strong destroying Shorewood 21-8. Seniors Kirk Robinson, Conner Vacca and Ford Witman were honored for their career contributions.

The Islanders struck first with a Sammy Vacca goal 30 seconds into play. Goals by Erik Raisys, Sam Nair and Conner Vacca followed making it 5-1 at the first-quarter mark.

The Islanders launched a massive air assault in the second quarter, scoring nine goals over a blistering five-minute interval. Kirk Robinson lead the quarter with two goals while seven more Islanders added to the tally. The Islander lead widened to 14-2 at the half.

Frustrations continued to mount for the Thunderbirds in the third quarter as Shorewood was not able to muster any defensive pressure. Goals by Robinson, Nik Lacrampe, Witman and Daniel Kavesh made it 20-2 at the end of the third.

After dominating for three quarters, coach Andrew Smith-Jones called up the JV team to play the final quarter of the game. Against a more inexperienced crew, Shorewood was able to put some in the net, scoring six goals in the final period. Ken Huang popped the ball up to Leif Gullstad at 3:31 for the lone Islander goal of the final quarter, but victory was at hand 21-8.

Islanders finish 5-1 in San Diego Invite

The Islanders rode the winning wave of Senior Night to Southern California and made short work of four opponents at the San Diego Invitational. The Islanders dispatched California teams Bonita Visa 10-3, Granite Hills 9-5, San Pasqual 7-6 and Eastlake 6-4 to reach the championship bracket.

Mercer Island played a heart-pumping quarterfinals game versus San Diego powerhouse Torrey Pines. The Islanders trailed the Falcons 2-8 at halftime, but came all the way back to tie it 9-9 on a Conner Vacca goal in regulation. The game remained tied after triple overtime before the Falcons emerged victorious 11-10 on a golden goal.

The Islanders went on to beat Fallbrook 9-7  in their final tournament game for a top-6 finish in a field featuring 44 of the best West Coast high school teams. Mercer Island heads to the Washington state regionals later this week.

Boys water polo is on a roll MI Reporter

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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.

MI boys water polo falls 14-13 to Roosevelt in OT – MI Reporter

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MI boys water polo falls 14-13 to Roosevelt in OT – MI Reporter

The Islanders lost a thrilling seesaw battle to Roosevelt 14-13 in overtime Thursday, Oct. 8 at Helene Madison Pool.

Immediately following the game, Islanders coach Andrew Smith-Jones was elated, not disappointed. “It shows how far we’ve come,” said Smith-Jones. “Just like the Seahawks who started 0-2, here we come. We had a great time, and we knew we were in it the whole way.”  The Islanders previously lost to the Roughriders 7-3 on Sept. 14.

Mercer Island created good pressure early, forcing two turnovers in the first minute of the game. The Islanders first goal was a Sam Nair feed to hole-set Erik Raisys at 4:36. Raisys scored again just a minute later from the same spot. Islander brothers Conner Vacca and Sammy Vacca added to the tally to secure a 5-2 team lead at the end of the first quarter.

Roosevelt’s Jake Gordon scored in the first 30 seconds of the second. Both defenses tightened up for the next four minutes as the teams traded one more goal each. The crowd became fired up when Erik Raisys rose like a ferocious Kraken from near-complete submersion to score the seventh Islander goal from the two-meter. The Islanders maintained their three-goal lead at the half, up 7-4.

Mercer Island’s Carson Coe and goalkeeper Hunter Peshkin stay alert on defense against Roosevelt Thursday, Oct. 8 at Helene Madison Pool.

The Islanders lead widened when Conner Vacca scored at 6:44, but the Roughriders came charging back with four unanswered goals to tie it 8-8. MI’s Carson Coe broke open the stalemate at 1:37 and Sammy Vacca hit the top corner with 10 seconds left to close the third up 12-10.

With time ticking away, Roosevelt opened the fourth quarter with high emotion and aggression. The Islanders played tough defense, but went cold in shooting. Roosevelt’s JP Kuder and Rusty Farner each found the net, forcing overtime when regulation ended at 12-12.

Roosevelt’s Jake Gordon scored the only goal of the first OT period. Islander Conner Vacca scored in the second OT to tie it up, but Jake Gordon sunk a lob shot at 1:15 to seal the victory for the Roughriders.

Eric Raisys and Conner Vacca led the Islanders with four goals each. Hunter Peshkin had nine saves on the game. On the Roosevelt side of the ledger, brothers Conrad and Jake Gordon led the offense with four each. Roosevelt goalies Conrad Gordon and JP Kuder combined for 10 saves.

Earlier in the week, the Islanders blasted through Shorewood to win 18-7. Erik Raisys, Sammy Vacca and Ford Witman led the Islanders with four goals each in the game. Hunter Peshkin had five saves and Cole Nielsen had three saves. The Islanders are 3-5 overall and 3-3 in league play heading into a rematch with Bellevue 3:45 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 14.

Boys Water Polo Improves to 2-2 with Win Over Newport – MI Reporter

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by CAROL GULLSTAD,  Mercer Island Reporter Contributor 

The Islanders improved their league season record to 2-2 after a strong performance against Newport Tuesday, Sept. 29 at Mercer Island Country Club. Erik Raisys led the Islanders with three goals while six other Islanders recorded two goals each for the 15-6 win.

The Islanders took charge from the start as Jacob Guedel connected with Ford Witman to score at the 5:30 mark. Less than one minute later, Sammy Vacca followed with a goal. The middle of the quarter was a defensive battle as both teams drew ejections. With 1:09 left, Islander Sam Nair connected with the net and the Maroon Squad ended the first quarter with a comfortable 3-1 lead.

The team upped its offensive tempo in the second quarter, racking up five more goals to build a commanding 8-2 lead for the half. Newport showed some life as they outscored the Islanders 4-2 in the third quarter. However, the final quarter was all MI as the Islanders scored five goals while holding the Knights scoreless. The Islanders’ final play of the evening was a steal by Carson Coe, who swam the length of the pool to score an uncontested goal to put an exclamation point on the victory. Hunter Peshkin recorded four saves and Cole Nielsen one save for the game.

The previous night at MICC, Mercer Island came within striking distance of last year’s state runner-up Curtis, falling 10-7. This was the second time the Vikings and Islanders had faced off in the young season. The Islanders looked much improved compared to their previous contest with Curtis, which Mercer Island lost 19-8 on Sept. 8.

The fired-up Islanders came out strong, jumping to a 3-1 lead at the close of the first quarter. Curtis responded the next quarter, tying the game 4-4 going into the half. Curtis pulled away in the second half, outscoring the Islanders 3-1 in the third and 3-2 in the fourth. Conner Vacca led the Islanders with four goals in the effort. Hunter Peshkin had a strong defensive showing, registering 13 saves. The Islanders will get one more bite at the apple against the Vikings before the regular season ends.

MI water polo overcomes Sammamish for first win- MI Reporter

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Mercer Island

Mercer Island’s Conner Vacca looks for his shot against Bellevue Tuesday night at Mercer Island Country Club. Bellevue beat Mercer Island, 12-8.

— Image Credit: Joe Livarchik/Mercer Island Reporter

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.”

Roosevelt drops boys water polo to 0-2 from MI Reporter

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After claiming a single-goal lead in the opening quarter of its contest against Roosevelt, Mercer Island boys water polo saw its offense come to a screeching halt against the Roughridgers, falling to Roosevelt 7-3 Monday night at Mercer Island Country Club.

The Islanders led 3-2 after the first quarter, but the Roosevelt defense clamped down to hold Mercer Island scoreless through the final three periods. The Roughriders broke a 3-3 halftime tie with four goals in the third quarter to come away with the win, dropping the Islanders to 0-2 this season. The Islanders previously fell to Curtis 19-8 on Sept. 8.

Jake Gordon scored three goals to lead Roosevelt. Ford Witman scored twice for the Islanders, while Sammy Vacca posted a goal and Hunter Peshkin had 11 saves in the net.

Next, the Islanders will take on reigning state champs Bellevue at 7:45 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 22 at Mercer Island Country Club.

Washington Water Polo League & Divisions

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For those that are new to high school water polo, here is a great summary from Enumclaw Water Polo of what high schools participate in the league.


Regular Season Play Starts This Week

 The Enumclaw High School Boys Water Polo Team, along with 14 other Washington State teams, will open regular season water polo play this week. Eight additional teams opened their regular season last week.

The Hornet squad is small this year, with only  nine players on the roster – veterans Evan O’Neill, Jayson Bates, Brett Butler, Vahid Hosoda, Nathan March, Kyle Morgan, and Adam Percival are joined by newcomers Ben Hauswirth and Chase Maris. Two teams this year, Inglemoor and Lakes, do not have enough players for competition.

The Washington State Boys Water Polo League has four divisions. The Kingco Division has teams from Bellevue, Mercer Island, Newport, Roosevelt, Sammamish, and Shorewood. Curtis, Emerald Ridge, Mark Morris, Puyallup, and Rogers make up the South Division. Enumclaw is in the North Division, along with Auburn, Auburn Mountainview, Auburn Riverside, Kentridge, and Kentwood. The Narrows Division includes Bainbridge Island, Gig Harbor, Peninsula, South Kitsap, Stadium, and Wilson.

The Hornets open their regular season on Tuesday, September 15 against Auburn Riverside, in a 7:30 game at the Enumclaw Aquatic Center.

Listed below are the week’s scheduled games, as posted on the league’s scheduling site. Dates, times, and locations are subject to change, so please check with your team to confirm game information.
Monday, September 14
4:00 Gig Harbor 19 at South Kitsap 7
6:30 Peninsula 5 at Stadium 17
6:30 Bainbridge Island 16 at Wilson 7
7:45 Roosevelt 7 at Mercer Island 3

Tuesday, September 15
6:20 Puyallup 3 at Curtis 19
7:15 Mark Morris at Rogers
7:30 Auburn 10 at Auburn Mountainview 16
7:30 Auburn Riverside 15 at Enumclaw 10

Wednesday, September 16
3:45 Roosevelt 14 at Bellevue 13 (Woodridge)
5:10 Stadium 8 at Bainbridge Island 19
7:30 Wilson 9 at Gig Harbor 17
8:15 South Kitsap at Peninsula
9:00 Sammamish at Shorewood (Shoreline Pool)

Thursday, September 17
5:30 Kentwood 12 at Auburn Riverside 16
5:30 Rogers 13 at Puyallup 20
5:50 Auburn Mountainview at Kentridge (Fairwood)
7:00 Enumclaw 8 at Auburn 10
7:30 Curtis 19 at Emerald Ridge 2 (Puyallup HS)
9:00 Bellevue 21 at Shorewood 10 (Shoreline Pool)