Editor’s note: Barbarosa returns! A longtime NW Lax observer, Barbarosa brings you a look inside the High School scene of The Evergreen State, otherwise known as Washington. Check out his other posts here.
This game didn’t really mean much, a small distinction in playoff seeding, but an estimated 1,000 people came out anyway to watch Mercer Island battle Bellevue for first place in the conference. Both teams made it through league play undefeated and this matchup, the last regular season game, drew fans from all over the state.
Mercer Island takes the field to loud sounds of piped-in Irish tunes (what, you expect reggae from an O’Hearn?) and as they begin their warmup lap past the visitors bench, the lead Islander shoves a Bellevue player out of the way with two hands, his message clear.
The game finally begins and the opening sequence doesn’t disappoint. Senior James Seeley (St. Lawrence) wins the faceoff (he would dominate the X all night) and starts the Wolverine attack. Mercer Island immediately drops into a soft three-weenie defense, wherein three streakers run the length of the field. A tradition in this game from years gone by, the three nude guys outrun security and disappear over the fence.
The referees reset the game, the crowd laughs and the school administration fumes. Senior Cole Nordstrom (Denver) brings the Wolverine offense down but his 12 yd duck flies away wide and Mercer Island takes over. Senior Steve Taylor (4 goals on the night) fires a biscuit past Bellevue’s sophomore goalie, Austin Boyd, and the Islanders take command. Taylor would add another and the first quarter quickly ends with the Islanders up 2-0.
Although it is pretty rough in there, the players are skilled and the refs let them play. The game is close, but Mercer Island is on tonight and Bellevue looks ragged. MI’s quick passes are never dropped, and Bellevue fumbles around enough to keep their offense from gaining any rhythm. MI’s defense plays a tight man all the way to the edge of the box and they seem to get a stick on every shot. Bellevue’s attempts sail high, right and left until Senior Ryan Deal (Chaptown) buries one from five yards out. 2-1 Mercer leads. Jon Wettack, MI’s All-American, SUNY-Geneseo-bound senior scores an unassisted EMO shot past Boyd’s right ankle and the Islanders take a 3-1 lead into the half.
Both defenses continue to play well. It feels like Mercer Island is clearly in charge but they are unable to establish more than a two goal lead. Sophomore Wolverine pole Sam Leggett shines in his close defense but Bellevue struggles in the middle third of the field. Their senior LSM Alex Mennella (USC) goes coast-to-coast, ground ball to goal, for a spectacular score. The teams trade a couple more then MI begins to grind as the 3rd quarter ends with the Islanders up 5-3.
Chippiness takes hold in the 4th quarter, lots of rough play, and Deal takes advantage for his 2nd goal. Hap Giraud, MI’s senior goalie (Vermont) is stellar in cage rejecting shot after shot from close range. The defense clamps down on Bellevue’s All-American, attackman Brett Mennella, holding him pointless all night. Deal gets Bellevue within one with 4:30 left in the game, completing his hat trick. But Mercer Island rips the heart out of any comeback and goes up 7-5 with two minutes to play. Mercer effectively fritters away the rest of the time, although they did receive the first high school stall warning I’ve witnessed this year.
The game ends at 7-5, the regular season is over and the playoffs begin. MI finishes 14-0 and Bellevue 13-1. The most likely scenario has Bellevue facing Mercer Island again in the state finals in a couple of weeks, but there’s a whole lot of lacrosse between here and there.
Two questions overshadow everything:
1) Will Bellevue be able to pull it all together for 48 minutes and 2) Is that enough to beat these Islanders?
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