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Mercer Island vs Eastside Catholic - Game Recap

The Mercer Island Islanders delivered a stunning performance in their 15-8 victory over defending state champions the Eastside Catholic Crusaders on Saturday night. Story by Michael Thornbloom.

This game got off to a hot start when Mercer Island put up three unanswered goals in the first 2 minutes of the game. The early lead carried them through the 1st quarter and well into the 2nd. After Mercer Island got their sixth goal 4 minutes into the second quarter it forced Crusader’s head coach Charles Goodman to call a much needed time-out and rally his troops.

This time-out proved to be game changing as Eastside Catholic came out aggressive, rounding up ground balls and maintaining possession at a more consistent pace. The Islanders started committing a few slashing and pushing penalties that allowed the Crusaders to put up four unanswered goals on man-up opportunities to end the half 6-5.

This was as close as it got for EC, as Mercer Island committed only one penalty in the final half as they continued to run up the score to the eventual 15-8 final. These two teams play a non-league game every year, and the Crusaders have had their number the past two seasons. Coming off a devastating championship loss last year, it’s pretty clear that this Islander team is channeling that energy into something great for this season.

Islander junior midfielder Stew Vassau had a great night with five goals, one assist and five ground balls. He was not without help as junior attackman Hunter Johnson accounted for four goals, three assists and one groundball. These two together account for nearly half their team’s goals. The entire team however was lit up with energy, as they were all taking hard shots from every angle and creating scoring opportunities from all over the field.

It was a relatively quiet night for Crusader junior attackman Eric Prologo, pulling in only one goal, after coming off a season where he was averaging nearly four goals a game. Senior midfielder Joey Matte had three goals and eight ground balls, while senior midfielder Jack Sercu pulled in two goals with two assists. These three do a lot for this team, and without Ryan Grazco this season, they will be looking for that strong chemistry to carry them through to the playoffs.

Having to face state champions in your first game of the year can be intimidating, but a strong game plan can be enough to come out with a win. Islander head coach Ian O’Hearn knew what was greatly lacking from his teams performance last season, that if tightened up could mean a decisive victory against a tough opponent.

“Ground balls”, said O’Hearn. “We had little things here and there, but our biggest emphasis was all our energy on the ground balls. It still wasn’t as good as we would have liked, but we did better than last year and it shows on the scoreboard.”

Not only was it apparent on the scoreboard, but also in the stat books as his team recorded 22 GB’s over the Crusader’s 15. Although this was a stellar win for the Islanders, O’Hearn is still focused on correcting every mistake. “They had five of their goals on man-up, and that’s something we control.” Continued O’Hearn.

“To be so undisciplined with the penalties, and allowing them a chance to score, that’s on us and we need to be more disciplined.” The four penalties in the 2nd quarter nearly allowed the Crusaders to make it a game.

Mercer Island will host Bothell on Tuesday night at 8pm for their first conference game. Eastside Catholic has two more non-league games before they jump into their conference schedule. They will host Eastlake on Tuesday night, who just had a good game against Snohomish beating them 11-3. These next two non-league games should help get the Crusaders back in championship form as they gear up for their first conference game against O’Dea on March 20th.

Story by Michael Thornbloom