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Spartans beat Mercer Island for chance to defend state lacrosse title
The hugs and the jumps for joy at midfield said it all: The Spartans will get a chance to earn back-to-back titles in girls lacrosse for the first time since 2005.
Bainbridge High beat Mercer Island 24-18 in a scorefest Tuesday at Bainbridge Stadium to advance to the state championship game Saturday in Sammamish.
The Spartans led 2-0 until the Islanders tied the game at the 22:31 mark — the first of four first-half ties — and Mercer Island then moved ahead 5-2.
Bainbridge took the lead back for good near the end of the first half, however, as the Spartans started to erase a 11-9 Mercer Island lead at the 3:03 mark.
The Spartans scored four goals in less than two minutes — with Bea Sheffer and Theo Fehsenfeld scoring two goals each before the break — for a 13-11 Bainbridge advantage.
In the second half, the Spartans led the rest of the way. Bainbridge was in front by as much as seven, though at one point, Mercer Island cut the lead to three, 18-15, after four consecutive goals.
"We had a game plan going in on how we wanted to work Mercer," said Bainbridge coach Tami Tommila.
"We weren't going to stop. We weren't going to stop shooting," she said.
It was the second meeting this year between Mercer Island and Bainbridge; the first ended in a 15-15 tie.
"The semifinal is a tough thing to get through," Tommila said, recalling how the Spartans advanced to last year's state championship in a game decided by a one-goal difference.
Still, it wasn't a perfect night for the Spartans.
"I thought that they made some mistakes throughout the game that we are going to be able to work on," Tommila said.
There were some Bainbridge turnovers at the end, and a few rushed shots on goal.
"Our team's not really good at putting the brakes on.
So it's easier for me to just let them go. If there's an opportunity there, then take it," Tommila said.
Though Bainbridge trailed in the first half, Tommila said her team never panicked.
"That's the thing about having six seniors on the team. They understand that feeling; riding that ebb and flow in the game. I don't think at any point they ever felt worried. And I certainly didn't feel really worried as a coach," she said.
Playing in the final four is familiar territory for the Spartans. But then, so is the big dance; the team has gone to eight straight championship games, and won the state crown in 2011. (The Spartans have also won the state title in 2005, 2004, 2002, 2000, 1996, 1995 and 1994.)
"These kids, they know what it's like to win a semifinal. They also know what it's like to win a state championship. And that's what Mercer didn't have on their side. And that's huge," Tommila added.
Even so, Mercer Island kept the game competitive.
"Give Mercer credit. They were beating us," she said.
"And that feeling they went through tonight - they will be a much stronger team next year," Tommila added.
The Spartans will now face Lake Sammamish for the state title.
"It's an honor to get back to the state championship every year," Tommila said.
The Spartans worked hard for it, she added.
"It's not a fluke. They punched their ticket; they earned it. I'm proud of them," she said.
The championship game is Saturday, May 19 at Eastside Catholic in Sammamish. Game time is 2 p.m.
Lake Sammamish advanced to the finals by beating Lakeside 14-8 Tuesday.
The Spartans played Lake Sammamish last month, and toppled the Totems 17-9.
"Some people might say it's hard to beat a team twice in a year," Tommila said. "I'm confident that we will come up with a really good game plan. I'm confident that their coach will come up with one. It will be a little chess match."
Against Mercer Island, Kelsey Mackin led the Spartans with seven goals. Olivia Smith added six.
Sheffer and Fehsenfeld finished with five goals each. Madeline Stevenson had 10 saves in goal for Bainbridge.
Elena Skouras led the scoring for Mercer Island with five goals
Smith said the Spartans never got rattled during the game.
"It's expected to be down, to be tied, to be up, to be down like this. The game is going to flip, it's going change, it's going to turn," she said.
"Honestly, our senior group, we just keep our cool. Whatever - back to the drop. We literally don't let it get to us," Smith said. "Because as long as we get more goals, that's all that counts."
"They can score, they can get their cheering in, but as long as we score the win, that's all that matters," she said.
Smith said the team feels good about going up against Lake Sammamish again.
"We're very confident, very excited," she said.
"With beating Lake Sam earlier in the year, it's just going to be a bigger, more intense game. And that's just going to make the W more important," she said.
For now, the team is savoring its semifinal win.
Smith described the play of her teammates in a word: "amazing."
"I love this team. It's the best team I've ever been a part of; we know each other inside out, mentally, and how to talk to each other and get us out of funks, get us into the zone," Smith said.
"I wouldn't have wanted to win it with anyone else," she said.