Sports

Boys lacrossers ousted from playoffs 11-10

Spartan Austen Brawner (left) and a teammate go toe-to-toe with Issaquah Eagle Jon Matusiefsky during state semifinal lacrosse action at Memorial Stadium Wednesday evening. The largest crowd ever to turn out for an island lacrosse match rocked the stadium, but the Spartans were edged 11-10 in overtime and were denied a chance to meet Mercer Island in the finals.  - Jim Bryant photo
Spartan Austen Brawner (left) and a teammate go toe-to-toe with Issaquah Eagle Jon Matusiefsky during state semifinal lacrosse action at Memorial Stadium Wednesday evening. The largest crowd ever to turn out for an island lacrosse match rocked the stadium, but the Spartans were edged 11-10 in overtime and were denied a chance to meet Mercer Island in the finals.
— image credit: Jim Bryant photo

A rollicking home crowd can't quite spur the Spartans to a

win over Issaquah.

Before the largest crowd ever assembled for a Bainbridge lacrosse game, the boys varsity squad lost 11-10 to the Issaquah Eagles in an overtime semifinal Wednesday, a match described by many as the finest they’ve ever seen.

It means the storied Bainbridge side misses the championship game for the first time in 15 years, and a chance to seek revenge against last year’s champs, Mercer Island in today’s final.

Swelled by an enthusiastic Spartan alumni presence and a healthy Issaquah traveling contingent, most of the Memorial Stadium crowd were in full throat. They cheered the contact and the goals, singing encouragement until the very end, when the Eagles’ Nick Tierney whistled a shot past the right ear of Spartan goalkeeper Patrick McMullen to end the game with four seconds left.

The Spartans leaned on their sticks, emotionally and physically spent, as the Eagles rushed to the front of the Bainbridge net, celebrating in a dogpile.

“We played hard and can’t answer for much else,” Spartan David Vander Hoek said. “We had a really strong start. We had the momentum, lost it. Got it back and lost it. Issaquah is a really scrappy team that fought hard the whole way.”

Early Bainbridge advantages were erased by second half lapses.

“We kind of blew it,” said Ryan van den Meerendonk, who kept the pace started by Bryan Gilbreath’s opening goal 1:20 in with four first-half scores to give Bainbridge a 6-4 halftime lead. “We had a two goal lead with under two minutes to go, and we were man-up and turned the ball over.”

The Spartans gave up a late two-goal lead, but that wasn’t the fault of goalkeeper Patrick McMullen, playing in only his sixth varsity game.

“Patrick McMullen played a huge role in our run down the stretch,” said attacker Willy Delius of the sophomore netminder, who finished seven saves and a 4-2 record. “We’d had inconsistent goalie play throughout the whole year. It was nice to have someone steady back there – all the good stops he made.”

But failure to take care of the ball cost the Spartans. The early sharpness of the Bainbridge play was dulled by Issaquah, who clawed back into the game in the third period and took an 8-7 lead.

Delius had two assists in the fourth, to Dylan Masi and then Vander Hoek, reclaiming the Spartan advantage at 9-8.

Vander Hoek hit the post three times in the final quarter. He then nailed Eagle defender Dustin Cramer in the corner with a ferocious check, coughing up the ball for Masi to put in for a 10-8 Spartan lead with 2:20 left.

But Bainbridge lost focus, giving up man advantages and the ball in the final minutes. Issaquah’s Jon Matusiefsky scored with 45 seconds left, and Matt Robson with 20 seconds left, to force a sudden-death overtime.

Both teams had chances in the extra five minutes, and the midfield collisions continued until the end.

“We couldn’t get it done,” Van den Meerendonk said. “It was pretty sad. But everyone was really happy with what we did this year. We came a long way.”

Team members praised the strong show of hometown support.

“It’s really fun to play in front of that crowd. It’s like a football atmosphere,” Delius said. “The physical nature of the last couple of games was a lot more intense in the past two games.”

Beyond the stats, the players uniformly pointed to the emotional leadership of the seniors, who themselves were led by Vander Hoek, who tucked away a regular season record with 108 points.

He was the glue to the Spartans’ quarterfinal win, and in this semifinal flew all over the field after the Eagles to make things happen for Bainbridge.

Vander Hoek’s effort was mirrored by Zach Smith’s 13 digs with 11 ground balls of his own. He led with his body, offering up crunching checks that stirred the spectators and his teammates as well.

Vander Hoek acknowledged the progress of his teammates.

“I think we really bonded as a team through the year,” he said. “Not many people gave us much credit coming in. We played hard and bonded, learning to trust each other and our coaches.”

Delius already looks forward to next year.

“We have a bulk of freshmen as well as younger kids coming up,” he said. “But it’s hard to lose David offensively, Zach on the face-offs, as well as our tough senior defenders.”

“I think we’ll be able to manage next year. We’ve got a core group with field experience.

“We came together as a team more and more, believe in each other and our coach. All the work we put in. The wins were great when they started coming.”

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