Quest for water polo title dashed by Mercer

Play turns rough, and the Spartans fall to their rivals from Mercer Island, 5-4.

Lady Ray navigated all but the final game at the state water polo championships at King County Aquatic Center this Memorial Day weekend, winning three straight before being edged by Mercer Island 5-4 in Sunday’s title match.

“I think they were worn out,” BHS coach Jeff Clark said. “They started out really well, maybe a bit drained from the game before.”

“It was such a tough game against Shorewood (earlier). Everyone was so emotionally involved in getting the win.”

Playing a second match Saturday, the Spartans squared off with an insistent Shorewood side, and faced elimination when down 5-2 in the third period before a pep talk from the coach.

“Jeff talked about picking it up, playing our game,” Spartan Erin Clune said. “We were tired, but we wanted a different way to end the day.”

Bainbridge got it going with five minutes remaining, scoring four unanswered goals and finally winning 6-5, on a goal by Anne Scott with less than 10 seconds on the clock.

“It was so exciting, with lots of our fans there, going crazy. It was so nice,” Clune said. “The opposing coach told us afterward that other teams could’ve shut down there, and that our comeback said a lot about our team.”

The girls blanked Mercer’s B-squad in the first match Friday night, then handled Eastside Catholic 11-1 on Saturday morning.

But even with a dominant cheering section – including some of the other teams – things didn’t go Bainbridge’s way in the Sunday afternoon championship pool.

The Spartans forged an early 2-0 lead on goals by Clune and Christy Russell.

Bainbridge led 3-2 at the half on Sarah Gleason’s goal, putting back a rebound when Anne Scott’s shot was blocked by the Mercer goalkeeper.

After a scoreless third quarter, the pool heated up in the fourth, with play getting physical. All of Mercer’s goals came on “kick outs,” short timeouts the referee dispensed for foul play. The Spartans led in that category 13-2.

Late in the game, the number of kick-outs mounted as Anne Scott accumulated three and was disqualified from a match for the first time this year.

Russell was also ruled out with less than a minute remaining, when Mercer scored their fourth goal to draw even.

“It was a little rough,” Clark said. “But we had the best referees for that situation. One from San Diego and the best in our district.”

Mercer Island scored the game-winning goal in the final minute of play.

The disappointment of missing out on another state championship came into perspective somewhat with a post-game talk, Clune said.

“I was talking to my grandpa afterwards,” she said. “He asked me ‘How’d you do?’ and I said we got second place. He said, ‘That’s great!’ and I remembered ‘We got second! That’s pretty good.’ It kind of helped me put it in perspective.”

For her performance, Scott took home the state MVP trophy.

Bainbridge finished with an overall record of 20-8, including out-of-state play. They take three weeks off, then start up again with club play June 23 at Ray Williamson Pool.

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