Sports

Spartans win out in wildcard play, head to state

The Spartans’ leading scorer Emily Carson fires a shot over a Mercer Island defender during a regular season match at the Bainbridge Island Aquatics Center. Carson led the team in scoring in last week’s wildcard play to help the Spartans advance to state.   - Brian Kelly / Bainbridge Island Review
The Spartans’ leading scorer Emily Carson fires a shot over a Mercer Island defender during a regular season match at the Bainbridge Island Aquatics Center. Carson led the team in scoring in last week’s wildcard play to help the Spartans advance to state.
— image credit: Brian Kelly / Bainbridge Island Review

Cinderella made it to the ball, after all.

The Bainbridge Spartans girls water polo team continued its improbably one-season turnaround by qualifying for the state tournament.

Bainbridge blasted its way through a wildcard tournament to qualify, with wins over Emerald Ridge (10-5), Auburn (15-2) and Stadium (12-10).

“It was a battle,” said Spartans Coach Drew Keller.

The game against Stadium came out well, despite a few lapses midway through, the coach admitted.

“We were a bit disjointed,” he said. “We played them before and we beat them by a similar score, so we somewhat knew what to expect.”

Even so, the game itself never seemed truly in doubt.

“We did a lot of things really well. We had some uncharacteristic breakdowns, but we were able to not let that escalate, let that take the momentum — which is good.”

Still, those hairy moments were a good prep for the state tournament, he said.

“You want to let those things happen, as long as you don’t lose when you do, so we can learn how to work through them,” he said.

With no players to rotate in and out of the games, however, the Spartan players had to take on Iron Man roles and play the entire contest, Keller said.

“Which, in a sport like water polo, is asking a lot,” he said.

And with goalie Kayla Estes out for the rest of the season because of a concussion, the team had to bring up Parker Taylor from the junior varsity squad as the team’s backup goalie.

The team got a bit of a break against Auburn, and the team was able to rest after building a big lead.

“I wanted to rest as much as we could,” Keller said. “We stopped shooting about midway through the second quarter, and we would just possess the ball through the shot clock and then dump it...throwing it in the corner so that we could recover without having to sprint back on defense.”

Against Stadium, the final score made the game appear closer than it was. Bainbridge led the entire way, and rebuilt its cushion each time Stadium pulled a few feathers out.

“It was awesome to see the girls stay calm, stay poised and just kind of play their game,” Keller said.

“They didn’t get flustered, they didn’t let the momentum swing— they just kept control of the game.”

Emily Carson again led the Spartans offensively.

In wildcard play, she scored 14 goals and had seven ejections drawn.

Celia Chaussable added four goals and seven steals for BHS.

Fellow Spartans Amanda Sellman added seven goals and 10 steals, Evelyn Newman contributed three goals, five assists and 10 steals; and Julia Griffiths had 19 saves and nine steals.

Carson, the team’s leading scorer, said the team is connecting on all points.

And that doesn’t bode well for the Spartans’ opponents at state.

“If we’re on, we can play with anyone in the state,” she said. “We have that capacity.”

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