There’s no mystery here.
Anyone investigating how Mercer Island snagged the state championship in girls varsity lacrosse will surely find the fingerprints of the Islanders’ Emma Brodsky and Annabelle Gersch.
The pair combined for six goals (as well as three caused turnovers) as Mercer Island beat Bainbridge Island 10-9 in the state girls lacrosse championship final late last week at Starfire Sports Stadium in Tukwilla.
The battle for the state crown was a rematch of last year’s final, which Bainbridge won to take home its 10th state title in girls lacrosse.
This year, the script got flipped.
Mercer Island, making just its third trip ever to the title contest, won its first state championship.
The title game was a matchup of the league’s top two teams, with undefeated MI at No. 1 and one-loss Bainbridge at No. 2.
“It was a great game; a lot of runs,” said Spartan Coach Tami Tommila. “And give credit to Mercer Island. They had a really great year this year.”
MI came into the game with a 15-0 record; their last loss coming in the 2018 title game. Most of MI’s wins this season have been blowouts, and the Islanders have outscored their opponents 225-71 over the course of this year’s campaign.
Bainbridge, meanwhile, entered the game with one loss — it’s 11-4 defeat on their home field to the Islanders in March.
The championship game was a thriller all the way, and the closest contest that MI had been in all season. Three times the score was tied in the contest, but even so, Bainbridge led 5-3 at halftime and was up 7-4 with 16:52 left to play in the game.
MI scored five unanswered goals, however, and moved in front, 9-7, with just a bit more than 5 minutes to go in the game.
Gersch rifled in the shot that gave MI the two-point advantage, the second of her two goals.
Bainbridge’s Kendall Havill evened the score at 9-9 with an unassisted shot at the 4:11 mark, but Brodsky put in the game-winner with 29 seconds left to bring the trophy home to Mercer Island.
The Spartans got one last shot on goal, with 10 seconds left, but Havill’s missile flew high and time ran out. Screaming Islander fans rushed the field and mobbed their team as the game horn sounded.
The Spartans, who entered the game as the defending champs but the No. 2 team in the league, were seeking their 11th state girls lacrosse title. They’ve played for the championship 20 times since 1993, and are the league’s true dynasty in the sport; no other team has won as many titles or advanced to the finals so many times.
Gracious in defeat, the Bainbridge coach welcomed MI into the realm of state champions.
“[It’s] their first state championship, so I know how that must feel really great for their program,” Tommila said.
“I’m happy for them, and I’m happy for our league to get a new champion; it’s always nice,” she added.
This year was quite unlike last year’s title run, where Bainbridge steamrolled through the season undefeated and were solid favorites entering the postseason.
This time, the Spartans entered the arena as the underdogs.
“I’m proud of our girls,” Tommila said. “I’m proud of how they fought and came out in this game and competed.
“We played an undefeated team; we were the No. 2 seed coming in and we had to try to figure out a way to win. And I thought we had some really good runs,” she added.
The game was close throughout, though MI enjoyed the edge on ground balls (11 to the Spartans’ seven) and caused turnovers (MI with seven and BI with four).
Bainbridge dominated on the draw, collecting the ball 12 times to Mercer’s seven.
Tommila said the Spartans made some mental mistakes, but they weren’t alone.
“I think that those are mistakes that both teams made.
“I was really proud of how we handled the draw,” Tommila added. “I was really proud of how we locked down defensively.”
Indeed, Bainbridge shut down MI’s top offensive threat, Grace Fujinaga, Mercer’s leading scorer who had 53 goals this season going into last Friday’s final.
“They had to rely on other players to score goals for them, and they did.
It’s kind of what we had to do last year,” Tommila said.
“It was great to be in the final and I’m happy with how our season went this year and what we were able to accomplish,” she added.
Havill finished with five goals — including the game’s first — for the Spartans. She also had an assist and a ground ball.
Eleanor Collins scored three times in the final, and finished with eight draws — more than any other player and more than the entire MI team combined.
Bainbridge’s other offense came from Eleanor King, who finished with a goal.
Mercer Island’s offense was also assisted by two goals each from Hanna Tiscornia and Eden Voss.
Though the Spartans are losing three seniors to graduation — Bella Jackson, Thuy Lan Ortiz and Nina Davis — those players leave having already won the state title.
“And I hope it makes ours younger players hungry to want to win and get back to the state game next year,” Tommila said. “We have a lot of younger players, juniors, that I think are really talented. The future still looks bright for Bainbridge.”