A Nice Night After All by McNutty
I don’t know about you, but for me this lacrosse season has been suspiciously empty of foul weather; uncharacteristically dry and unseasonably warm. My Paul Rabil Shop99™ long underwear and my Lewis Ratcliff signature ear muffs haven’t even been out of their bags yet. But on the drive from Seattle down to Vancouver to catch Friday’s Mercer Island v. King’s Way game, the heavy rains convinced me I would have to at least break out my Coach-V-what -is-that-on-your-head Rainhat. As weather, accidents and Friday night traffic moved the two and half hour drive closer to four, your SoundLacrosse crew was having serious doubts about their choice of entertainment.
But as we pulled into the parking lot on the beautiful new King’s Way campus, we were reminded that lacrosse is of course The Creator’s game, and apparently he doesn’t like to get wet either. The rains stopped, never to return again and as the Star Spangled Banner reached its finale, the Canadian Aerial Team (Goose Division) performed the traditional flyover, signifying the start of another nice night of lacrosse. The Knight’s new field is top notch, with a spiffy scoreboard, nice new lights, and a whole host of smiling faces.
The game featured the Islanders of Mercer making the trip down to face the host Knights. MI had just returned from a successful (2-1) Spring Break trip to Massachusetts and Maine but the question was would they be road weary, or raring to showoff how much they’d grown? King’s Way was sporting a perfect (5-0) record and sitting in first place in the South Sound Conference. They’d weathered two overtime victories and the question for them was how their 16-man roster would fare against a team as deep as Mercer Island.
The Knights, while going undefeated, have struggled in the first quarter. “We’ve had trouble getting out of the gate,” said Head Coach Dave Holler, one of the true nice guys in WA lacrosse, “We can’t continue to dig out of 1st quarter holes against good teams.”
Unfortunately for King’s Way, Coach Holler is also one the true prescient guys in WA lacrosse.
After the Islanders win the opening faceoff, they work the ball around, sniffing out the Knights’ defensive configuration. Senior midfielder Hayden Reisman draws first blood from the outside. Steen Swedstedt scores immediately off the ensuing faceoff, and the Islanders jump up 2-0. Early on, the Islander defense is effective in neutralizing the Knight’s big threats, seniors Jack Beall and Clayton Frank. Probably the premier midfield duo in the state, they provide, along with attackman Even Ramirez, most of the offensive firepower for King’s Way. But the Islanders shut them all down for the rest of the first quarter, on their way to a 5-0 lead at the break. Coach Holler knows of what he speaks.
In the 2nd, King’s Way attackman Connor Dyehouse sneaks behind the Islander defense to put the Knights on the board at 5-1. A few minutes later, KW goes man up on an Islander slash but MI junior goalie Benji Rothenberg makes his presence known with a nice shorthanded save. Peter Mahony scores righty off a textbook alley dodge and the lead stretches to 6-1.
Mercer Island’s domination on the faceoffs and their relentless rides in the first half make it clear that to win, King’s Way is going to be very efficient on their possessions. MI owns the first half time of possession and KW struggles to get any rhythm on offense. The teams trade goals as the half ends 7-2. “We have them right where we want them” quips Coach Holler as he runs to deliver his halftime adjustments to the team. Halftime has a huge impact on attackman Evan Ramirez, as he wins the Booster Club’s raffle for a new 47″ flatscreen.
Holler’s adjustments seem to have given life to the Knights as the 2nd half starts with Beall finally busting loose with two quick goals, including a nice sweep from left to right, finishing with a blast to the upper right corner. It’s 7-4, and perhaps KW’s hole-digging has begun.
But Mahony answers with a bounce shot through the five hole of King’s Way sophomore goalie Conrad Littlefield. Dyehouse answers on a feed from Beall and the score jumps to 8-5. The buzz returns amongst the throngs on the sideline, as perhaps the Knights will pull close this quarter.
But one faceoff, five passes and six seconds later Grant Preisler finishes a gorgeous ball handling exhibition with the Islanders’ ninth goal. Rothenberg rejects a rip from Frank, Swedstedt and Preisler add goals, and the third quarter ends with Mercer Island up 11-6. They’ve withstood the comeback and are still looking good.
The fourth quarter belongs to the two goalies, Rothenberg and Littlefield. Rothenberg spectacularly stones two different Knights on the edge of the crease, snuffing out all hope. Littlefield, the sophomore, shows he’s got a fine future in the league, as he shuts out the Islanders for the quarter, except for one meaningless empty netter at the end of the game. The final score is MI 12, KW 7.
Coach Holler was disappointed in the loss, saying “They’re a great team, the best we’ve faced. But we’ve got our eye on the big picture, our conference championship.” The Knights are eyeing the first round bye that comes with winning the conference.
Coach Ian O’Hearn was happy with his team’s performance, but complimentary to the effort his opponent put forth. “King’s Way is a very hardworking and well-coached team, and I’m sure they’ll go far in the playoffs. Jack Beall and Clayton Frank are two of the best players in the state.”
The Islanders were led by Grant Preisler’s four goals and hat tricks by Mahony and Reisman, who added an assist. Rothenberg had a strong night with eight saves, “He’s been working really hard” said O’Hearn, “he really led the defense tonight.” MI jumps to 10-2, 7-0 and on top of the King West conference.
The Knights were led by Jack Beall’s four goals and even with the loss, they remain in the driver’s seat in the South Sound conference with a 5-1 record.
The rains returned for the long slog home, but spirits were high as it was another great night for Washington lacrosse. King’s Way’s fans are among the best in the state and with that kind of support the Knights are sure to be contenders for this year’s championship run.