D1 Championship Preview – by McNutty

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A day celebrating lacrosse looms ahead on Saturday, June 1st. The unofficial schedule looks like this:

  • 10:30a.m. – 11:30a.m. Youth 5-6 Regional Honor Game
  • 11:30a.m. –12:30p.m. Youth 7-8 Regional All-Star Game
  • 1:00p.m. – 2:30p.m. HS All-Star Game
  • 3:30p.m. Division II Finals
  • 5:15p.m. Awards
  • 6:00p.m. Division 1 Finals

 

Here’s a quick preview of the Division I Championship Game

Mercer Island vs. Bellevue

You want a feel good story? I got your feel good story right here. Take a look at this 2005 picture:

 

Bellevue Coach John Baumann and Mercer Island Coach Ian O’Hearn, despite lots of criticism from parental naysayers, held the first ever game in the state of Washington for teams comprised of 3rd and 4th graders. Now, eight years later, these very kids are juniors and seniors, playing against each other for the last time, in the State High School Championship. Now there are 3rd/4th grade teams from Vancouver to Lynden to the Tri-Cities and everywhere in between.

If you’re not the kind of person who feels good about that, then why are you reading anything I ever write?

Photos by Molly Piper from the BV-MI game earlier this season.

All-State attackman, junior Hank Bethke (#22)

Bellevue brings their undefeated league record into this game to face Mercer Island, whose only blemish is a one goal setback at the hands of the Wolverines one month ago. The Wolverines are led by All-American attackman Cole Johnson, committed to play at West Point next season. He’s flanked by six other All-State players including defender Blake Backer, attackman Hank Bethke, middies Dakota Jones, Eric Haehl and Simon Jenkin, and probably the best LSM in the state, Andrew Matthews. They’re an experienced team, all upperclassmen except for one sophomore, and they click like a finely tuned machine.

Best LSM in the State: Andrew Matthews (#14)? Let's ask Chase York (#11)

They’ve got six players who’ve scored more than 20 goals this season and they’re deep as the day is long. Defenseman Rily Gulrajani sat out the semi-final win against Eastside Catholic, but junior pole Ryan Eskenazy stepped in and didn’t miss a beat. They rotate in three different face-off men so if teams figure one out, they immediately have to see a different one. Likewise, they have the ability to rotate two different goalies with no dropoff in performance. Bradley Medieros is a classic quick hands, fast feet, right-handed compact dynamo in the net. Junior Cole Cansler is the tall, silky, smooth, left-handed laconic goalie, sporting the best save percentage in the state. Figure one out, and they’ll rotate in the other one. Head Coach John Baumann has honed this team with Spring Break games against tough Long Island competition and he’s looking for back-to-back Championship titles and his third in the last four years.

Mercer Island Coach Ian O’Hearn is looking to halt a three game losing streak to the Wolverines. He’s got a team filled with upperclassmen as well, six of whom were committed to NCAA college lacrosse teams before the 2013 season started.

The Islander defense is led by Loyola-commit, long pole Chase York (#11).

The Islander defense is led by Loyola-commit, long pole Chase York. Recently named a 2013 All-American as a junior York sports nasty take-away skills as well as a high lacrosse IQ. Backed by junior goalie Benji Rothenberg, All-State pole Zach Taylor, and All-State middies Hayden Reisman, Peter Mahony and Steen Swedstedt, the Islander defense allowed averages of 12 shots and only six goals per game. The Islanders started experimenting with a zone defense on their Spring Break trip to Maine. They’ve used it on and off during the second half of the season and now can jump seamlessly in and out of it. This, understandably, can give offenses severe problems. In the first matchup the Wolverines were able to exhibit enough outside shot power to overcome the zone but O’Hearn is sure to have a plan to counter that this time.

 

Devlin Conway handles the faceoff duties for the Islanders

On offense, the Islanders are led by All-Staters Steen Swedstedt and Grant Preisler. Although Swedstedt suffered a knee injury in the semi-final victory he’s expected to play in the finals. Devlin Conway handles  the faceoff duties for the Islanders. He’s been a big part of the reason why they’ve won all the close games, giving MI extra possessions when they need it most. And he had no trouble handling any of Bellevue’s trio in the first game. Watch the matchup at the center circle, it could be the key one of the game.

Universally regarded as the top two teams in the state this year, Mercer Island and Bellevue have a rivalry that is as intense as any in Washington, regardless of the sport. Facebook insults, streakers, an on-field fight and The Stick Check have all characterized the feelings between these two programs over recent years. Coaches O’Hearn and Baumann, college teammates at Albany, are sure to have their teams ready to play on Saturday night. You don’t want to miss it!

And don’t miss the photo extravaganza from Sound Lacrosse’s team of photographers. We’ll have six folks on the field and the pictures will be posted shortly after the game. Follow live tweets and photos @Soundlacrosse. You can purchase prints and posters with the proceeds benefiting a Northwest lacrosse charity, yet to be named. Find it all at www.soundlacrosse.com.

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