Well, okay. That one lived up to the hype.
Issaquah swaggered into Bellevue Stadium Friday night fresh off a big win against Mercer Island. Bellevue was burstin’ its britches after knocking off Guilderland of New York, as well as Bainbridge Island. Fans crowed, smack was talked and Comcast Sports showed up to cover the game. With all this buildup, there was no way the actual game could have delivered on the implied promise of sports entertainment.
Except it did.
Let’s get the conclusion out of the way; Issaquah won 7-6 in double overtime as Ben Director found Julian Ritchie open from 6 yards on a well-run man up play. That’s where we ended up. But what an adventure it was getting there.
Defense was the star of this game. Issaquah goalies O’Neil Hughes and Brady Hahn, splitting pipe duties, turned away 10 Wolverine shots including two in overtime. Bellevue’s defense held the Eagles to just 12 shots overall, well below their season average of 23 per game.
Kole Lindor (4gb) Issaquah’s long stick midfielder, was seemingly everywhere on the field, irritating Bellevue’s shooters like a pebble in a shoe. Passes would sail just wide, balls would get fumbled, shots would be just not fast enough, and there in the background would be Lindor, running away with a Cheshire-ish smile underneath the war paint.
Bellevue’s defense was more big-body based with junior Blake Backer (4gb) banging around the crease all game. He and fellow poles Sam Leggett (4gb) and Clayton Federspiel made sure anyone who dared to shoot wasn’t standing afterwards to admire their work.
The crowd sat only on the edge of the very cold metal seats, as the score was close the whole game. There was never more than a one goal lead; there were six lead changes and seven ties. The Eagles seemed intent on shutting down Bellevue’s wing attackmen, but that strategy left Senior Drew Douglas open on the crease. He scored the opening goal on his way to a four goal night. Issaquah peppered Bellevue goalie Austin Boyd (6 saves) from midrange, then crashed the boards and was able to turn several rebounds into points.
Issaquah goes up by one with 7 minutes remaining in the game on a blistering rocket by Matt O’Neill, but with two minutes left to play, Douglas tallies his fourth for Bellevue to even it up with an outside righty and the crowd sits back, drinking in the inevitability of overtime.
There’s lots of postgame speculation as to how a team as experienced as Bellevue could get two perplexing offsides calls in overtime. Both the calls were righteous, though, and both of them put Issaquah man-up and the fans back to the edge of their seats. Bellevue’s defense rose to the occasion and Boyd stuffed sophomore Zach Fritz’s bullet from just outside the crease. On the ensuing play, Wolverine attackman Hank Bethke’s shot misses but his stick breaks, and he has to run off the field.
In the confusion, Bellevue fails to compensate for his disappearance and is caught offsides again, with four seconds left in overtime. Issaquah stalls and subsequently starts OT2 with possession, i.e. there is no faceoff. Nineteen seconds into the period Director finds Ritchie and the Eagles win this year’s Yuppie Cup, knocking off both Eastside powerhouses – in the same week.
So tournament bracketology seems to say that Issaquah’s win will likely put them in what looks to be the weaker bracket this year, while Bellevue, Bainbridge and Mercer Island will all have to slug it out together. But it’s March not May and it’s hard to say. However there’s no doubt that the early season swagger belongs to the Eagles.
A great game by all the fine young men, a great way to spend a Friday night and an even better way for Issaquah parents to spend a few OnDemand hours. Congrats to all the players, parents and fans. That night was what lacrosse should be like.
Dont’ forget to vote for Top Photo of Week 2, here. Winner gets a mounted photo.