PUYALLUP — Mercer Island soccer wasn’t settling for second again.
The Islanders were the Class 3A state runners-up four times, most recently in 2016, but they had never won it all. In 2014, Mercer Island fell to Lakeside in the state final.
The same teams met again Saturday at Sparks Stadium. The second-seeded Lions knotted the game at 1 in a tense final five minutes, but Mercer Island slid away with the 3-1 victory and its first boys state title.
It took another frantic finish, but the Islanders — seeded 12th in the tournament — were used to those. They dispatched Monroe, 3-2, in the semifinals, scoring twice in the final five minutes.
The school that boasts the Sounders’ Jordan Morris and UW’s Lucas Meek among its alumni was finally the one forming a disorderly, celebratory pile.
“The amount of support behind this soccer community on Mercer Island is just insane. Teams have been working for decades to get to this point,” said coach Forrest Marowitz, himself an alumnus and former team captain who was part of two third-place finishes.
“This isn’t just our win. This is for the entire history of the program.”
The 2021-22 Islanders were well aware of that history, junior Kaleb Rawson said.
“I think there was a consensus that we were a weaker team. We were often seen as a team that just scores off of set pieces,” Rawson said. “But I think today we really proved that we’re more than that.”
Led by Charlie Holmes, Lakeside imposed its will early and kept Mercer Island goalkeeper Jackson Barker engaged. Holmes was the overtime hero in the Lions’ 2-1 semifinal win against O’Dea.
Mercer Island nearly sneaked one in as the ball bobbled around the box. As play shifted to the other end, Lakeside had a promising chance of its own. The bid clanged off the goal post behind Barker.
Late in the first half, the Islanders tested Lakeside keeper Thiago Ausland. First he tracked a solo effort his teammates couldn’t snuff. Then he had to leap for a ball headed toward the top corner.
Ausland got help from the cross bar and left “gutted” senior Brady Gilroy with his head in his hands.
“We were just trying to find our way into the game. We talked a lot about momentum swings and making simple plays that bring back the momentum,” Marowitz said.
“That was the momentum swing we needed.”
About two minutes later, Ausland dived after Gilroy’s low shot, but it rolled past his fingertips. Sophomore Nicholas Chou sent the ball in for Gilroy to redirect in off the post.
Still the defending champion from 2019 — the last two tournaments weren’t held because of the pandemic — Lakeside kept its title hopes alive. In the 74th minute, a Jonathan Vonderlage shot dribbled just inside the post and the game was tied.
“All of our state games have been tight and down to the wire,” Marowitz said. “I knew if (the score) was 1-1, there was a way.
“If there’s time on the clock, this team is going to find a way to put a freaking goal in the net.”
The official scorer was under debate until after the game, but senior Remington Frederick was credited with the Islanders’ second goal.
“Everything’s crazy. I don’t even know what’s going on,” Gilroy said. “I’m out there, just running around trying to keep the ball from going into our goal again.”
Rawson provided the insurance in three minutes of injury time. David Thomas took off and Rawson kept pace.
“I just had to run my butt off,” Rawson said. “I was going straight through the middle. He did such a great job to get it to my feet.
“Just touch and finish.”
Gilroy was part of Marowitz’s first freshman class at Mercer Island. After an undefeated 2021 season and two COVID-affected campaigns, this group reached a new high.
“It’s everything I’ve ever wanted out of this team,” Gilroy said. “It’s perfect.”
Bellarmine beats Skyline for 4A title
Jaggar Judkins put Bellarmine Prep on the board just over six minutes into the game and that held up, sending the Lions to a 1-0 win vs. Skyline and the Class 4A title.
Skyline did its best to create chaos in the final minutes but couldn’t find the equalizer.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the way they worked all night,” Skyline coach Don Braman said. “We just couldn’t get the bounce we needed to make the difference.”
Bush wins 1A title
In an all-Seattle final for the Class 1A state title, The Bush School won its first state boys soccer title, beating University Prep 4-0 at Tumwater District Stadium.
It was the fourth consecutive shutout for sophomore goal keeper Carlos Abram at state.