Issaquah lacrosse defends its state championship
June 2, 2009
By Bob Taylor
When the boys high school lacrosse season began, Issaquah High School coach Brandon Fortier hoped his team would improve enough in the second half to challenge for another state championship. The Eagles certainly fulfilled his wishes.
On May 30, Issaquah defended its Washington State League Division I title with a 10-9 victory against rival Mercer Island in Seattle’s Memorial Stadium.
Goalkeeper Cameron Danforth’s save with two seconds left enabled Issaquah to hold off a late charge by the Islanders.
“Cam made the save and it was time for the dog pile,” Fortier said.
Issaquah players certainly had a right to be exuberant. During the regular season, the Eagles finished second to Mercer Island in the league standings. In the only meeting between the teams, on April 24, Mercer Island won 6-4. After that loss, Issaquah finished the season with 10 straight victories to end with a 19-2 record.
It was the third time in five years that Issaquah and Mercer Island battled in the state championship game. Mercer Island edged Issaquah by a goal in the 2005 and 2006 title games. Issaquah defeated Mercer Island last year in the semifinals before it beat Bainbridge 11-8 in the title game.
Fortier was elated by this year’s triumph, and especially happy for a corps of seniors — Jake Director, Jordan Goldstein, Riley Goodman and Connor McClain. All played key roles throughout the season, and were instrumental in the championship contest.“For those guys to lead a group that included three freshman that played in the final, two starting defenders that were on junior varsity last year and goalies who struggled at times, is absolutely phenomenal,” Fortier said.
Goldstein scored four goals in the title game and Director had two. Sophomore Jake Fritz connected on four goals. Danforth, who made some clutch saves in the final period, had six saves in all.
Tough road pays off
A tougher road to the title game apparently paid off for Issaquah. The Islanders, 13-0 in league play, had coasted through the playoffs en route to the final. Issaquah, meanwhile, had a tougher time. The Eagles, coming from behind, defeated Skyline 13-5 in the quarterfinals, and May 26, outlasted Bainbridge 5-4 in overtime.
In its semifinal, Issaquah fell behind 2-0 to visiting Bainbridge. Todd Jones got Issaquah on the scoreboard when he scored with 1:27 left in the first period. With 8:04 left in the second period, Director connected to tie the score 2-2 for Issaquah. However, Bainbridge led 3-2 at halftime when Kevin Nguyen scored with 1:26 left.
At 8:32 in the third quarter, McClain cleared the ball and raced down the middle of the field before blasting a shot into the net, tying the score at 3-3. With 26 seconds left in the period, Issaquah took its first lead when Jones tallied his second goal of the game.
Late in the fourth period, Bainbridge tied the score at 4-4 and the game went into overtime.
In overtime, Bainbridge got possession of the ball first and just missed on a shot. After Bainbridge missed on two straight shots, McClain stole the ball. The ball went to Kevin Powers, who hit the game-winning goal. The victory gave Issaquah a boost for the title game.
“Our guys were confident from having played in a close semifinal that they could win a good, close ball game,” Fortier said. “Our leaders were confident feeding on last year’s state experience, as well. We learned last year that battling in the playoffs was much better preparation than coasting.”
In championship form
In the championship game, Issaquah led from start to finish.
“Getting off to a great start offensively was a huge key. Goldstein and Director each scored on their first shot by using their bread-and-butter moves. That just gave us confidence from the beginning,” Fortier said.
Director put Issaquah ahead 1-0, then after a Mercer Island goal, Goldstein connected to put the Eagles ahead 2-1. Issaquah added two more goals to take a 4-1 lead into the second period.
Issaquah opened the second period with Jones passing to Fritz, who scored to put the Eagles up 5-1. Goldstein and Fritz later scored again as Issaquah led 8-4 at halftime.
Through the first half, Issaquah played with intensity as it dominated the face-offs and got to most of the groundballs.
Issaquah failed to score in the third period, but still held an 8-5 lead going into the final quarter. Fritz and Goldstein scored to put Issaquah up 10-5.
“Jake and Jordan, scoring back-to-back goals, proved to be the difference. It gave us enough of a cushion to hang on, since we, unfortunately, didn’t play well in the last eight minutes,” Fortier said.
Issaquah played most of the second half without Goodman, who broke his collarbone on the opening face-off of the second half.
Mercer Island then fought back. With 3:09 left, the Islanders scored to cut Issaquah’s lead to10-8. Mercer Island scored again with 17 seconds left, but the Eagles held on in part because of Danforth’s clutch save. Danforth had also made two crucial saves earlier in the period.
Mercer Island played the contest without senior attackman Daniel Shields, an All-Lacrosse All-America. Shields broke his ankle in a practice earlier in the week.
“We’re not a one-man team,” Mercer Island coach Ian O’Hearn said. “They won fair and square.”
The state title was actually Issaquah’s third. In addition to the back-to-back Division I championships, Issaquah won the Division II title in 2004.
With such underclassmen as Tyler Lucas, Kole Lindor, Alexei Burtscher, Michael Mezs, Evan Greenhall, Matt O’Neill, Ben Director, Fritz, Jones, Sean Bruno, Powers and others returning, Issaquah could make another run for the title in 2010.
“Five of our six starting defense is back. Our entire starting attack is back,” Fortier said. “Powers is the only midfielder with real experience. Ben Director, Bruno and Michael Hatcher will need to step up. If we can get production from the midfield, then we could make another run.”