Oftentimes in the world of high school sports, championship games come down to a bounce here, a big play there and aren’t decided until the closing minutes or seconds of regulation.
The Mercer Island girls soccer team didn’t have to worry about the outcome of their Class 3A state championship matchup coming down to the wire. Mercer Island dominated all phases of the game en route to a 4-1 win against the Stadium Tigers on Nov. 18 at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup. It was the first state title in the history of the Mercer Island girls soccer program.
Islanders’ senior forward Jessie Stenberg scored a game-high three goals in the final game of her high school career with everything on the line.
“It is an unbelievable feeling. I’m just so excited. I couldn’t be happier. This is an amazing experience. I’m going to be happy for weeks, months and years to come,” Stenberg said with a smile after the game.
The Islanders knew the Tigers had an undefeated record coming into the game, but weren’t intimidated in the least bit.
“We knew they were 18-0 and hadn’t lost yet. We knew we had to play like us and do what we know how to do to just put it (title) away,” Stenberg said.
Islanders’ senior midfielder Kendall Riley said the 2017 season couldn’t have gone better.
“We didn’t really think we were going to get here (state title game) this season, but when we got here we were like, we worked so hard for this game. We’re going to dominate it and win this state championship. We did it,” Riley said.
Mercer Island head coach James Valles, who was in his first season leading the Islanders’ soccer program, said there wasn’t any special game plan in store for Stadium before the game kicked off.
“We didn’t really talk about what to do to break down Stadium or anything. It was like you know what to do, you have done it all season. Just go out and do what you do. They (Stadium) should be afraid of us and that is how we played and that was the result,” Valles said. “We have one of the hardest leagues (KingCo) in our state so every game is a game. The key was being composed and they’ve done it all season.”
Valles credited his players for their dedication during the 2017 season, which culminated in a state title.
“It is all about them. It is just heart, grit, soul and leaving it all on the field. As a coach, I just knew these players were going to step up. That is something you can’t coach,” he said. “To see those looks on their faces, I’d do this (coach) for free. To leave that legacy as the first time (state champs), that is awesome for them.”