Fresh off two consecutive losses at last weekend’s Regional tournament, the Wolverines limped into the state tournament facing questions as to whether they were still the team to beat in 2014. After dispatching Wilson 17-4 in the quarterfinals, Mercer Island 11-9 in the semifinals, and Curtis 8-6 in the championship, the Wolverines erased any doubt that they are still the kings of Washington State boys water polo.
Bellevue 8, Curtis 6 (Finals)
For the second time in three years, Bellevue faced the Curtis Vikings in the state championship game. Like the 2012 title game, the 2014 matchup was a low-scoring, defensive-minded affair.
Senior goalie Quinlan Hughes set the defensive tone early, turning back several outside shots and lobs in the first four minutes of the contest. Senior Josh Rehder got the Wolverines on the board first, converting an outside shot at the 1:34 mark of the first quarter off a pass from freshman AJ Rossman while senior co-captain Marco Stanchi drew a triple-team in set. Two possessions later, junior Zack Rossman stole the ball in the backcourt and found sophomore Cameron Hayes wide open across the pool. Hayes buried an outside shot to put the Wolverines up 2-0.
Early in the second quarter, Hayes struck again, this time off a cross-pass from Rehder to make it 3-0. On the ensuing possession, Curtis earned an ejection, but a spectacular save by Hughes kept the Vikings off the scoreboard. Later in the quarter, Rehder earned an ejection in set, leading to Hayes’ third goal of the game to put the Wolverines up 4-0. With 0:54 left to go in the half, Curtis finally broke through, scoring on a man-up to make it 4-1.
Strong defense kept the third quarter scoreless until the 3:24 mark, when Zack Rossman scored out of set off a beautiful entry pass from senior co-captain Liam Naughton. Curtis answered on the ensuing possession, converting a five-meter penalty shot to cut Bellevue’s lead to 5-2. With 1:15 left in the third, Zack Rossman struck again, this time on a cross-cage bar-in from eight meters to put the Wolverines ahead 6-2.
In the fourth quarter, Curtis struck first, scoring out of set to make it 6-3 with 4:30 left in the game. Just when it looked like things could get interesting, AJ Rossman flashed his late-game heroics for the second straight game. Rossman’s first goal came at the 3:56 mark on a counter-attack with a defender draped on his back. Curtis scored on the next possession, but Rossman immediately answered with a perfectly placed outside shot to beat a drop on Hayes posting up. Thanks to Rossman’s second goal, Bellevue went ahead 8-4 with 3:00 minutes left. While Curtis managed to score two late goals, it was too little, too late. On the final possession, two straight field blocks by Naughton on the final possession kicked off a wild celebration.
Hughes finished the game with nine saves. Rehder led the defense with five steals, while Zack Rossman added four. Naughton had a game-high four blocked shots.
After leading Bellevue in scoring with 11 goals in three games, Zack Rossman was named State Offensive Co-MVP and First-Team All-State. Stanchi and Hayes were also named First-Team All-State. Naughton and Rehder earned Second-Team All-State honors, while AJ Rossman earned Honorable Mention.
Bellevue 11, Mercer Island 9 (Semis)
In a rematch of the 2013 state title game, the Wolverines squared off against heated rival Mercer Island in the state semifinals. Behind goals from Naughton, Stanchi and two from Zack Rossman, Bellevue jumped out to a 4-1 first quarter lead. Mercer Island responded with two unanswered second quarter goals to narrow Bellevue’s lead to 4-3. But Bellevue exploded for six third quarter goals which ultimately proved to be the difference. In the decisive third quarter, Zack Rossman had two goals while Hayes, Naughton, Stanchi and AJ Rossman scored one, expanding Bellevue’s lead to 10-6. Mercer Island scored three fourth-quarter goals to make it close, but AJ Rossman scored a clutch goal down the stretch to preserve the win.
Stanchi filled the stat sheet with six ejections drawn, four steals, and three blocked shots. Hayes added three assists and one ejection drawn. Rehder added two assists and three steals. Hughes tallied six steals and one steal.
Bellevue 17, Wilson 4 (Quarters)
Behind five goals from Zack Rossman, Bellevue easily trounced the Wilson Rams, #1 seed from the East/West Region. Eight Wolverines scored in the victory, including two from senior Sevren Trulson. Quinlan Hughes and Ethan Wlaschin split time in goal, posting seven total saves.