Pads, helmets, sticks were launched into the air as the Issaquah High School club lacrosse team swarmed the 40-yard line of Seattle’s Memorial Stadium to form a massive human pile.
The Eagles explosive celebration was a much deserved one, as they nabbed their first ever Division I state championship Saturday afternoon by knocking off rival Bainbridge, 11-8.
“I’ve never felt better in my life,” said Issaquah senior Nick Yapp, who had 12 saves in the goal. “This is my third time and we finally won it. It feels awesome.”
Issaquah’s first Division I crown didn’t come easy, however.
After going up 2-1 in the first two minutes of the game on goals by senior Travis Wright, Issaquah struggled to find a flow.
“We opened really frantic and had uncharacteristic turnovers all over the place,” said Issaquah head coach Brandon Fortier.
Bainbridge fought back to turn its deficit into 5-3 halftime lead. The Spartans maintained an advantage through the third quarter and the early minutes of the fourth, leading 6-5.
An inspirational fourth-quarter speech from Fortier, however, seemed to flip the switch for the Eagles.
“I said ‘I’m challenging you to stop being afraid and you guys are better than this, and if you stop being afraid and start running good things will happen,’ Fortier said. “’It’s a prize fight. If we’re going to get knocked out so be it, but gosh darnit let’s throw our best shot instead of standing there stunned.’”
The team answered with a resounding call.
Wright, who was recently named an All-American, scored his third goal of the game at the 7:13 mark of the fourth quarter, knotting the score 6-6. The goal opened the floodgates for Issaquah, which rattled off three more unanswered goals in the next two minutes. Alex Bates scored one after a nice pump fake, Jake Director connected with Joey Henderson for a score and Todd Jones scored off an assist from Jordan Goldstein with 5:26 on the clock. Also key, was Riley Goodman winning five fourth-quarter faceoffs.
“We just collectively brought it in, we calmed down a little bit and things just started to work out from there after we got our butterflies out and we just started playing our game,” Wright said.
Bainbridge, which handed Issaquah (23-1) its only loss of the season, pulled back to within one, 9-8, with 2:15 to go. The Spartans had a chance to tie the contest back up, but Yapp made another huge save. The stop resulted in a quick transition goal to Wright. Henderson added another score with under a minute to go to seal the victory.
Issaquah won a Division II championship in 2004. Since switching to Division I in 2005, the Eagles made it twice to the state championship game only to fall to Mercer Island by one point each time — in 2005 and 2006.
Getting over the hump is not something Issaquah’s players or coaches will soon forget.
“It feels really good,” Wright said. “All my buddies who are seniors too, we’ve all been playing together and that’s what we’ve been working for for almost five years now since we started in middle school.”
Fortier, who has coached Issaquah since the program started in 2002, had a hard time finding words.
“I can’t even describe it,” he said. “It’s bittersweet to beat (Bainbridge) because Dejon (Hush) is one of my best friends and they have some great kids on that team on that team that I have a lot of respect for. The bottom line is they’re the best program in the last 15 years, so to beat them, to prove yourself No. 1 is awesome.”
The Skyline High club lacrosse team ended its season May 14 with a 16-4 loss to Bainbrdige in the state semifinals. The Spartans, who have only had a club team since 2006, completed their best season with a 17-5 record.