The former West Linn player is trying to keep the Cougars from getting discouraged amid a trying season that ends May 7.

by: JEFF GOODMAN / PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP - Bailee Mallon (right) pressures Clackamas goalkeeper Hope Murray during the Canby girls lacrosse team's home game April 25. The Cougars are trying to remain positive amid a trying season under first-year coach Kristen Brown.Kristen Brown is competitive by nature. Losses don’t sit well with her.

She arrived as the head coach of the Canby girls lacrosse team this year after a stint on the staff at her alma mater, West Linn, which captured a state championship last season.

But as she and the Cougars slog through a trying season in arguably the toughest conference in the state, she and her players have had to search for positive results in places other than the win column.

“You don’t find character in people when they’re up and winning — you find it when they’re losing and they still have a smile on their face,” Brown said after the team’s 11-2 loss to Clackamas at home April 25. “I’m proud of them. But we’ve had a few days where it was like, ‘We need to bring the fun back to lacrosse — let’s get some silly string and water balloons and make it fun.’”

It’s all part of a learning process for Brown, who brings ample playing experience to her first season as a varsity head coach.

She earned second-team all-league honors as a senior attacker at West Linn in 2009, when she tallied a team-high 36 goals to go along with 27 ground balls and 13 controlled draws under then-coach Allister Bunch.

After graduating from West Linn, she went to Clackamas Community College and joined her high school program as a junior varsity coach. She’s currently attending The Art Institute of Portland.

Brown took the reins of the Canby program from Caitlin Gustin, who left after one season at the helm to fill a teaching position in the Sherwood School District.

But success has been hard to come by in the loaded Three Rivers League, which has produced both state finalists in four of the last five seasons. The Cougars (0-11, 0-9 in the TRL) posted just one victory in 14 games last year under Gustin, and they are winless through 11 contests this season.

“The team gets better every single game,” Brown said. “Obviously, our record doesn’t give us a lot of justice. But I’m happy with the progress we’ve made.”

Lexis Fitch and Kalei McDonald have been the most frequent sources of offense for Canby.

Fitch, who had one of the Cougars’ two goals in their recent loss to Clackamas, has amassed 16 goals as well as 17 ground balls and 12 draws controlled this season. McDonald, who did not play against the Cavaliers, has added 18 goals.

Brown also praised Tyraya Hicks and Bailee Mallon for their standout efforts against Clackamas.

Hicks has notched three goals this year, including one April 25 on a night where she also recorded season highs in draws controlled (four) and ground balls (three). Mallon, who found the back of the net in a nonleague game at Tualatin, showcased her potential on offense with a season-high three shots against the Cavaliers.

Cougars goalkeepers Amy Schuening and Laura Holveck have split time in front of the net this year. Schuening has tallied 67 saves, including a season-high 16 at Tualatin. Holveck has logged 39 saves, including 14 as part of a complete-game effort in the recent loss to Clackamas.

Canby is scheduled to wrap up its campaign at 7 p.m. May 7 with a home game against Oregon City.

“It’s been a great season with lots of learning,” Brown said. “The scores don’t really reflect our season or my girls.”

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