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Despite losing Brandon Tietz to graduation, plenty of solid skill returns to the team

ARCHIVE PHOTO - Canby's lacrosse team looks to work it's way to the top of the Three Rivers League on the back of physical, defensive play and spreading the offense around. Returning players Ronan Gay, Jacob Huggins, and others will lead the team on its path towards the title. 
Canby—Canby's lacrosse team had a rough go of it last year. The record was sub .500 at 8-11, and the Cougars were only 2-8 in the ultra-tough Three Rivers League. The team was hit hard by graduation as well. Brandon Tietz left the team to play college lacrosse down at Oregon State University, and big scorers Nathan McDonald and Tavyn Jorgensen will not be returning as well.

For coach Jake McDonald, those losses are tough, but there is a bright side to it all.

"We're losing three key guys, but we only lost three guys last year," McDonald said. "That's an advantage."

Certainly, losing only three players means that a lot of the cohesion and unity that team built up over last year will remain intact. This year, McDonald expects those returners to help open up the scoring possibilities, and keep those same possibilities away from opponents.

"I just want them to play better as a team," McDonald said. "Canby lacrosse has just been a couple isolation guys scoring most of the goals. I just want team lacrosse. Defensively that's a big spot we need to improve in this program. It's been on the backburner for a while. That's my main deal is defense. I think defensively we'll be way improved from before."

One of the keys to those improvements is the physicality with which Canby will approach their game. As one athlete put it, 'play mean.'

"We're more of a physical team this year, defensively," McDonald said. "I think we're really good with our stick defensively. We've got a few kids that are really physical. We've got a lot of kids that just play smart, right position, good with their stick."

Key returning players will be senior Jacob Huggins, sophomore Ronan Gay, senior Zach Pilorget, and senior Andrew Strand, along with a promising new addition in freshman Noah Hansen. Those players, along with the rest of the talented Canby squad, will need to be on their A-game when they run up against the toughest team in the Three Rivers League. Last year, West Linn went 10-0 in league play, but McDonald expects there to be a new conference threat.

"Lakeridge and Lake Oswego are going to be the teams to beat in our league," McDonald said. "A lot of that West Linn team transferred to Lakeridge. That'll be tough. We'll be tough too, but those two teams are probably going to be the top teams right now. If we were any other league, I'd think we would be right at the top. We're in a tough, tough league."

When his team returns in full from injuries and suspensions, McDonald expects the season to get off and running to contend for the league title.

"Early on it's going to be a little tough, but a couple weeks from now we'll be in way better shape," McDonald said. "Going into it I think we're going to be pretty good. I still think we're going to be pretty good. We've just to get over these humps and go at it."

Canby's lacrosse team plays its first game on March 20 on the road against Newberg, followed by a home game against Wilsonville on March 22 at 7:30 p.m.

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