Oregon City lacrosse players have dedicated their season to Cassie Powell

by: RAFAEL GONZALEZ -      Cassie Powell and senior co-captain Danielle Kirby (26) do stick high fives with Oregon City High School lacrosse players prior to last Fridays game with Lakeridge. The Pioneers have dedicated their season to the Oregon City 8-year-old, who is battling neuroblastoma, a rare type of brain cancer. Cassie was guest of honor at the Lakeridge game and she announced goals in a 19-8 Oregon City victory.As the state high school girls lacrosse playoffs grow ever nearer, the Oregon City Pioneers are darkhorses in the race for the 2013 state title. But anyone who thinks they can count the Pioneers out had better think again.

The Pioneers have an added motivation to play hard this season. They have dedicated their season to Cassie Powell, an 8-year-old Oregon City girl who is battling neuroblastoma, a rare type of brain cancer.

“It’s given our team more of a purpose,” said Oregon City senior co-captain Danielle Kirby. “Usually our goal is a state championship. This year it’s different. Our goal this year is to help Cassie. To do what we can to help make her life better....

“It’s given us a new perspective on what’s really important in life. I love playing sports and I’m really competitive, but it’s made me realize there are things in life that are a lot more important than playing high school sports or winning in lacrosse....

“We found out about Cassie and dedicated our season to her about a week-and-a-half into the season, and I noticed a difference right away. Our next practice was a lot more intense and we’ve become closer as a team.”

Oregon City players show up for games with gold ribbons in their hair, inscribed with the letters PFC, “Play for Cassie.”

Kirby and her teammates met Cassie for the first time on April 25. She came to their practice. They presented her with a team poster autographed by the players and loaded with inspirational messages for her recovery, and they taught her how to throw and catch a lacrosse ball.

And last Friday, a day after chemotherapy, Cassie was the guest of honor at Oregon City’s Three Rivers League game with Lakeridge. Cassie tapped sticks with Oregon City players for good luck prior to the game, she got to announce the Pioneers’ 19 goals in a 19-8 Oregon City victory over the seventh-ranked Pacers; and $1,600 was raised to help pay for Cassie’s medical expenses.

“It’s a huge deal,” Kirby said. “To see the smile on her face, instead of the look of an 8-year-old with cancer, affected me hugely....”

“Hearing Cassie and her friends announce goals was definitely my highlight of the night,” said Oregon City coach Dara Kramer.

Kramer said people can donate to help Cassie’s family out financially through the internet at, or by calling 800-769-9152.

It’s been an up-and-down season for the Pioneers, who play in the toughest league in the state. League teams West Linn (10-1, 7-1) and Lake Oswego (8-2, 7-2) have greater experience and are ranked first and second in the state. Wilsonville (16-1, 11-0), which competes in the Northwest Oregon Conference, is ranked third. Oregon City (11-3-0, 6-2-0) is ranked fourth in the state.

The Pioneers upset Lake Oswego 10-8 in an April 11 game in Oregon City, but they lost to the Lakers 16-4 on April 29. They gave Wilsonville a run for its money on March 21, dropping a 12-11 barnburner. They lost to West Linn 11-6 on April 22 and they meet the Lions again this Thursday, at West Linn, in their final game of the regular season.

Kramer said the Pioneers had a sub-par game in the April 29 loss to Lake Oswego because the team had several players out or weakened by norovirus.

The Pioneers were at the top of their game in last Friday’s rout of Lakeridge.

“The team played very well together,” Kramer said. “They played a smart passing game, hustled for everything, and they gave Cassie 19 opportunities to say ‘Goal! Oregon City!’”

Seven different Oregon City players found the net, led by Kirby (4 goals, 4 assists), McKenzie Rollins (4 goals, 2 assists), April Lanz (4 goals) and Cassie Downing (3 goals). Kennedy Kullmann scored twice and Lindsi Peters and Britney Smith added single tallies.

Oregon City keeper Annaliese Hernandez made saves on 11 of 18 shots on-frame.

Coach Kramer commented: “Cassie Downing had a strong game on both ends of the field. Her draw controls and transition speed were outstanding.

“Senior captains April Lanz and Danielle Kirby continued the great assist/goal connections that they were having in the Clackamas game.

“Senior captain Emily Krupa helped the team control 70 percent of the draws, a major improvement over the 26 percent of draws we controlled in our first match-up with Lakeridge.”

The Pioneers have locked up a berth in the state playoffs, as have Lake Oswego and West Linn.

Oregon City will begin the playoffs on Wednesday, May 15, hosting a yet-to-be-determined opponent. With a win in that game, the Pioneers would host a quarterfinal game on May 17. A quarterfinal win would likely advance them to a May 21 semifinal game at Lake Oswego or West Linn.

Kramer said of this Thursday’s game with West Linn: “They had a great win over Lake Oswego recently, and they’re an incredibly deep team. You can’t just choose two girls to shut down and leave it at that. Our defense has to be completely in sync to stop their talented offense.

“Our first meeting with them was 11-6, and five goals in lacrosse is like one goal in soccer. It means they’re within our reach. But it’s going to take a great game from us to get a win.

“We need to move the ball better in transition than we did in our last match-up; we need to win more draws; and we need to win the 50/50 ground balls. Possession is so key when two strong teams are playing one another.”

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