For Lexie Sawin, it's all about the team
TIGARD — When it comes to sports, there seems to be only one thing that really matters to Lexie Sawin.
That would be "the team".
And she'll do anything for her team. She certainly did at Tigard High School.
She was always ready to step up as the last line of defense for the Tigard girls soccer team. As the Tiger goalkeeper, she thrived under the pressure of keeping the other team from putting the ball into the back of the net.
During basketball season, she would do whatever the Tigers needed her to do — grab a rebound, come up with a steal, bring the ball up court — anything.
If there was a loose ball for the taking, you could count on Sawin diving to the hardwood to grab it.
And, of course, Sawin always strived to be the best teammate she could be — and she always did that with a smile on her face.
"Being an all-around good teammate is so important," Sawin, who graduated from Tigard High School earlier this month, said as she looked back at her time playing for her Tiger teams. "I try to be encouraging to everyone. I always wanted to work hard and be a good teammate."
Her coaches noticed.
"She never put herself first, or her own stats first," Tigard High School girls basketball coach Steve Naylor said of Sawin. "That's why she was so valuable. She made the other players better."
"Lexie is a great example of a student-athlete, and makes you wish you could be like her, your kids could be like her and you want to be around her," Tigard girls soccer coach Paul Slover said. "Leader, smart, fun, enthusiastic, serious and diligent are a few words I have, and would, use to describe Lexie."
The term "good teammate" would also apply — both on the soccer field and on the basketball court.
"I wanted to be a leader by example," Sawin said. "I always loved the team dynamic."
You can also call that "good teammate" something else — the Times' Athlete of the Year from Tigard High School.
The honor goes to the top senior-class athlete, as seen by the Times, at Tigard High School for the 2016-2017 school year.
"I've grown to be who I am because of sports," Sawin said. "It's been such a big part of my life. The teams at Tigard were so great. The coaches were awesome and I couldn't ask for better teammates. Win or lose, I couldn't ask for more."
It takes a certain mind-set to be a goalkeeper in soccer.
You have to always be ready to go all out, and you have to be able to endure the pressure of almost any situation.
So being a keeper was perfect for Sawin.
"When I tell people I'm a goalie, I get mixed responses," Sawin said with a laugh. "That position is challenging, and the pressure is always on you. But I enjoy the pressure. It's sometimes nerve-wracking, but I like the excitement of it."
Sawin was one of leaders for the young Tigard soccer team last fall.
"We were really young," she said. "It was a different dynamic. The experience wasn't there, and we had a lot of learning to do."
The young Tigard team struggled at times, going 1-4-3 in Three Rivers League play, but the Tigers did get a chance to play in a Class 6A play-in match at South Salem, with the winner advancing to Class 6A state playoffs.
"So many things went wrong that day," Sawin said of the play-in contest at South Salem. "We had bus problems, and had to drive ourselves down there at the last minute. But it was everyone's goal to get a game into the playoffs."
The Tigers reached that goal, getting a 2-1 win over the Saxons, with Sawin making some key saves early in the second half.
"We overcame a lot of struggles to get into the playoffs," Sawin said. "Getting that win put the cherry on top."
In the first round of the state playoffs, in a road match against No. 1 seed Jesuit, the Tigers played a strong first half before falling 4-0 to the Crusaders.
"They were the No. 1 seed, and we were all nervous," Sawin said. "But we wanted to go out there and play for each other. We were excited, and we had nothing to lose. We held our own for the first half. It was a good last hurrah."
And it was a good season for Sawin, who was an All-Three Rivers League honorable-mention pick at goalie.
"Being a captain, I wanted to lead the best I could," she said. "I always tried to do my best. I put my full effort into it."
"She has been instrumental in making Tigard girls soccer a program students want to be a part of," Slover said of Sawin. "As a goalkeeper, she led her teammates and gave them confidence to be able to perform to their best abilities. Lexie was great to coach. (Tigard assistant) Justin Holmes said that 'Lexie makes me want to do my best, because she is so much fun to push and get the best of.'
"Team leader and sometimes team mom, Lexie will be missed and appreciated as she moves onward and forward with her journey."
Before her senior basketball season at Tigard, Sawin, as a junior, was a starter on the Tiger squad that reached the 2016 Class 6A girls basketball state championship game.
"That was so much fun," Sawin said. "We bonded so much. We truly worked for each other. It was an amazing experience that I'll never forget."
Sawin started for that Tiger team that opened the Class 6A state tournament, held at the University of Portland's Chiles Center, with a 53-35 quarterfinal win over Sheldon. That Tigard team then upended Three Rivers League rival Canby 50-35 in the semifinals.
In the Class 6A state championship game, Tigard was edged 49-42 by South Salem. Sawin pulled down four rebounds in the title tilt.
"That season was so much fun," Sawin said. "We went into it with a lot of pressure. We knew we could be good, and we just wanted to get as far as we could."
And Sawin played a key role for the Tigers in that season that saw them make the title tilt.
"I saw myself as an all-around hard-worker," the 5-foot-8 Sawin said. "I could go into the post if needed, but I could also bring the ball up. And I'm not afraid to get on the ground to get the ball."
The senior season
As a senior, Sawin was part of a Tigard team that had to undergo some changes, after losing 6-foot-3 Elise Conroy to graduation.
"We had to switch up some things," Sawin said, referring to Tigard's past stifling zone defense, which was anchored by Conroy. "(Tigard assistant) Mallory (Goldammer) worked with us on a man-to-man defense. It was a lot of learning and hard work, but we executed it well. She was so proud of us, and we were proud of ourselves. It was awesome."
The team also had a different look on offense, without Conroy in the post.
"We didn't have anyone super tall, or crazy fast," Sawin said. "We were all on an even playing field. We all had our strengths and weaknesses."
On of Sawin's strengths was doing whatever she needed to do to get any ball up for grabs.
"She probably led us in offensive rebounds," Naylor said. "Because she would just go for it."
The Tigers ended up winning the Three Rivers League title with a 14-2 record.
"That title meant so much to us," Sawin said. "Our league is so strong. Every game, you don't know what the outcome was going to be."
Tigard opened the Class 6A state playoffs with a 73-45 win over West Albany. In the second round, with a trip to the state tournament on the line, the Tigers were tipped 56-49 by Sunset.
"That was a rough game. Sunset is such a good team," Sawin said. "But I'm very proud of what we did this season. We played so well together, and loved each other like a family."
And Sawin was a big part of that family.
"The cool thing is that she's one of the most coachable players I've ever had," Naylor said of Sawin. "She just got better and better. She gave 100-percent effort every day, and, off the court, she was a good leader. She always did the right thing."
Strong support system
In both soccer and basketball, Sawin's biggest support likely came from her parents, Dave and Clair Sawin.
"They've been there for me since Day One," Lexie Sawin said. "They're at every game. My dad would work around his work schedule to get to my games. Sometimes, he would fly in from meetings in another state to watch me, and then fly out the next day. If he had to miss a game, he'd be texting my mom to get the play-by-play."
And that support has been a big key for Sawin.
"It's so important," she said. "That motivates you to play the best you can. You want to show them that their hard work has paid off."
Sawin also gets support from her younger brother Eric, a Tigard High School junior-to-be, and also a Tiger athlete.
"He's been an amazing supporter," Lexie Sawin said. "And I'm there for him, too. Both being athletes, we help each other out."
And Sawin has enjoyed even more support from outside her family.
"I want to say a big thank you to the Tigard community. They're great," she said. "And I love all my coaches. Paul and Justin were always fun at practice, and they had so much energy. Naylor has so much passion for basketball. I took a class from him this year, and he has the same passion for film and history. Mallory and Jason (Ashley) were awesome. They would always take the time to help us out.
"Overall, it's just been an amazing experience. It couldn't have been any better."
Tiger to Cougar
Sawin will be attending college at Washington State University, located in Pullman, Wash.
"I'm going to miss Tigard so much," she said. "It's a special place. But I'm excited to branch off into the next chapter of my life."
Sawin isn't going to play basketball or soccer at Washington State, but she plans on playing some intramural sports.
"Sports have been such a big part of my life," she said.
Sawin plans on studying Marketing, with a minor in Sports Management.
"I want to stay involved with sports," she said. "I'll see when this will take me."
Wherever it takes her, you can likely count on her to be a team player.