Lions hope for their third state championship in the last five years

by: VERN UYETAKE - Kristin Elich is a top returning senior for West Linn's girls golf team this year. She finished in a tie for 10th at state last season. The West Linn girls golf team finished second in state last year and coach Bob Turnquist hopes for an improvement this spring. That can only mean one thing for the Lions: its third state title in five years and its first since 2011.

No doubt the Lions will be one of the favorites this year, returning five players with varsity experience, including at least two who Turnquist believes can challenge for the individual state championship.

West Linn has already racked up its first tournament win of the year, cruising to a victory in the Tualatin Invitational March 17 at Tualatin Country Club.

The Lions shot a team score of 328, a strong number this early in the season, but Turnquist knows there's room for improvement.

West Linn will be led this year by Sarah Archuleta, who was a freshman on the team the last time the Lions won the state title. She finished seventh individually last year and sixth as a sophomore.

Both Archuleta and Kristin Elich, also a senior who finished tied for 10th last year, are focused on wrapping up their high school careers on a high note.

“They both have a shot, honestly. They were a little unsatisfied last year and I'm excited about that. I think it's going to be a close competition. I don't think anyone is going to blow away the field by 10 strokes,” Turnquist said.

Amanda Elich, who tied with her sister for 10th last year, is also back as a sophomore and also has the potential to catch fire on any given day.

Katie Fillion and Chloe Barnes, both sophomores who played rounds at the state tournament last year, round out the squad's top-five and a host of talented freshmen and sophomores will also challenge for varsity positions this year.

“It's early, but my prediction is that we're going to be better. We're better last year at the 3, 4 and 5 spots. Each of those girls is about 10 shots better which makes us tough to beat, and having Kristin and Sarah 1 and 2 very solid,” Turnquist said.

Turnquist felt that the Lions were lacking in big tournament experience last year which hurt them at state. So this season, the team has upped its competitiveness in practices.

“The kids told us in the offseason that they wanted to compete against each other in practices and against the coaches, so we've been playing a lot of games, focusing on our short game and the practices are more fun and competitive,” Turnquist said.

West Linn has also increased the number of invitationals it will compete in this year, making sure that it sees some of the best courses in the state and plays against the best competition.

The Lions will be heavy favorites to roll through the Three Rivers League again this year but the focus of the entire season is on state at Emerald Valley in Eugene.

West Linn will play in the state preview tournament prior to the season-ending event to get a feel for the course. West Linn won its last state title in 2011 at Emerald Valley.

Defending champion Sheldon should be strong again this year along with Jesuit, Beaverton, St. Mary's and Central Catholic.

Turnquist knows that the potential is there for the team to accomplish its goals this season and he has been impressed with its determination so far.

“It's a very good team. I think it's as good as the team in 2011 and it's fun to coach," Turnquist said.

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