In a span of four games, the Wilsonville boys lacrosse team’s defense went from developing to depleted.

All-state defender Luke Klassy broke his wrist in the Wildcats’ nonleague loss to Bend. Cam James sustained a season-ending knee injury against Bend-Summit a week later.

Indeed, just when it seemed as though Wilsonville was rounding into form, setbacks are testing the perseverance of a program that is hoping for another successful postseason under second-year coach Joe English.

“Losing Luke was a huge problem, and then losing Cam was just like a double whammy,” English said. “They help out on clearing so much, and they’re both really physical on-ball defenders. So we’re bringing up other kids who don’t have the experience, and this is when other teams are ramping up. It’s been a rough time to bring kids in with not a lot of experience and expect them to play at varsity level.”

But play they will. The No. 14 Wildcats (12-5, 3-2 in the Northwest League), who finished in third place in the regular-season conference standings behind No. 10 Sherwood and No. 16 Liberty, are scheduled to compete in a league playoff game at 6 p.m. May 14 at Sherwood High School.

The outcome of the game will determine whether Wilsonville will advance to the state playoffs with an automatic berth — each conference is guaranteed two bids — or receive an at-large spot in the championship bracket based on its power ranking.

It’s unlikely but possible that the Wildcats could fall out of the 24-team state tournament and into the Cascade Cup, a second-tier postseason for the next 16 teams in the power rankings.

The league playoff game offers Wilsonville a chance for redemption against Liberty, which prevailed 11-10 in the teams’ May 2 meeting at Randall Stadium. In that game, the Wildcats came back from a six-goal deficit before losing in the final minute.

“It was pretty frustrating,” English said. “We’re all fired up because we knew we could’ve played them better the first time.”

Wilsonville’s loss to the Falcons was its third one-goal game in five games and its fourth of the season. Three of its five losses have come by three goals or fewer.

The Wildcats have proven to be a capable offensive team, notching double-digit goals 10 times and scoring a season high May 8 at home in a 20-6 rout of Putnam.

But their success will also depend on their adaptability on defense. They are giving up an average of 7.06 goals per game this season, a figure that jumped to 9.25 in the final four league games without Klassy and James. The team is 10-1 when holding opponents to single digits.

Senior goalkeeper Evan Richardson, who received all-league recognition last year, anchors a unit that is relying on some young and inexperienced players in the postseason.

“We’re ready, and we know what to expect,” English said. “Basically, if we play up to our capabilities, we can compete with any team. But we have to be ready for any opponent. Last year, maybe we underestimated some opponents. That’s something we’re definitely trying to work on.”

Furnishing their futures

Several Wilsonville players are planning to continue their athletic careers after high school.

John Hodson will join the UCLA men’s lacrosse program next year and plans to pursue a career in medicine, English said.

Fellow seniors Michael Town (Arizona) and Cole Bronson (Montana) are also looking to play collegiate lacrosse, English said.

Steven Sawyer is headed to Olivet Nazarene in Illinois for football.

By Jeff Goodman
Sports editor
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