The Lakers blow past West Linn in an impressive showing for their third title in four seasons

by: VERN UYETAKE - Lake Oswego celebrates a goal by senior Lilly Newman during its win over West Linn last week. Newman led all scorers with three goals in the game. The group of seniors on this year's Lake Oswego girls lacrosse team was already one of the most decorated in the history of the sport in Oregon. In their four years, they have advanced to four state title games and, last Wednesday, they may have saved their best performance for last.

Facing a West Linn team that has been its bitter rival, having split the last two state championships, Lake Oswego put together a thoroughly dominating performance, turning an early deficit into an 11-5 rout, a result that not many people saw coming.

The Lions and Lakers have been the definition of evenly matched in recent years, splitting their regular season series in 2013 and this spring and each besting the other in the state title game the last two seasons.

But last week at Tualatin High School, the Lions simply didn't have an answer for the Lakers' near-flawless execution and unselfish play.

West Linn jumped out to an early lead in the game, scoring a pair of goals in the first five minutes and going up 3-1 with 12 minutes to play in the first half.

“We're a team that never gives up and we don't get down on ourselves,” senior Lilly Newman said.

The Lions appeared to take a 4-1 lead moments later but the goal was disallowed because of a penalty.

The game shifted dramatically from that point on. Lake Oswego quickly countered with a goal from Lexi Cheetham off a penalty. Madeline Reece then won the ensuing draw and marched down the field for the tying goal.

After weathering the early storm from the Lions, Lake Oswego's defense tightened up dramatically, holding West Linn scoreless for nearly 20 straight minutes extending into the second half.

The Lakers keyed on the Lions' top scorers, forcing the ball out of their hands.

The Lions played solid defense in the first half as well as Lake Oswego dominated possession down the stretch but the Lakers' aggressiveness gave West Linn fits as it tried to clear the ball.

West Linn was also hindered by penalties which had the team playing shorthanded for large chunks of the game. Reece took advantage on draws, which played a big factor in the Lakers going on an 8-0 scoring run.

“We wanted it. We know what it's like to get here and come up short after last year. We worked so hard,” Reece said.

In earlier contests, the Lions have dominated on draws and have been arguably the best team in the state at that statistic. However, in the final, Lake Oswego won 12 draws compared to just six for West Linn.

The Lakers were also relentless on ground balls and were a step faster than the Lions all evening.

“Ground balls and draw and usually our forte but that's where we came through tonight,” coach Lauren Anderson said.

Lake Oswego led 6-3 at the half and didn't let up early in the second half.

Reece scored quickly off a penalty and Madison Focht followed with a goal just 90 seconds later. A defensive miscue by the Lions made it 9-3 as the Lakers closed in on another state title.

Six different players scored for Lake Oswego in the game led by a hat trick from Newman and two other players added assists as the Lakers spread the ball around and made very few mistakes in the second half.

“Everyone touched the ball and everyone contributed. That's the way we roll,” Anderson said.

The Lions were still able to muster some offense but every time the team looked to start a run to get back in the game, freshman goalie Riley Hertford responded with a key save. Hertford was brilliant in her first state title game, particularly in the second half, racking up a total of 16 saves. She was also smart and precise when she cleared the ball, helping to get the Lakers going in transition.

“Not bad for a freshman, right?,” Anderson said of her goalie.

When it was all said and done, Lake Oswego had convincingly rattled off its third state title in four years.

“Obviously I just broke down in tears. It's an incredible feeling. This is what we worked so hard for all year,” Newman said.

It was a stellar performance all around for the Lakers, who will graduate a terrific group of seniors. However, the team has plenty of stars returning next year on a squad that will undoubtedly be one of the favorites in the state once again.

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