Lake Oswego Athlete of the Year Lauren Gilbert: A determined leader
Lake Oswego High School's Lauren Gilbert was determined.
She was determined to lead, determined to score and determined to go out a winner in her senior season.
Gilbert, 18, did not disappoint on any of those fronts.
Gilbert led her Laker girls soccer team to a second-place finish in the Three Rivers League and a Class 6A state playoff berth. In response, she was awarded with first-team all-league and second-team all-state honors.
During her senior lacrosse season, Gilbert was even more dominant, leading her Lakers to a Three Rivers League championship and a second straight Oregon Girls Lacrosse Association state championship. She was rewarded for her efforts by being named to the all-Three Rivers first team, all-state first team, All-American first team and winner of the Oregon Sports Awards Prep Lacrosse Player of the Year.
For all those reasons and many more, Gilbert has been named the Lake Oswego Review 2017 Athlete of the Year for Lake Oswego High School. The Athlete of the Year honor is awarded to the top senior athlete at both Lake Oswego and Lakeridge high schools.
Following her star-studded high school lacrosse career — she was a three-time state champion, three-time all-league selection, three-time all-state pick and three-time all-American — Gilbert is taking her prodigious talents on to Northwestern University in Chicago.
Gilbert said that after her freshman year of high school, she attended a camp at Northwestern and almost immediately fell in love with it.
"I absolutely loved it," she said. "The girls, the program, the campus — everything. I thought 'What better place could I find than right here?'"
Thanks to her incredible success in high school lacrosse, Gilbert was able to turn that dream into a reality, joining a Northwestern team that regularly plays in the NCAA tournament, reaching the second round in each of the past two seasons and the quarterfinals in 2015.
"They've been a power in women's lacrosse for pretty much the past decade," Gilbert said. "They ended up coming to some of my (club team) tournaments and I ended up committing in November of my sophomore year."
That said, Gilbert's athletic exploits in each of her high school seasons began on the soccer pitch. And through her high school career, Gilbert's teams — and Gilbert herself — got better each year.
The Lakers made the state playoffs in each of Gilbert's four years on the varsity team, finishing sixth in the Three Rivers League in her freshman and sophomore years, fifth in her junior season (and advancing to the state quarterfinals) and second in her senior campaign.
"I was still pretty dedicated to soccer," Gilbert said. "I went to lots of team camps and did training over the summer. I still love the game of soccer and I'm just as competitive as ever."
"She was one of the impact players on the team as she developed as a junior and senior," said Lake Oswego coach Dominic Yambasu. "She made things happen."
A forward in the Lakers' 4-3-3 lineup, Gilbert used her speed to push the ball up the edges of the field and send crosses to her teammates in the penalty box. Besides that, she also proved herself a solid scorer, finishing her senior year with five goals and three assists.
"Being fast helps, but I got a lot better at finishing this year. I got a lot better with my feet," she said.
"She's an athlete, lots of speed," Yambasu said. "She's very technical, she has great vision and she's a great team player."
Indeed, her love of soccer made it that much harder to see her senior season end. After beating West Salem in the first round of the playoffs — Gilbert scored twice in that win — the Lakers ran headlong into top-ranked Metro League champion Jesuit and saw their season end in a 6-0 defeat.
"It was really frustrating because we did so well in league and had one of the toughest non-league schedules in the state," she said, noting her team's overall skill and the number of Lakers who also played club soccer. "When we were on, our combinations and our passing were really good. We had a lot of good finishers and our defense was all seniors which really helped."
Going into her senior lacrosse season, Gilbert was — understandably — feeling some pressure. The Lakers, after all, were defending Three Rivers and state champions, had graduated just four seniors from the 2016 team, and Gilbert was now a team captain.
Fortunately for Gilbert, she had a ton of great teammates to help her carry the load, including her best friend and fellow All-American and team captain Riley Hertford.
"Riley and I felt some pressure as captains, but it was good pressure," Gilbert said. "In our program, the expectation is that every year we're going to win state. So, Riley and I, multiple times, had to remind the team that it doesn't just happen. You have to earn it and you also should enjoy the process and enjoy the process of getting better."
Leading her team — with Hertford by her side — was one of Gilbert's main goals and challenges during her senior season.
"It was an important year for us," Gilbert said. "It was our first year as captains and we had to learn how to be leaders."
Her work effort always stood out to Lakers coach Lauren Anderson.
"She works super hard on her game on her own, (and she's) really committed to being as prepared as she can be to step on the field in college," Anderson said. "She's definitely not an athlete who will say 'I wish I had ...' in terms of preparation. She is happy putting in the time off field, which obviously pays off."
It paid off big-time, with Gilbert finishing her senior year with 97 goals, 40 assists, 82 ground balls, 38 turnovers caused and 181 draw controls.
While it would be easy to say that the Lakers were destined for greatness right from the start of their 2017 season, there were some challenges and speed bumps along the way.
Lake Oswego fought to three tough wins in its season-opening five-game winning streak, then fell to Florida's Bishop Moore Catholic High School.
The Lakers then won their next four contests before getting smacked 19-6 by California's Novato High School — the top-ranked team in the West and No. 20 in the country — at Lake Oswego on April 14.
"We spent a lot of time getting ready for that game and it was our worst game of the season," Gilbert said. Afterward, "a lot of players said 'It's a non-league game,' and 'We weren't supposed to win.'"
That loss inspired a heartfelt team meeting that helped set the Lakers' course for the rest of their season.
"We told everybody to keep their goals in mind and to compete every time," Gilbert said. "It should always be about us coming together with the chance to succeed."
And succeed they did, closing the 2017 season with 11 straight wins, an unbeaten Three Rivers championship and a scoring margin of 175-53 over those final 11 victories. Included in that run were Lake Oswego's playoff wins over St. Mary's (21-8), Wilsonville (11-6) and Oregon Episcopal School (13-3) in the title contest.
"Winning state was awesome. It was a really good feeling," she said. "Riley and I couldn't imagine going out any other way."
Interestingly, though, that state championship win was not Gilbert's favorite memory from the 2017 season. Instead, she preferred to focus on the Lakers' 18-17 come-from-behind victory over Lake Highland, Fla., back on March 29.
In that game, the Lakers trailed by seven goals at the half, but ended up on top thanks to a scintillating second-half effort spearheaded by Gilbert. She finished the game with nine goals on 10 shots and 10 draw controls won.
"At the half, we felt like we were still in it. There was no reason we couldn't come back," she said. "We came out in the second half and that was the most fun game of lacrosse we played. It was really cool that we were able to come back like that and come together like that."
For her talent, her work ethic, her leadership and more, Gilbert made an indelible impact on both her high school teams.
"I think I will always remember her running 'til she had nothing left in the tank when we beat West Linn in the finals last year," said Anderson, recalling Gilbert's five-goal, two-assist MVP performance. She's "focused, in everything she does."
"She's a coach's dream," added Yambasu. "I'll miss her smile, and her personality was delightful."