The Lions get hot down the stretch, catch and pass Lakeridge for 2021 TRL crown.

PMG PHOTO: MILES VANCE - West Linn senior Eli Johnson celebrates his second goal in the Lions' 2-0 win over Lake Oswego at Lake Oswego High School on Wednesday, Oct. 20.There was no shortage of motivation in the regular-season finale between the West Linn and Lake Oswego boys soccer teams.

For the Lions, there was a shot at winning the 2021 Three Rivers League title. For the Lakers, there was a chance for an upset that might lift them into the state playoff field.

In the end, it was West Linn that got what it wanted, beating Lake Oswego 2-0 at Lake Oswego High School on Wednesday, Oct. 20.

"We just really wanted to take the title for league and get into (the state playoffs), and now we are probably going to get it," said West Linn senior forward Eli Johnson, who scored both of his team's goals against Lake Oswego.

"I think we have what it takes to go far, probably to the semis maybe, or the finals," said West Linn senior defender and team captain Ian Hansen, who helped keep the Lakers scoreless in the match. "I feel this is a good step going into it."

With the win — the Lions' fourth straight — fifth-ranked West Linn extended its unbeaten streak to 11 games and took the Three Rivers League title with a 9-1-1 record (10-1-2 overall). No. 37 Lake Oswego, meanwhile, saw its two-game winning streak snapped and finished TRL play with a 4-7-1 mark (5-8-1 overall).

"I think defensively we did really well," said Lake Oswego senior defender Carson Grending. "Of course, there were some unfortunate goals that they had, but offensively, we didn't finish our shots and I think that was our problem. But overall, as a team, I thought we did really well."

"It's always the attitude. I feel like we could have brought it more today," said Lake Oswego sophomore Evan Huber. "We didn't get the result we wanted, obviously, but I think we played all right."

West Linn 2, Lake Oswego 0

The Lions, who caught and passed Lakeridge in the final week of the regular season, started quickly against Lake Oswego, with Johnson collecting the ball in the Laker penalty box following a defensive mistake and scoring for a 1-0 lead just over five minutes into the contest.

That one-goal edge held up until the end of the first half, but the Lions added to it 13 minutes into the second. There, West Linn junior Ajani White ran onto the ball just inside the Lakers' half of the field and volleyed it over the LO defense to Johnson. That set up Johnson for a one-on-one chance against charging Laker senior keeper Ira Smith and Johnson chipped it over Smith's head to make it 2-0 with 26:48 left to play.

Lake Oswego didn't wilt, however. They battled back in the next 20 minutes, first challenging with a corner kick from Huber, then getting an 19-yard shot by Grending that ricocheted off the crossbar and out.

"Honestly, that might have given us a little more hope toward the end there," Grending said of his near goal. "We were down 2-0, but just getting that (might have given) us a little bit of hope, like 'We're still in this.'"

Instead, West Linn rode out the final minutes, secured its league title — its first since a co-championship in 2018 — and began looking ahead to the upcoming Class 6A state playoffs.

"I think we can take home state, definitely," Johnson said. "We work as a team really well. We've got little things to fix in the coming weeks, but I definitely think we have a really good shot."

"I think we're pretty prepared," Hansen agreed. "We'll probably get two home games in the playoffs, and we haven't lost on the road yet, so (it) will be interesting."

For Lake Oswego, which will return 11 varsity players from this year's team in 2022, confidence is high that next year may be better.

"We have a lot of young kids who will come back next year and play against all these teams, and we'll see what happens," Huber said. "I think if we grow some tempo in our team, maybe pass the ball around the back better and keep it a little bit more, we'll be a lot more successful."

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