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The 2021 state champions show they're ready for another strong run in the 2022 season.

PMG PHOTO: MILES VANCE - Lakeridge defender Cooper Kessee races upfield during his team's 13-3 win over Sherwood at Lakeridge High School on Wednesday, March 30.The champs are back.

The Lakeridge boys lacrosse team — which stepped up to win the de facto state championship game at the end of the pandemic-shortened 2021 season — are showing that they'll be a force to be reckoned with again in 2022.

The Pacers' latest show of strength came on Wednesday, March 30, when they routed Sherwood 13-3 in non-league play at Lakeridge High School.

"It feels good. We're coming off (spring) break and we only had one practice before this game so it was a little sloppy coming out, obviously, but we pulled it out," said Lakeridge forward Ethan Bernhardt — a transfer from Sherwood — who led all scorers with four goals. "It was still a team effort and it looked good overall."

"The passes weren't there, especially for me," said Pacer goalie Andrew Nyhus, who allowed just one goal during his three quarters of action, that despite breaking his stick right before the start of the game. "Other than the passing, other than a little bit of lag time after spring break, I thought we did really well, especially with two people not playing."

With the win — the second straight for Lakeridge (which played without mainstays J.D. Henninger and Jake Reichle) — the Pacers improved to 2-0 overall. Sherwood, meanwhile, lost for the first time, saw its two-game winning streak snapped and fell to 2-1 overall.

While disappointed with the loss, the Bowmen said they would learn from the defeat and come back better.

"I think we played as hard as we could. We did what we could," said Sherwood midfielder Chase Quirk. "We've got to acknowledge the loss, flush it and then just keep moving on and hope that we do good in league."

"It's all about fundamentals," added midfielder Jalen Cole, who scored once in the loss. "We put all the effort in, we were playing hard, but we just weren't seeing the looks we wanted. We just need to be better next time."

The Pacers hit the ground running in the first quarter, getting a Bernhardt goal just 1 minute, 12 seconds into the contest, then adding three more in a span of just 1:20 midway through the period.

Those last three scores came on a 15-yard shot by Tyler Williams, a 10-yarder after a spin move inside by Nolan Lawler and — just 24 seconds later — the third on a cut by Brooks Dennett for a 4-0 lead at the end of the quarter.

Sherwood's Josh Young took a pass from teammate Noah Richmond and scored from close range 4:39 into the second period to cut the Lakeridge lead to 4-1, but the Pacers held the upper hand the rest of the half.

The Pacers scored the final three goals of the quarter to push ahead 7-1 at halftime, with Lawler connecting on a cut, Bernhardt hitting a sidearm shot and Matthew Wright coming out from behind the Bowmen goal to score on the left side with just 10 seconds remaining in the half.

Already comfortably ahead, the Pacers put the game out of reach by scoring five straight times in the third and fourth quarters to extend their margin to 12-1. Wright, Preston Stewart and Williams all hit in the third quarter to boost their team's lead to 10-1, while in the fourth, Bernhardt added two more scores and Walker Godfrey one.

Sherwood, to its credit, kept pushing in the fourth quarter, getting a driving goal from Cole, and later, a score from Joshua Wernet for the final 13-3 margin.

The Pacers are hopeful that they are on the verge of another huge season.

"Every single year as a program, our goal is to win the state championship. Every single year," Nyhus said. "It's not 'We want to get over .500 this year.' Every single year, our goal as a team is to win the state championship."

For their part, the Bowmen believe they'll be ready for league play and ready to compete.

"I think we will have a great year," Quirk said. "I think we have a great opportunity to win league. We just need to do as much as we can, put in the work outside of practice, make sure practices are up to par and do what we can."

For Lakeridge, Lawler finished with two goals and two assists, Williams had two goals and one assist, Wright had two goals, and Cash Groves and Ty Cowie gave their team a 10-5 edge on faceoffs.

For Sherwood, Owen Maynard had one assist and Drew Fehrenbacher collected four ground balls.

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