The Lions have reloaded and hope to make a return to the state title game

by: VERN UYETAKE - Dean Swanson figures to be one of the top defenders in the state this season. He will anchor a strong back line on a team that hopes to get back to the state championship game. West Linn's boys lacrosse team is coming off a year where it advanced to the state championship game and was one of the top teams in the Northwest. The Lions are filling a number of holes from that roster but are doing so with an exceptionally talented sophomore class and, as a result, the team hopes to be in the running for a title once again.

West Linn went 3-0 in its trip to Florida over Spring Break, instilling optimism in the team.

“We did some really good things down there but it's still tough to know exactly where we are until we play some of the best teams in Oregon,” coach Mark Flood said.

The Lions figure to be one of the more athletic teams in the state this year and will look to move the ball up and down the field quickly.

“With our skill set, we'll try and push the action. That may cause some issues for our defense so there might be times when we have to find a happy medium and slow the ball down a bit,” Flood said.

West Linn returns its goalie in Will Strickland, anchoring a young defense. Sophomore Dean Swanson will captain the back line and Flood believes he is a Division I caliber player.

Another returning sophomore, Colin Squires, is the team's long-stick midfielder, a potential first-team all-state candidate at that position, and the rest of the defense will be bolstered by Pope McHenry and Jon Verbiest.

In the midfield, West Linn is extremely talented, keyed by returner Ryan Bowers. Fellow seniors Ryan Lonsway and Karter Ferrin will also shore up the Lions' transition game while Dylan Tuor and Sam Cook will give West Linn a nice one-two punch on face-offs according to Flood.

West Linn also has a very strong sophomore midfield line in Cooper Hill, Kieran Spence and Conner Berggren that it will run at teams.

At the attack, West Linn doesn't have quite as much depth as it did last season but the Lions aren't lacking in talented scorers.

Returning first-team all-state player Ryan Klose is back and will likely draw plenty of attention from opposing defenses but Ian Anderson and Jacob Taylor will provide difficult match-up issues.

Graeme Henderson will also make a big impact at attack for West Linn off the bench.

“We feel like all of those guys really complement each other well and give us options,” Flood said.

The potential certainly exists for the Lions to be an elite squad once again if the team can stay healthy throughout the course of the season.

“We could be a team that's capable of lighting it up on one night or maybe having some trouble against someone else just because it's a tough match-up. It's tough to say but we feel good about these guys,” Flood said.

The Lions took on Lincoln Wednesday night but results were not available at press time.

“The Metro League is very strong and our league is very good again. Lakeridge has looked very impressive and Clackamas has been beating everybody up,” Flood said.

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