West Linn boys soccer races past Lake Oswego 3-2
The West Linn boys soccer team started fast.
Lake Oswego finished fast.
In the end, the Lions' early edge carried the day, with West Linn racing out to a three-goal lead early in the second half, then holding on to win 3-2 at Lake Oswego High School on Thursday, Oct. 24.
"I think that 3-2 scoreline at the end isn't really representative of how the game went," said West Linn senior midfielder Kyle Gregg, "with us being up 3-0 and putting in our subs at the end, but I think we came out ready to play and it's good to go up early rather than going down early like the last few games."
"Every day, we're trying to improve more than the last game, and last game wasn't our best game so we really came out and put everything out there," said Lion sophomore midfielder/defender Maxwell Kelley, who scored his team's second goal.
With the win, the 26th-ranked Lions snapped a two-game losing streak and improved to 7-4-0 and third place in the Three Rivers League and 7-6-0 overall. Lake Oswego, meanwhile, finished its TRL season at 5-7-0 and fourth place, along with a 7-7-0 overall mark.
The Lakers, currently ranked No. 32, must now wait to see if they earn a spot in the 32-team Class 6A state playoff field. The 6A rankings will freeze after tonight's final regular-season contests.
"We put ourselves in a bad position so we'll see how it pans out," said Lake Oswego junior defender Mohnish Judge. "But if we do make the playoffs, we have to come with the mindset that we're the underdogs and we're going to go fight."
"We have the talent. We just need to make sure that we're focused and relaxed and make sure that we come with 100% grit and not be too anxious," added LO junior midfielder Roman Sinkus.
To suggest that West Linn started quickly against Lake Oswego would be a massive understatement. After getting an early shot on goal — a header — by senior forward/midfielder Jacob Babalai, Babalai gave his team a 1-0 lead when he made a 35-yard run up the left seam through the Lake Oswego defense and scored at the left post just 1 minute, 6 seconds into the contest.
While the Lakers didn't score until the second half, they created a stellar chance just 10 minutes after Babalai's goal when senior midfielder Aaron Rudder made a long throw-in from the right side of the field to senior forward Sam Atchison who drove a hard volley just outside the Lions' goal.
Six minutes after that, LO senior midfielder Chris Anissian hot a long, angled shot from the right corner that ricocheted off the left post of the West Linn goal and out.
Next, it was the Lions' turn, with sophomore midfielder Owen Caba sending a corner kick into the Lakers' penalty box from the right side where Kelley missed just right with a solid header.
West Linn then extended its lead to 2-0 with 13:14 remaining in the first half when Caba hit a corner kick from the right side of the field and Kelley headed it past Laker senior goalkeeper Johann Shahalami at the near post.
"We've got a young team, but this young team can do stuff that people don't think we can do," Kelley said. "We can really go out there and perform with each player on this team."
The Lions opened the second half with additional pressure, creating three corner kicks in the first seven minutes, then boosting their lead to 3-0 when senior forward/midfielder Noah Gitler rebounded a shot and scored at the top right corner of the Lakers' goal from 15 yards out with 30:25 left to play.
To their great credit, however, the Lakers kept playing hard, kept creating chances and finally got on the scoreboard with 12:21 to play when Anissian controlled a bouncing ball at the top of the Lions' penalty box, turned and hit a shot off a West Linn defender that curled into the bottom left corner of the goal.
Then, in the final minute, Anissian sent a corner kick into the box from the right side where Rudder's header was deflected away and Atchison knocked it home for the final 3-2 margin with 17 seconds left on the clock.
"We just didn't come out fully prepared and I think that hurt us in the long run, but I think, ultimately, we did a really good job of bouncing back throughout," Judge said.
"If we'd gotten the ball rolling sooner, then I think this game would have gone differently," Sinkus said. "If we'd have scored in the first half, or got to 2-2 and tied up sooner, it would have been a lot different."
For their part, the Lions were setting their sights on their Tuesday, Oct. 29, finale — a 7:30 p.m. home game against Canby — and their Saturday, Nov. 2, playoff opener.
"We just want to keep the ball on the ground and make sure we keep getting it wide, and keeping the ball is one of our keys to winning games," Gregg said. "We just need to keep the ball at our feet and take advantage of Jacob (Babalai) if we can, but if we can't, there's more guys open for us."
"It's just playing our game, playing the game we know and just going out there and winning," Kelley said.
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