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The Lions snap a three-game losing streak to Tualatin, hand Wolves their first league loss.

COURTESY PHOTO - The West Linn boys soccer team gathers before the start of its 3-1 win over Tualatin at Tualatin High School on Monday, Sept. 22.In a scene eerily similar to last season, the West Linn boys soccer team went up 1-0 just four minutes into their critical Three Rivers League match against Tualatin.

But unlike their previous match, when the Lions' early lead was erased under an avalanche of Tualatin goals, West Linn kept the pressure on this time and emerged with a 3-1 victory on Monday, Sept. 20, at Tualatin High School.

"Getting off to an early start was crucial if we were going to have success in this game," said West Linn senior defender Alejandro Valdes, who scored his team's first goal against Tualatin.

"Getting a positive result against Tualatin was one of our goals this season," said West Linn senior Owen Caba, who assisted on his team's second goal. "We've had a tough time stopping their attack in the past, so it felt good to hold them to one and get three ourselves."

With the win, the Lions extended their unbeaten streak to three games and improved to 2-1-0 in Three Rivers League play and 3-1-1 overall. The Timberwolves, meanwhile, saw their three-game winning streak snapped and fell to 3-1-0 in the TRL and 4-2-0 overall.

The Lions started quickly on Monday, with Valdes giving his team a 1-0 edge just four minutes into the contest. After some crisp one-touch interplay through the midfield that moved the ball into Tualatin's defensive end, senior Ian Hansen lifted a long corner kick from the right side to the back post. Valdes maneuvered himself into position and headed it home to the delight of the West Linn supporters in attendance.

Valdes noted the importance of the quick start, but also reminded his teammates that the game was far from over, especially with the strength of the Tualatin attack behind senior Ben Augee and junior Remus Repcak.

"I knew Ian had quite a boot, so I figured there would be an opportunity over the top to get on the ball," Valdes said.

Valdes and the Lions struck again just five minutes later, this time off another set piece just to the right of the penalty area near the end line. After winning a free kick, Caba played a low ball along the ground that skipped through a tangle of legs to Valdes, who calmly slotted the ball home into the right corner to put West Linn up 2-0.

"That goal was funny as the original play was intended for Luke (Tinsley), but it snuck through everyone and I just reacted quickly," he said.

After the early flurry of activity, the game then settled into a back-and-forth affair with both teams pressing forward as Tualatin attempted to climb back into the game, while West Linn pushed to put the game out of reach.

Tualatin junior Jack Vohland made a strong kick save in the 30th minute to thwart a golden West Linn opportunity, while Lions' senior goalie Tyler Davis and the West Linn defense focused their attention on keeping the Tualatin attack in check.

Finally, with just 20 minutes remaining, West Linn scored on a rapid counterattack that saw senior forward Carson Gabler switch a 25-yard ball to senior Thomas Pierce on the right side. Pierce turned and accelerated past the Timberwolves' defense, then fired a low bullet just inside the near post to give the Lions a seemingly insurmountable 3-0 lead.

Tualatin continued to battle, however, and broke through in the 67th minute when Repcak jumped on a loose ball near the top of the West Linn penalty box and laced a right-footed shot into the back of the net to bring the Timberwolves within 3-1.

But that would prove to be the last score by either team, with an electrifying effort by Lion senior Max Kelley parried away by Vohland as the final whistle sounded.

The West Linn win ended a three-game losing streak against Tualatin and moved the Lions within one game of first place as both teams battle Lakeridge for the top spot in the TRL.

Coming on the heels of a 2-0 home victory against Oregon City and a hard-fought 1-1 tie at Centennial, the Lions look ready for a crucial stretch of games against Tigard, Lake Oswego, and Canby, before a rematch with top-ranked Lakeridge on Monday, Oct. 4.

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