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The Lions' defense has allowed just one goal, while the West Linn attackers have fired 12 shots into the back of the net.

PMG PHOTO: ANDY DIECKHOFF - The West Linn High School girls soccer team is 4-0-1 through its first five matches, and the Lions have allowed just a single goal to their opponents during the unbeaten streak.

After only allowing one goal in five matches, the West Linn High School girls soccer team is hitting its stride as the nonleague season wraps up.

West Linn (4-0-1) defeated Central Catholic 2-0 at home on Tuesday, Sept. 20, marking the fourth shutout of the season for the Lions. As it stands, only one goal has crept past the defense, while West Linn has hit the net 12 times in its first five outings.

"We trust each other so much, so it's easy," sophomore goalkeeper Nyamma Nelson said regarding the Lions' early excellence at the back. West Linn has earned shutout wins against McNary, Century and Central Catholic, while also playing Beaverton to a 0-0 tie. The only goal against the Lions so far came during a 2-1 win over Wilsonville on Sept. 15.

Nelson chalks up the staunch defense to that trust the Lions have built up.

"Especially goalkeeper and defender, we need to trust each other a lot," said the sophomore. "We all work well together. We can take criticism, and we can give it. We communicate, and that's what makes our game flow so well."

Of course, holding opponents scoreless is only half the battle. To avoid a 0-0 draw like the one the Lions had against Beaverton, a modicum of offense is required.

PMG PHOTO: ANDY DIECKHOFF - West Linn junior Kate Cheldelin (15) scored the opening goal for the Lions in their 2-0 victory over Central Catholic on Tuesday, Sept. 20, at West Linn High School.

On Tuesday against Central Catholic, the Lions' offense roared to the tune of two goals. The first came in the 20th minute from junior midfielder Kate Cheldelin, who looped in a long shot from about 25 yards out and sent it careening past the outstretched fingers of the Central Catholic goalie. After battling back and forth for the next hour — with West Linn having most of the offensive chances — sophomore forward Cassidy Harding sealed the victory with a long shot of her own in the final minute.

To get those goals, senior midfielder Kaia Schmidt noted the team's passing put the Lions into some great situations against the Rams.

"We kept it up, even when we got down a little bit," said Schmidt. "We still pushed hard, and we pulled out a win. Our passes were good, our communication was up and we did really well tonight."

Schmidt had more to say about those passes, too, which helped bridge the gap from the strong defense up to the more-than-capable offense. Connecting those dots were Schmidt and Cheldelin, as well as seniors Kelan Betts and Meg DeVall, among others.

"We're really good at working as a team and connecting passes to get through," Schmidt added. "Not playing individually really helps us to connect and work as a team."

PMG PHOTO: ANDY DIECKHOFF - West Linn freshman Kylee Schreck (6) runs down a ball while Central Catholic's Harper Oudekirk (17) attempts to clear during the Lions' 2-0 win over the Rams on Tuesday, Sept. 20, at West Linn High School.

If they can keep working together like this — with an unrelenting defense, a strong passing game and enough offense to get the job done — then the Lions could be a tough team to beat this season.

Schmidt, however, is not getting ahead of herself as West Linn experiences this early success.

"(We need to) continue to work hard as2 we do each game, push through each game and focus on one game at a time," the senior captain said.

As for her younger teammate back in the goal, Nelson is allowing herself to daydream a bit.

"For me, I hope we win state," said Nelson. "We all have personal goals, but as a team, we need to work on the little things so we can get to that big goal.

"I feel that with the track we're on right now, it will work," she added. "We could possibly win state."

The Lions continue their quest for their first-ever state title on the road this Thursday, Sept. 22, against McKay. West Linn wraps up nonleague play with a trip to face Cleveland on Tuesday, Sept. 27, with the final tune-up before Three Rivers League play coming at home against Ashland on Saturday, Oct. 1.

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