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Despite injuries to key players, Wildcats camaraderie key to success as league winds down

PMG PHOTO: TANNER RUSS - Freshman Connor Atwood tries to maneuver past the Falcons defense. It might be tough going for the Wildcats boys' lacrosse squad, but the team is still moving forward. With a record of 5-8 overall, as well as a 0-3 league record, the team finds itself in the middle of a three game slump. Consecutive losses to Tualatin, La Salle Prep, and Sherwood have put it in a precarious spot, but it would be foolhardy to ignore the progress the team has already made.

Last year the squad finished with a 3-14 overall record, dead last in the Northwest Oregon Conference. There is still time to turn things around and pick up a first league win, and double the teams win total from last year. If you talk to first year head coach Kyle Hamburger, it's something he has full faith in his team to pull off thanks to strong camaraderie and teamwork.

PMG PHOTO: TANNER RUSS - Boys lacrosse coach Kyle Hamburger has stressed team unity this season, and the results are showing. "I read a book, 'The Hard Hat: 21 Ways to Be a Great Teammate," and on our board in the locker room are the 21 ways," Hamburger said. "These guys have really done a great job with that. From what I've heard from parents and community members, this is a different program. As a new coach, that makes me really happy. I'm proud of these guys, and I don't think our record reflects who these guys are. I'm proud of these guys, and I love these guys. They're doing what they can with short numbers."

Those short numbers came after illness and injury struck three key members of the team: junior Ben Nieuwstraten and Keagan Jones, as well as freshman Wyatt Bedell. Those players were forced to bow out when the Wildcats were in the midst of three game win streak, toppling Forest Grove, Century, and Hillsboro in impressive fashion.

With those players out of commission, the Wildcats have seen other teammates step up into more prominent leadership roles. Though the team lost its last few encounters, Hamburger saw several players come to play. PMG PHOTO: TANNER RUSS - Junior Caleb Welberg moves past the La Salle defense.

"(Junior) Mason Dean was just hustling," Hamburger said after the La Salle Prep game on Tuesday, April 23. "He's what we call a rabbit, he was our middie, clearing down the field, running, and dodging guys, and then (sophomore) Cole Ratter had the best game I've ever seen him play. He's our long stick midfielder. He was toe dragging on guys, which I haven't seen him do this year. He played the best defense I've seen in his first attempt on GBs. Then (junior) Caleb Welberg, our faceoff guy, played well. Without those three, the results would have been a lot worse."

With two more games on the schedule, clashes with league foes Tigard and Newberg, Wilsonville can still collect Tiger pelts. But with key figures missing from the rotation, it's all about seeing who will step up on offense and help lead the team to victory.

"We just have to find some finishers on offense," Hamburger said. "Defense is tightening up. That was great, but moving forward we need to find those finishers on offense. We have a lot of initiators and dodgers, but we have a young team with only two seniors. We're very junior led and freshman led. Moving forward we need to come together as a unit."

Wilsonville meets Tigard on the road on Tuesday, April 30 after the Spokesman goes to press.

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