Lakeridge coach Paul Slover is quick to point out that the 2006 Pacers are completely different from last year's squad. Still, the team is expected to be one of the top programs in the state once again even with an entirely revamped defense and a different style of play being utilized.
The Pacers are hoping to exact some revenge after last year, which saw the team run the table during the regular season, going unbeaten and untied into the playoffs. There, however, in the first round, Lakeridge was shocked by North Salem 2-1, abruptly bringing the team's quest for back-to-back state championships to an end.
'There's definitely a sense of this team striving to make up for that senior class last year. It's never good going one and out when you have such a talented team. There's nothing worse,' Slover said.
Lakeridge returns just eight players from the 2005 team and only a handful of those players saw a significant amount of time of the field. Still, the Pacers are loaded with talent. Now it's just a matter of figuring out how those new players will best fit into the team's system.
The Pacers certainly looked like a force to be reckoned with in their season opener on Tuesday against Roseburg. Despite some scattered play at times, Lakeridge dominated the contest, out-shooting the Indians 25-5 en route to a 3-0 victory.
Lakeridge was particularly dominant in the first half, only yielding one real scoring attempt while peppering Roseburg's goal.
Facundo Dipasquale got off the team's first shot just minutes into the contest when he beat his defender on the baseline and hit a shot into the side of the net.
Minutes later, Lakeridge got on the board. Max Schlesinger corralled a pass near the top of the goal box, shielded his defender and then hit a fantastic shot into the top corner near the far post.
Eric Destefano nearly made it 2-0 a minute later but his hard shot was saved by the Roseburg goalie.
The Pacers completely dominated the time of possession and midfielders Dipasquale and Corey Rosenfeld wreaked havoc on the opposition's defense.
'Destefano is really our only true forward but Corey and Facundo will both play up a lot. They both have a lot of talent,' Slover said.
Lakeridge's defense was probably the team's biggest question mark heading into the season. The Pacers do not have a single returning player from their 2005 back line.
Carson Van Valkenburg has been moved from center midfield to center defense and will act as the team's primary stopper. However, against Roseburg, the defense wasn't tested much.
'It's a completely new defense. Last year we played out of the back a lot and the defense got things started for us. This year we're going to try to win the ball off of other team's defenses and be more aggressive going towards the goal,' Slover said.
In the first half, sophomore goalie Jason Dodson was only brought out of the goal box once and deflected the Indian shot attempt.
In the waning minutes of the opening half, Dipasquale had a handful of shots that missed wide and also made a nice cross that rolled dangerously in front of the goal.
Lakeridge continued its strong play after the break. Seven and a half minutes into the period, Rosenfeld made another run down the left side of the field and got off a hard shot that was blocked by the goalie.
However, the carom bounced right back to Rosenfeld and he deposited it in the open net to give his team a two-goal lead.
'I thought we were still a little shaky today. We're still seeing how different people play together and figuring out our strengths and weaknesses,' Rosenfeld said.
After that, the Pacers let up slightly and Roseburg got to play offense for the first time all game. Dodson made two stellar saves in the next 15 minutes but that was as close as the Indians would get to scoring.
With just over 10 minutes to go, Destefano had two close shots rejected by Roseburg's keeper and Rosenfeld knocked a shot inches wide.
'I think we need to work on our passing more. We played hard tonight but we need to get the ball down to our guys' feet better,' Rosenfeld said.
Finally, with time running out, the Pacers mounted one more attack. Destefano received a nice feed from Dipasquale and hit a perfectly placed shot past the goalie inside the far post to complete the scoring.
The Pacers certainly have the potential to make another run deep into the postseason. But much of their success will depend on how quickly the team meshes on the field.
The Three Rivers League is expected to be fairly competitive once again although Lakeridge's primary competition should come from Lake Oswego once again.
'There's a pretty big target on our backs right now,' Slover said.
Due to the new 6A schedule, the Pacers have just one more preseason game before they start league play.
'I'd prefer to see what else is out there around the state but it's going to be interesting. The mental challenge of playing everyone twice should be good for us though,' Slover said.
Lakeridge plays at Forest Grove next before opening the league schedule at home against West Linn.