Lady Lions play Pacers to a draw

by: Vern Uyetake, West Linn’s Sami DeMars lines up for a shot in last Tuesday’s game against Lakeridge.

The opening game of the Three Rivers League soccer season settled absolutely nothing for the West Linn girls Tuesday night.

But from the perspective of West Linn coach Joey Leonetti, the Lions saved themselves two points in the standings after having to settle for a 2-2 tie with Lakeridge.

For a while, it looked like the scrappy Pacers would win the game. So, salvaging a tie from a would-be loss was not such a bad thing.

Most importantly, it kept Lakeridge from moving three points ahead of West Linn in the league standings. Instead, each team now is tied with one point.

'(Lakeridge) is going to win a lot of games this year,' Leonetti said. 'The way I see it, we got two points off everyone else in the league.'

Surprisingly, West Linn came out flat in the first half. But the Pacers were fired up and they managed to maintain possession for most of the first 20 minutes. While that effort produced some decent shot attempts, none of them were hit well enough to find the net.

Then, with approximately 22 minutes left in the first half, West Linn mounted a quick counter-attack that resulted in a goal. Sophomore forward Jazmine Whitlock got the goal after receiving a crisp pass through traffic.

Whitlock then outran the defense and got the shot off before the Lakeridge goalkeeper could close the gap.

Suddenly, the Lions had a 1-0 lead after being out-played for most of the early portion of the game. And the score remained that way through the half. By intermission, Leonetti felt fortunate that his team was in the position it was.

'We really weren't ready to go in the first half,' Leonetti said. 'I don't know if it was nerves or excitement, but we just weren't ready to come out and play.

'I think (the Lakeridge girls) were just winning everything, and that's something that we usually do,' the coach added. 'The two girls (Lakeridge coach Pete Siddons) had in the middle were just good players and they were winning a lot of the balls.'

So, Leonetti had a heart-to-heart with his girls at halftime, explaining that it would take more effort than they showed in the first half to hang onto that 1-0 lead.

Apparently, Siddons gave his girls a similar talk at halftime, because the Pacers came out even more fired up for the second half of play. And the results were immediate as the Pacers scored their first goal just 46 seconds into the second half.

Riley Costello got the goal on a penalty kick, which was assessed after West Linn was called for a questionable hand-ball infraction in the goalie box.

West Linn goalkeeper Addie Brown made a nice diving attempt to stop the shot but the ball still managed to trickle through her hands and into the net for a 1-1 tie.

Approximately two minutes later, Lakeridge took the lead when Victoria Lee drilled a long shot into the left corner of the net.

'The first five minutes of the second half was nothing to write home about,' Leonetti said.

Then, after turning in a lackluster effort for nearly 60 minutes, West Linn suddenly came alive in the last quarter of the game.

The first sign of life came in the 62nd minute when Sami DeMars was barely wide left with a nice running scoring attempt.

'It wasn't until after their second goal that we really started playing better,' Leonetti said.

After inbounding the ball following DeMars' miss, Lakeridge immediately turned it back over to West Linn. This time, sophomore midfielder Taylor Brooke had her best scoring opportunity of the night.

A slick move left her with an open shot from about 12 yards and her shot to the far post appeared as though it was headed for the corner of the net.

The shot would have missed by inches, but it hardly mattered as DeMars arrived just in time to tap the ball into the net. That made it 2-2 and removed much of the pressure from the Lions.

'Momentum can shift really quick,' Leonetti said. 'Once we got the second (goal) I thought we were going to get another.'

The final three minutes turned into a mad scramble as both teams tried to take the lead with most of the action occuring in the Lakeridge penalty box. Three times it seemed the Lions would score during that stretch.

There was one shot by India Hubbard that was barely deflected away and a 12-yarder by Liz Sloop that was barely wide right.

In between those two shots might have been West Linn's best chance to score the winning the goal. But, after the ball slipped through the goalie's hands, Lee was there to clear it away.

That left the game tied, but it could have been much worse for West Linn.

'The important thing is we came back and showed ourselves that we can dig out of a hole,' Leonetti said.