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Pacer coach finds way to keep team on its toes

Since making the playoffs is now a foregone conclusion and winning another league title is virtually imminent, Lakeridge boys soccer coach Paul Slover recognizes that the remainder of the league season needs to be spent mentally preparing the team for what it will face in the playoffs.

After last year's first-round exit, Slover wants to make sure that his current team has faced as much adversity as possible to gear up for another shot at a state title.

For Lakeridge that means playing in unfamiliar systems for certain games and being unsure of what to expect from contest to contest.

'I just wanted to put the pressure on our defense. This is a different kind of role for a coach,' Slover said.

Against Putnam on Monday, Slover's strategy nearly worked too well. The Pacers fell behind 2-0 at the half before reverting to their familiar game plan and rallying for a 4-2 victory.

'I messed with them. We changed the way we play. I told the starters I probably wasn't going to play them in the first half and then put them in anyway and we played three defenders, which we normally don't do,' Slover said.

At the break, Lakeridge didn't panic. Far from it. Slover challenged the team to score in the first five minutes of the second half and Eric Destefano responded, scoring in four minutes to cut the deficit in half.

Just five minutes later, Facundo Dipascuale notched the equalizer as the Pacers sent Putnam scrambling. Lakeridge dominated the Kingsmen in the second half as the visitors started coming down from the emotional high of having a two-goal lead against the defending league champions.

'On the sidelines, we could see that they were exhausted. They're an emotional team and really spent themselves getting that 2-0 lead,' Slover said.

With 22 minutes remaining in the half, Lakeridge struck again, this time Johnathan Warner got on the board, giving Lakeridge a lead it wouldn't surrender.

Putnam failed to mount another significant scoring opportunity in the game and the Pacers put things on ice when Dipascuale notched his second goal of the night.

'I screwed them up mentally. They had to overcome their opponent and their coach,' Slover said.

The victory kept Lakeridge undefeated in league and came on the heels of a 3-1 win over West Linn last Thursday.

In that game, the Pacers played slightly more traditionally and took a 3-0 lead before giving up a goal off a free kick.

Corey Rosenfeld notched Lakeridge's first goal of the night on a free kick and Scott Scherschlight scored one of the Pacers' best goals of the season minutes later.

Scherschlight, a defender, carried the ball up the left side of the field and then cut towards the middle before firing a shot from 30 yards out that made a bee line for the top-right corner of the net.

Scherschlight placed the ball perfectly and it was still rising when it found the back of the net.

After a game against a struggling Oregon City team, the Pacers will face Lake Oswego, Clackamas and Milwaukie in succession before starting the playoffs.

'The goal is to not go one and out again. I don't even care about going undefeated. I just want the kids to be prepared and to know how to play from behind because they haven't really had that this year,' Slover said.