No matter what the circumstances are, the Lakeridge girls soccer team seems to have a knack for winning important games.
Even when they are out-played, as they were for much of last Wednesday's game against Lake Oswego, the Pacers still found a way to win. But soccer doesn't always reward the most aggressive teams. In this case, the Pacers registered a 1-0 victory because they were the more opportunistic team.
After fighting off one offensive attack after another from their rivals, the Pacers got the chance they were looking for when Lakeridge's Riley Costello stole a pass deep in the Lakers' defensive end with 10 minutes left in the game. Costello put a move on the nearest defender, then stopped and fired a 20-yard shot that deflected off the crossbar and landed just inside the goal line.
'That was phenomenal,' Lakeridge coach Pete Siddons said after his team's victory.
With the win, Lakeridge moved into a tie with Lake Oswego for third place in the Three Rivers League. Heading into Tuesday's games, both teams were just two points out of first place. But, Lake Oswego easily could have been in first by itself.
'LO played a great game tonight,' Siddons said. 'They easily could have been up 3-0 at halftime. But (the Pacers) didn't let up halftime, even knowing that LO was really taking it to us.
'We came back, obviously, and responded in the second half. I can't ask for any more out of this team.'
For much of the game, the Lakeridge defense seemed to employ the bend-but-don't-break philosophy in an effort to deal with Lake Oswego's hard-charging offense. There were numerous times, especially in the first half, where the Lakers found themselves in position to score.
But the Lakers always seemed unable to complete the key last pass, or when they did complete it, the angle for the shot was often too severe. Regardless of the angle, the Lakers had a surprising number of shots that sailed over the crossbar, some by only inches.
In the first half alone, Lake Oswego forward Jill Shoquist had six good chances to either score or set up a teammate for a goal. Each time, Shoquist and her teammates somehow came up empty-handed. In addition, Mady Johnson had a 15-yarder that barely wrapped around the right post.
On the other side, Lakeridge had just two decent scoring opportunities in the first half - both by Victoria Lee. One of shots sailed over the crossbar from 35 yards out and the other was easily cleared away.
The chances were more evenly divided in the second half, however. Through the first 30 minutes of the second half, each team had four good looks at the goal. But each defense always seemed to have the angles covered.
Then, after an easy stop by the Lake Oswego defense, the Pacers finally found an opening with 10 minutes left. It started when a Lake Oswego defender made a lazy pass forward without realizing that Costello was waiting in the shadows.
After making the steal, Costello didn't waste much time trying to get close to the goal. Instead, she stopped quickly and let loose with a shot that initially appeared to be headed over the crossbar, just like so many other shots during the evening.
But Costello's shot was almost perfectly placed. It had just enough arc that Lake Oswego goalie Ariana Green was unable to get a hand on it. The shot hit the bottom of the crossbar and dropped straight down, landing just inside the goal line. At first, the referee wasn't sure if it was a goal, but the linesman quickly stepped in and called it good.
'That was awesome,' Siddons said. 'Individual, hard work right there. She was putting pressure on the defender.'
Some of the Lake Oswego players, meanwhile, spent part of the game complaining to the referee about some questionable calls he made, including some that came with yellow cards. Even Siddons admitted that some of the calls might have been wrong, and Lakers seemed to let those calls affect the way they played.
'A lot of things were happening with the calls and the fouls … For the kids, that can frustrate them,' Lake Oswego coach Dominic Yambasu said. 'We don't want to make excuses but (the calls) did affect the way the game was handled.'
Aside from the calls, Yambasu had no complaints about the way his team played when it focused on the game.
'I thought we were very competitive,' the Lakers' coach said. 'We had more opportunities around the goal than they did … We were just unfortunate to not score … We were very ready for this game and I thought we outplayed (Lakeridge).'
Because of a scheduled bye the night before, Lakeridge had not played a game in almost a week before the Lake Oswego contest, and it showed for a while. But Lakeridge seems to have a way of rising to the occasion.
Heading into Tuesday's game against Clackamas, the Pacers had a chance to win the league title. That was partly due to the fact that the top four teams in the league are all closely bunched together.
'(The standings) change every night that teams play,' Siddons noted. 'I have no idea where we stand. All I know, is if you win all the rest of your games, you don't need to know who else is playing.'
Unfortunately for Siddons and his players, the Pacers lost a 4-0 decision to Clackamas on Tuesday. But Lake Oswego rebounded nicely with a 2-1 victory over Oregon City. That moved the Lakers into second place in the league standings, still two points behind Clackamas.
As luck would have it, Lake Oswego and Clackamas will meet tonight (Thursday) at 7 p.m. at LOHS and the winner will come away with the league crown.
'It's going to be a dandy,' Yambasu predicted.
'(The Lakers) are excited. They know what is in the balance right now.'
The Lakers got all of the production they needed in Tuesday's game from senior forward Lanakila MacNaughton. She had both of her team's goals - one with six minutes left in the first half and one with 10 minutes gone in the second half.
'It was a back and forth game but we had better control,' Yambasu said.