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Memory of 05 loss still fresh for Pacers

The Pacer boys soccer team has been here before. The similarities between this season and last are striking.

Lakeridge steam-rolled its way through the regular season and is expected to contend for a state title but, as everyone on the team is aware, soccer is one of the most unpredictable sports around.

Last season the Pacers looked invincible heading into the postseason before North Salem upset them 2-1 in the opening round of the playoffs.

If anything, Lakeridge had an even easier time winning the Three Rivers League this year than they did in 2005. The team was rarely tested, which puts coach Paul Slover in an interesting position.

'We didn't take our last games lightly at all and I was happy with how professionally the team finished out the regular season but it's tough to know how we stack up,' Slover said.

The Pacers earned a bye to start this year's playoff campaign and won't play until next Tuesday, which gives them nearly two entire weeks off.

The Pacers are currently ranked third in the state but are probably the most frightening team for opponents to see on their side of the bracket. That's because the Pacers possess a truly explosive offensive attack with players like Corey Rosenfeld, Eric Destefano, Facundo Dipascuale, Taylor Thompson and Max Schlesinger constantly pressuring opponents' nets.

'This is the best team I've had as far as how dangerous we are. I've never had a team where so many guys can score from anywhere. Teams looking at us have to be concerned with containing all those guys,' Slover said.

With that being said, the key to Lakeridge's success in the playoffs will be its defense. The Pacers play strong team defense and if they can avoid giving up multiple goals in a contest, they will be extremely difficult to knock off.

'I think it's a situation where we'll assume that we're going to give up a goal or two per game and we need to make sure we're scoring three,' Slover said.

Another obstacle Lakeridge will face will be the fact that most of the state's other elite teams play a style of soccer that differs greatly from the one that the Pacers implement. Teams like Jesuit and South Eugene focus on controlling the ball in the midfield and shoring up the defense.

Meanwhile, the Pacers are constantly attacking and rely on their athleticism and explosiveness.

'My hope is that we'll be able to take the game to (our opponent) and are able to control the play and make the necessary changes we need to,' Slover said.

The Lakeridge girls team, on the other hand, won't have the luxury of a bye in the first round. That team will have to travel to North Medford for a first-round game that will be played Friday at noon.

It's certainly not an ideal situation, but coach Pete Siddons doesn't care where or when his team is required to play.

'We just have to bring our game,' the coach said. 'I have absolutely 100 percent confidence in this team.'

The Pacer girls finished third in the TRL, where the top four teams were separated by a total of four points. 'There's no other league in the state that compares to that,' Siddons said.

The Pacers finished their regular season by beating Milwaukie 5-1 last Thursday. Jenna Horton led the way with her third hat trick of the year and now has 12 goals for the season. Victoria Lee scored the team's other two goals.

Making adjustments has been a strong suit for Lakeridge this year. As good as the Pacers were all season, they were particularly dominant in the second halves of games, turning a pair of scoreless games at the half against Lake Oswego and Clackamas into 4-0 and 2-0 wins respectively.

Lakeridge will open up the playoffs at home against the winner of the Roseburg/Southridge game which the Pacers will watch in person on Saturday.