The Lions were hit by graduation but a young and versatile group should still be very competitive

by: VERN UYETAKE - Jackson Brooke is one of West Linn's four returning starters and will be one of the teams top targets on offense.There are plenty of holes to fill for the defending league champions this year. The West Linn boys soccer team returns just four starters from last year's squad but has shown some encouraging early signs.

“We're going through a lot of growing pains but we're learning a lot,” coach Greg Bean said.

Jackson Brooke, Blake Hepburn, Taylor Hefty and Alec Nakano are back for the Lions and there has been a healthy competition for some of the other starting positions.

“We're trying to figure out where everyone fits in right now,” Bean said.

West Linn is starting a freshman at goalie this year in Zach Nelson and another freshman, Colton Hefty, is featured on the back line. Hefty will play alongside his brother Taylor, along with Sammers Stevens and Lucas Evans.

Nakano and Hepburn will shore up the midfield along with Ryan Barber, Jake Bray, Anthony Snapp and senior Zach Nelson, who doubles as the kicker for the football team.

Up front, West Linn will look for Bryce Madden and Brooke to capitalize on scoring opportunities.

While the Lions are starting plenty of new faces, the team is blessed with a lot of depth and versatility this year.

“We have a pretty nice tool in that our JV team is ridiculously good. Each time we've scrimmaged against them it's been a draw,” Bean said.

The team is still gelling as the season gets underway and Bean is experimenting with what style and formation best fits the roster.

“I try not to reinvent the wheel too much as a coach. It's a work in progress but the nice thing is that the guys are really on board with everything we've tried,” Bean said.

West Linn has posted some solid results so far this season. The team lost its opener to a very strong Tualatin team 3-1, giving up three second-half goals after taking the lead.

“It wasn't a complete game but we did some good things and just made some mistakes in our own box all in a 10-minute period,” Bean said.

The Lions then tied Tigard 1-1 on Tuesday. The Tigers were coming off a 3-2 win over Lake Oswego last week.

West Linn will begin its league title defense next week in a TRL that appears to be wide open.

“Our league is by no means clear. We'll just have to see how things start to shake out,” Bean said.

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