Lions send Aloha girls packing in 3-1 defeat

West Linn's scores early and shuts out Aloha until the very end
by: Matt Sherman WINNERS — Aloha’s Linda Nguyen makes a run down the the sideline in her team’s 3-1 loss to West Linn in their Class 6A Play-In game on Tuesday.

WEST LINN - A slow start and a very fast opponent spelled big trouble for the Aloha girls soccer team on Tuesday.

The West Linn girls soccer team scored in the first three minutes of its Class 6A Play-In game at West Linn High School, got two goals from Madison Leek and a stellar defensive effort to beat the Warriors 3-1.

Aloha, the sixth-place finisher from the Metro League, saw their year end at 2-13. The Lions, after placing fourth in the Three Rivers League, improved to 5-6-3 and advance to face Thurston in the first round of the Class 6A state playoffs on Saturday.

Disappointed as they were with the loss, the Warriors knew that they'd taken some important strides in 2011.

'I will remember that this group help lay the foundation for our program to become more competitive in our conference games,' said Aloha coach Ron Overton. And our 'defense and keeper reduced our goals against by 20 from last season.'

With a state playoff berth on the line, the Lions went on the attack from the opening whistle. Three minutes into the game West Linn earned a corner kick for Alexy DaHarb. DaHarb sent the ball into the box where defender Mackenzie Danies put a head on it for an early 1-0 lead.

While West Linn wouldn't score again until later in the first half, the Lions used Leek's speed and its direct attacking style to cause Aloha problems all night long.

Leek 'has very good speed - we have no one with her type of speed - and we knew we had to account for her at all times and discussed it at length this prior week,' Overton said. 'Unfortunately, we allowed her to get out and wide on us ... so she had a very nice assist to an unmarked player in front of our goal to make it 2-0.'

That second goal came when Leek made another long run, getting to the baseline before laying a pass off to Campbell. Campbell one-timed a shot into the open net with eight minutes to play in the half and extended West Linn's lead to 2-0.

'Those two critical errors on those two goals in the first half made us have to come out of our normal mode of play,' Overton said. 'Now our possession style would not work ... and we had to revert to a style of play we are not very good at and go more direct and press the attack harder.'

The Warriors' best chance to score in the first half was on a shot from the top of the box by Linda Nguyen that sailed over the crossbar.

Aloha came close again midway through the second half, but Mary Pierce's shot was barely saved by West Linn goalie Gabby Estey.

Then, with 16 minutes to play, West Linn out the game out of reach. Leek was once again able to beat the last Aloha defender with her speed, and this time, her chip shot found the net, making it 3-0.

Leek would later hit the post on a similar play as she proved to be a difficult mark for the Warriors.

Aloha continued to battle, though. Pierce got off another strong shot that was saved by Estey, and then, with 1:13 remaining, the Warriors broke the shutout. Senior Cassie Marusa scored a very pretty header goal in the final minute to end her high school soccer career at Aloha on a high note.

'I was pleased to see that no one on the team gave up the entire match and the girls competed hard, even if it was not our best soccer,' Overton said, crediting keeper Lex Wood with several strong saves in the second half.

The Warriors will graduate six seniors from this year's team, but will bring back seven starters, and will add a solid group of JV players and a strong group of incoming freshman with club experience.