Pacer girls own Mt. Hood Conference, into quarters
Just like in 2009, the Lakeridge girls soccer team is peaking at the right time.
The Pacers, a No. 6 seed in the playoffs this year, knocked off a pair of top-10 ranked opponents from the Mt. Hood Conference 1-0 to advance to the quarterfinals.
Lakeridge has been stellar defensively and opportunistic on offense to stay alive in the playoffs where it will now host No. 1 seed Sunset on Saturday.
Last Saturday, Lakeridge opened up the postseason by taking on Central Catholic, ranked No. 10 by the OSAA, in an afternoon game at Delta Park.
The Pacers attacked the Rams with a direct style of play, attempting to send the ball up to its forwards to utilize their team speed.
As a result, Central Catholic won the possession battle in the game and had a handful of scoring chances.
But Lakeridge's defense did well to limit the quality of those opportunities.
"I thought we played awesome. The goal was to keep it compact on defense and try to dominate up top with our speed," forward Brittany Morelli said.
In the first half, the Pacers moved Katey Jacobsen back to defense as the team looked to disrupt Central Catholic's offense.
"Katey brings great energy wherever she is on the field. I thought the whole team stepped up today and everyone played their hearts out," coach Ryan Furrer said.
MacKenzie Hopkins made a pair of nice saves late in the first half to keep the Rams off the board.
Lakeridge's chances in the first half were few and far between. Erin Elliott hit a shot over the crossbar and Maddie Krauss sent a shot at the Rams' goalie that was saved.
Central Catholic's defense was equally strong, cleaning up Lakeridge's long passes into its side of the field.
The Pacers moved Jacobsen back up to the midfield in the second half to try and break through offensively but, late in the game, it appeared the teams would be heading to overtime tied at 0-0.
But, with just under nine minutes to play in the game, Lakeridge earned a free kick outside the box from the left side.
Jacobsen took the kick and sent a perfect ball into the crowd. Brittany Morelli was there to answer it, knocking a well-placed header into the side of the net.
"I knew it was on target, I just hoped it was enough to get past their goalie," Morelli said.
Lakeridge then held on, enduring a late chance from the Rams on a cross that Hopkins was able to fall on to preserve the win.
That set up another road game for the Pacers as they traveled to Barlow on Tuesday to face a seven-ranked Bruins team that tied Central Catholic for the Mt. Hood Conference title this year.
Barlow hadn't lost since its season opener to Sunset and had outscored opponents 43-6 all season.
But again, the Pacers were rock solid on defense and caught an early break that propelled the team into its second trip to the quarterfinals in three years.
Lakeridge opened up the game with energy, putting early pressure on the Bruins and it paid off.
Krauss received a pass and sent a dangerous cross into the box. A Barlow defender tried to clear the ball but Lauren King got in the way and deflected the ball into the net.
The Pacers continued to play lockdown defense and were in control for most of the game.
Barlow upped its intensity in the final 20 minutes, keeping the ball in Lakeridge territory for much of that time but strong scoring chances were tough to come by.
"We're playing well at the right time and I can't ask them to work any harder than they are," Furrer said.
The Pacers move on to face second-ranked Sunset at home on Saturday at 3 p.m.