by: VERN UYETAKE Kevin Cathcart is one of West Linn’s top returning attackmen this year. West Linn has a very difficult preseason schedule but hopes it will prepare the team for league play.

The West Linn boys lacrosse team might take a few lumps early in the season but, by the end of the year, the Lions expect to be primed to make a deep run through the state playoffs.

West Linn plays a brutal preseason schedule which already featured a pair of games in Arizona against two of the better high school teams in the West as well as a game against the defending state champions from Lincoln.

"We could very well go into league with six losses but I still think we're going to be very good," coach Mark Flood said.

West Linn lost some talented players last year but the team has reloaded and features a solid mix of experience and youth.

"We're not as athletic as we were last year but we're very skilled and I think once our younger players get a little bigger and stronger we could be pretty tough to deal with," Flood said.

The Lions get goalie Eric Pitassi back after missing last year with an injury.

He, along with Corey Ethridge, will help anchor a strong defense.

Sean Byrne anchors a very solid back line along with Zach Strickland and Taylor Rose, who has moved to defense from attack this season.

Michael Blatt and Tanner Hampton will also get time on defense.

At defensive midfield, K'myn Petit-Delia and Mason Finnerty will likely split time.

Finnerty came out for lacrosse for the first time this season and is exceptionally quick.

"We've never seen speed like this on our team and I think both (Petit-Dalia and Finnerty) are going to get better and better," Flood said.

The Lions feature a pair of talented midfield lines.

The first consists of Christian Wilson, Jamie Squires and Andrew Weinhart and the second is made up of Payton Germain, Dalton Tuor and Zach Gaunt.

"We feel really comfortable with all six of those guys," Flood said.

Tuor and Wilson will also handle the majority of the team's face-off duties.

On attack, West Linn has another talented group.

Kevin Cathcart returns, joining the team late after the basketball team made a run to the state tournament.

He is joined by Brandon Schutzler, Jack McMenomey, Kasey Ferrin as well as Drew Crowther and Aaron Nelson.

The team is already starting to gel and showed tremendous improvement over the course of its trip to Arizona.

"We surprised ourselves with how well we did on defense. We just had a few minutes where there were some breakdowns. We did some things well on offense but we just weren't scoring," Flood said.

West Linn was also missing Pitassi on that trip and, in one game, started Rose in goal after teaching him how to play the position just hours previously.

Then, on Tuesday, the Lions took the defending champion Lincoln Cardinals to overtime before losing 5-4.

West Linn figures to be a major player again in the always competitive Three Rivers League. Perennial powers Lakeridge and Lake Oswego should both be strong again.

"I think all of those games between us are going to be barn burners like they were last year. It's going to be a huge battle between the three of us," Flood said.

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