A number of high school lacrosse programs around the state have likely been circling this year for a while now. Lakeridge, coming off yet another state championship season, graduated a large and talented portion of its team and many believe that the 2008 Pacers team might be vulnerable.
Of course, vulnerable by Lakeridge standards means that the team won't simply steamroll the rest of the state this season. After all, the team still has a 60+-game Oregon winning streak in tact.
'Right now we're a team that's trying to find itself. In our history, we haven't graduated as many contributing guys as we did last year,' coach Curt Sheinin said.
Even with a relatively young crop of players, it would probably be unwise to overlook Lakeridge as a contender for the state title again.
The team may very well experience some early-season growing pains but, by playoff time, coach Sheinin feels his Pacers could be clicking on all cylinders again.
Lakeridge faces a brutally difficult preseason schedule with games against Southridge and Sunset, another against one of Washington's top teams and a tournament in San Francisco against some of the best teams on the West Coast.
Although the team has a number of starters without a significant amount of varsity experience, those players are still very talented and fit in well with Lakeridge's strong returnees.
On defense, the Pacers will be led by senior goalie Jonny Internicola.
'He's really stepped up for us and has been playing extremely well,' Sheinin said about his keeper.
And anchoring the back line in front of Internicola is Anthony Marincovich, another senior.
'Our defense has a lot of potential with no returning starters,' Sheinin said.
On offense, senior attackman Andrew Clayton and senior midfielder Conor Ryan will be called on to set up the team's attack and will be looked to in key situations.
'I think everyone will key on Andrew because he's very talented and has a knack for scoring. He'll attract a lot of attention but we will be very team-oriented this season,' Sheinin said.
The team has plenty of scoring options if teams choose to focus too much on covering one or two players.
Perhaps the biggest change on this year's team is the absence of assistant coach Ian Lamont, who is now Lakeridge's athletic director. He was been replaced by Frank Obiesie.
'I've been very fortunate. Ian was an absolutely tremendous offensive coach and know we have Frank who has an extensive lacrosse background,' Sheinin said.
It remains to be seen what style of lacrosse the Pacers will be most comfortable playing. In the past, Lakeridge has relied on its athleticism and been one of the most dangerous fast-break teams in the state. But, this season, the Pacers may focus on ball control and possession a bit more.
Lakeridge already knocked off one of the state's better teams in Sunset 6-5, keeping its Oregon winning streak in tact.
In that game, the Pacers trailed until the final four minutes. Then Lakeridge rebounded with three quick goals in that time to steal the victory.
'They really controlled the game and I think a lot of it was our inexperience. But the positive was that we came back against a pretty good team,' Sheinin said.
In its quest to make another run at a state title, the Pacers will first have to get through a very difficult league. Both Lake Oswego and West Linn are expected to field some of the top squads in the state this season.
'Lake Oswego is going to be right there this season along with Lincoln and OES, But the kids know what we expect at Lakeridge,' Sheinin said.
Lakeridge opens up league play against Oregon City on April 1.