Underdogs? The Lakeridge boys soccer team? OK, perhaps that's a bit hyperbolic. But it has been a while since the Pacers were anything other than the runaway favorites to win the Three Rivers League.
But that is the case this season after Lakeridge graduated five seniors, three of which were among the most talented players ever to put on a Pacers uniform. However, the cupboard isn't exactly bare. Lakeridge seems to have a pipeline of talent to replenish its program year in and year out and, even though it lacks the highlight reel star it has had in the past, the team should still be one of the best in the league and could challenge for its top spot.
The Pacers are senior heavy again this year led by goalie Jason Dodson.
Dodson, who was injured last year, has already committed to play soccer at Stanford next year and could very well be the top keeper in the state.
'He's great to have because he's going to help us keep a lot of games close by himself,' coach Paul Slover said.
Dodson is the anchor on a very strong defensive team. As a result, Lakeridge will likely play a very different style of soccer than it has in the past.
The Pacers will ease up from being the relentless attackers they have been in the past and will slow the tempo down.
But that doesn't mean they won't be aggressive up front. Slover is looking forward to watching his offense work as a unit this year and knows that goals will likely be scored by committee as opposed to just two or three players getting on the board in most contests.
'In the past, teams could key on one or two guys. We have several players this year who are capable of finishing and other guys who are good at distributing the ball,' Slover said.
Patrick Kelly and Nick Wilkins will play up front for Lakeridge but the team's midfield will be extremely important in helping the team transition from defense to offense.
Micah Joyner, Connor Dales, Bennett Savage and Tyler Abegg figure to play a large role from the midfield and all saw varsity action last season.
The Martin brothers, John and Jared figure to be keys on the team's defense but Jared recently sustained an injury which could cost him significant time on the field this year.
Even with a number of new faces playing important roles on this year's team, Slover thinks that the Pacers could surprise a few teams.
'We're shooting for a top-three finish. The goal is to get on a roll heading into the playoffs and then anything can happen. But getting momentum makes a difference,' Slover said.
The Three Rivers League appears to be wide open this season. Lake Oswego and Clackamas figure to be the early favorites but, with some time to gel as a team, Lakeridge could find itself in the mix as well.
'I think we can be a very good team. It's a little more of a challenge this year but I like that. Teams are definitely going to come at us with everything they've got because they might think this is the year they can take us down but we still have plenty of talent,' Slover said. Lakeridge opens the season on Sept. 3 against Wilson.
Aug. 30 Pacer jamboree
Sept. 3 at Wilson 4:15
Sept. 4 Lincoln 7:30
Sept. 11 West Linn 7:30
Sept. 16 Lake Oswego 5:30
Sept. 18 Rex Putnam 7:30
Sept. 23 Clackamas 7:00
Sept. 25 at Oregon City 7:30
Sept. 30 at Milwaukie 7:00
Oct. 6 at West Linn 7:00
Oct. 8 at Lake Oswego 8:00
Oct. 14 at Rex Putnam 7:00
Oct. 16 at Clackamas 7:30
Oct. 21 Oregon City 7:00
Oct. 23 Milwaukie 7:30