'Comeback Kids' is the oldest sports cliché in the world.

But old or not, the Lake Oswego High School girls water polo team deserves that tag after its 9-8 victory over Sandy on Saturday in a state qualifying match.

'It was so exciting,' said senior Marina Howard. 'Almost too exciting. It was something we had never done before.'

Now, the Lady Lakers have a chance to do something else they've never done before.

In this weekend's state tournament in Corvallis, they can attain the highest finish ever for a LOHS girls water polo team at state.

With just 40 seconds to play against Sandy, Delaney Roney scored the match-winning goal.

Roney's big play capped a tremendous comeback in which the Lakers trailed by two goals at the beginning of the fourth quarter.

'Everything we did this season was for that game on Saturday,' said Coach Rick Payne. 'That win was considered an upset by every coach there. Now we're guaranteed to finish among the top eight teams in the state.'

To get there, the LO girls had a tough road.

After a sizzling 5-0 start, the young team (with Howard the only senior and just two juniors) went into a slump that threatened to turn into a disaster.

'Because of our youth it took the wind out of our sails,' Payne said. 'If we had lost one more game we would've been out of contention. I knew we had to do it as a team. I was overwhelmed by how they were able to respond in the middle of the season.

'We surprised our parents, other teams, and myself.'

Lake Oswego will now get to play at least two matches at state.

They open against Barlow on Friday at 7:30 a.m. at the Osborn Aquatical Center in Corvallis.

A good tournament showing will place Lake Oswego as high as fifth place. The championship matches will be played on Saturday.

Whatever the outcome, Payne will have had a gratifying first season as coach.

And with so many girls returning next season, he thinks the 2009 season will be even better.

'We will have high expectations,' Payne said. 'We'll be one of the top teams in the state next year.'

Playing in the Three Rivers League, the state's toughest water polo conference, Lake Oswego took third place with a 6-5 record behind powerhouses Newberg and Tualatin. The season included two wins over Tigard.

Marina Howard, at two-meter guard, was again a first team all-league selection.

Other Laker girls coming in for league recognition were Elena Langer, two-meter guard, second team; Delaney Roney, driver, honorable mention; Dana Kilsby, goalie, honorable mention.

Kilsby's season included a remarkable 18-block performance against Sunset. 'It was off the charts,' said Payne.

The Lake Oswego High School boys water polo team finished in third place in the Three Rivers League for 2008.

The Lakers finished with a 6-4 conference record behind perennial state champion Newberg and Tualatin.

Coach Rick Payne said he will be losing three veteran seniors, Stefan Solstrom, Ross Wardrop and Kyle Stockbridge. There is also a fourth senior, Chris Madden, a "football convert."

"It was his first year in water polo," said Payne. "Chris tore it up. He was awesome."

Five Lakers earned all-district mention on various levels. They were Solstrom, Wardrop, Stockbridge, John Verlinich, and Robert Brumley.

LO's season ended with a 9-7 loss to Barlow in the state playoffs.

Payne said he is anticipating a successful 2009 season since there will be "lots of returning players."

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