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West Linn rugby team finishes third in state

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO West Linn’s girls rugby club team recently finished up its season by taking third in state. The Lions wrapped up the year with an impressive victory over North Clackamas.

The West Linn Lions women's rugby team faced off against North Clackamas for third place in state May 21 at Delta Park. It has been a very exciting year for West Linn. The team went 3-3-1 tie for the season and ended up fourth in its league and they had something to prove in its third-place game.

The Lions made it to the state playoffs and took on some formidable opponents. In the quarterfinals on May 7, West Linn played Reynolds and came away with an impressive 63-5 victory.

The semifinals were on May 14 and had West Linn playing the No. 1 and undefeated team in their league the Lady Barbarians from Beaverton.

This was a hard fought game from beginning to end. The Lions lost but they played the Barbarians much stronger than they had during the regular season. The team's season continued as it took on North Clackamas for third place.

The growth of the team during the season has been incredible to watch. The strength of the team lies within its depth. The Lions have plenty of girls who are exceptionally fast and who can make strong tackles.

It was standing room only at Delta Park as the two teams faced off to each other. West Linn started the game kicking off to Clackamas and the Lions were able to come up with the ball and score in the first minute of the game. .

North Clackamas pushed numerous times down the field in the early going but could not make it over the well fortified end zone.

West Linn stopped them just short numerous times in the last five yards to the goal line. The Centaurs were getting frustrated as West Linn stripped the ball and ran it down to the other side of the field for yet another try.

The score at half time was 22-5 in favor of the Lions.

West Linn continued to execute and was firmly in control of the game at that point. The team's passing has been stellar and its scrums and rucks have been a force to contend with. Tackling has also been a strong point for West Linn.

Both teams came out for the second half with plenty of intensity. Clackamas made a hard drive for the goal line but West Linn recovered the ball from a scrum on the three-yard-line and broke through the Clackamas line.

Again West Linn's speed proved to be too much for North Clackamas to handle. West Linn drove again for the Clackamas line and got within two yards from the end zone.

A penalty was called and Clackamas received possession of the ball before kicking off to West Linn.

West Linn retrieved the ball on the 35-yard-line and had a beautiful series of passes before finally breaking through the Clackamas line for another try, making the score 27-5.

As the second half went on, the secondary line for West Linn team was in the game and still making it tough for Clackamas to get any points on the board.

In the end, the Lions walked away with another convincing victory to take third in state.

Ernie Espinoza has been the head coach for the girls program for the past seven years.

He was an assistant coach for the boys program for two years with Tim Maderis and started the High School Boy and Girls Rugby Club in 2002.

He has attracted talented women athletes to the team over the years and with the success this year, it shows.

This season was special to Espinoza as he is retiring, at least for the time being, as his wife is expecting their first child and leaving the team in the good hands of Maderis.

It was emotional after the victory since it was the last game for the seniors as high school students.

It may also have been the last game for the Oregon City players to play with this group of girls because next year they will be trying to start their own team.

The West Linn Women's Rugby Club attracts players from many different high schools and brings them together and it helps create lifelong friendships.

West Linn's team has students on it from West Linn, Wilsonville, Lake Oswego, Riverdale, Oregon City, Sherwood and Aurora.

There is still plenty of exciting Rugby to come. There is the All- State team, The Oregon Red Hawks, that will play this summer and is a group of girls selected from the various teams in Oregon to participate and represent their state in tournaments. West Linn has plenty of representation on the All-State team.

The West Coast Invitational is also scheduled for July 10 in Canby. To find out more information and game times please visit www.oregonrugby.org.