Anyone who knows girls lacrosse in Oregon probably figured that Lake Oswego wouldn't be down for long. The two-time defending state champion Lakers dropped three of their first four games, including a season-opening 10-3 loss to the Lions.
But despite that lopsided victory earlier, West Linn entered last Tuesday's contest knowing that they were likely in for a dogfight. Those predictions were correct as the teams battled back and forth all evening with Lake Oswego eventually emerging with a 6-5 victory.
West Linn erased an early deficit and nearly came from two goals down in the closing minutes of the contest to force overtime. However, Lake Oswego dominated the time of possession and won the vast majority of ground balls in the game and that proved to be the difference.
'I think we came in a little more focused today. We had some kids back from injury and that certainly helped,' Laker coach Lauren Anderson said.
Lake Oswego got off to a fast start as the team won the opening face-off and had the ball for virtually all of the opening seven minutes of play.
Emily Fuller scored less than two minutes into the game and Jacqueline Reece notched her first tally less than three minutes later to quickly knock the Lions back on their heels.
Finally, West Linn tightened up its passing and stayed patient on offense, waiting for the best opportunity to score. The Lions' efforts earned a penalty and Erika Busch deposited the ensuing shot to get her team on the board.
'West Linn is a strong team. They're scrappy and they're fast and we knew that our pressure defense was going to be key,' Anderson said.
The momentum swayed back and forth for the next few minutes as each team played at a methodical pace. With nine minutes to play in the half, West Linn's Keri Robinson made a run from midfield, lost the ball close to the net, but was able to regain possession and scored to cut into the lead once again.
The Lakers focused on defense late in the half as the Lions were able to come up with a number of steals. Solveig Lee had a pair of opportunities from close range, which were saved by Lake Oswego goalie, Kara Williams.
Then, with two minutes to play, Robinson earned an opportunity after a penalty. Her initial shot was blocked but she gathered the rebound and swept the ball into the net, tying the game before the half.
After the break, the Lakers quickly seized momentum again and dominated the early play. Fuller fired a shot off the post before Reece completed her hat trick and gave the Lakers the lead once again.
'Jacqueline's a leader on and off the field for us,' Anderson said.
Less than two minutes later, Jessica DeBlois scored on a pretty assist from Anna Berne and, suddenly, Lake Oswego was firmly in control.
Once again, the Lakers shored up their defense and the Lions struggled to control the ball for extended periods of time. Lake Oswego continuously double-teamed Lee, focusing much of their defensive efforts on her.
West Linn ran much of its offense in the second half through Robinson and Sarah Normandin but the team struggled to find the net.
Lions goalie Jennifer Kimbrow was solid all evening and helped keep her team in the game until it could eventually mount a rally. Williams was equally impressive for Lake Oswego as she saved two close range shots by West Linn's Kristen Brown.
With three and a half minutes to play, Lee ended her scoring drought and scored after a penalty to cut the lead to one goal once again.
However, just a minute later, Fuller knocked in her second goal of the night for the Lakers. Lake Oswego was content playing keep away for the rest of the game and Phoebe Flanigan did a tremendous job winning key ground balls for her team.
'Phoebe plays with a lot of confidence and she did a great job tonight,' Anderson said.
The Lions came up with one more late steal and Lee scored once more with 45 seconds to play, setting up an exciting final minute. West Linn played easily its best lacrosse of the evening in the game's final five minutes but the Lakers didn't panic. Lake Oswego won the face-off after Lee's goal and didn't give up the ball before the final whistle of the contest.
'We know this is an important win. Our conference is so deep that we're always pushing each other. I think whoever comes out of this conference is going to do very well in the playoffs,' Anderson said.