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Pacers belong with best in West

by: Submitted Photo, 
Lakeridge’s Brett Klitz fends off a defender during last weekend’s Best of the West lacrosse tournament in California. Lakeridge claimed third place in the tourney, dispelling the notion that Oregon teams couldn’t compete outside the state.

So much for the theory that Oregon lacrosse teams don't stack up against the best teams in California.

The Lakeridge boys team disproved that notion last weekend by finishing third at the Best of the West lacrosse tournament in San Francisco. The tournament included most of the top-ranked high school teams in the West and the Pacers beat two of them.

Afterwards, tournament organizers, who were surprised to see an Oregon team play so well, offered Lakeridge 'an open invitation to come back every year,' Pacers coach Curt Sheinin said.

Sheinin said he plans to take them up on that offer.

The Pacers actually got off to a bad start in the tournament when they lost 14-6 last Thursday to host team St. Ignatius, which is ranked No. 1 in the West and No. 18 in the nation.

But the Pacers didn't help themselves when they arrived by plane just before game time. The team had only 15 minutes to get to the field for its first game and the players seemed tired and unfocused by the time the game started, Sheinen said.

Considering the caliber of the competition, it's possible that Lakeridge would not have won that initial game anyway. But the Pacers trailed only 9-5 after three quarters of play. Then, St. Ignatius, which features five future Division I players, pulled away in the final period.

Despite the loss, Lakeridge still got some solid individual play, especially from Andrew Clayton, who had three goals, and Max Schlesinger, who had two goals and two assists.

After getting a chance to recover from the long flight, Lakeridge's play improved considerably the following day against La Costa Canyon of San Diego, which is the defending Southern California champion.

The Pacers won the game 10-8, but they trailed 8-6 with four minutes left.

During those remaining minutes, 'I have never seen so much determination from (lacrosse) players in my life,' the coach said.

Even fans from other teams got into the act and began pulling for the Pacers, Sheinen said.

The comeback included two goals by Clayton and one each by Schlesinger and Brett Klitz. Clayton got the goal that put Lakeridge for good. For the game, Schlesinger ended up with three tallies while Clayton, Klitz and Joe Cramer each had two scores.

The Pacers capped their incredible weekend by beating Torrey Pines, another San Diego team, in Saturday's third-place contest. Torrey Pines entered the game as the fourth-ranked team in the West and Lakeridge won the game 10-6. Afterward, Sheinen couldn't find enough good things to say about his team's effort.

'It could be the best game any Lakeridge team has ever played,' he said. 'We dominated that game.'

Cramer led the way with three goals while Klitz, Danny Purcell and Schlesinger had two each. But it wasn't just offense that decided that game.

'(Goalkeeper) Cooper Robbins played like an all-star, which he is,' Sheinen said.

Maybe now teams from other states, especially California, won't continue taking Lakeridge and other Oregon teams for granted. Later, coaches from Lincoln and Oregon Episcopal School thanked Sheinen and his team for helping pave the way other Oregon teams.

'They were just happy that we proved that we belonged,' Sheinen said.

With those two wins in California, the Pacers, who are the two-time defending state champs, gained so much confidence that they could be very difficult to beat the rest of the season.

'If we can bring this intensity the rest of the way, we could win it all,' Sheinen said.