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Pacers magical run ends in semis

A Clackamas goal in the final minute of regulation leads to a difficult loss in penalty kicks


by: VERN UYETAKE - Lakeridge players watch nervously during penalty kicks in Tuesday's semifinal game with Clackamas. The Lakeridge girls soccer team's 2012 season ultimately won't be defined by its semifinal match with Clackamas on Tuesday. This Pacers team will be remembered for its unity on the field, for winning the school's first league title in nearly a decade and its terrific playoff run which saw the team come within 40 seconds of advancing to its first state title game since 1989.

But, in the present, that's little solace for the Pacers who lost a truly heartbreaking semifinal match-up to Clackamas in a penalty kick shootout.

Lakeridge didn't dominate the game in quite the same manner that it did in its previous wins against Hillsboro, Westview and Tigard. But the Pacers earned a 2-0 advantage midway through the second half and seemed in control of the contest for all but a few seconds.

The opening half was played conservatively by both teams. While the teams know each other very well with the Pacers winning a pair of hard-fought regular season games, both teams were a bit tentative in the early going.

Lakeridge had an early opportunity on a scramble in the Clackamas goal box that was eventually cleared and Nicole Helm had a nice cross that went unanswered and a shot that went over the crossbar.

Clackamas' best opportunity of the first half came on a well-struck shot from outside the goal box that was knocked just over the top of the net by goalie Sarah Swanson.

“For us, I think our girls struggled a little with the defensive posture and tempo Clackamas played. We were able to make some minor adjustments at half time that refocused our girls,” coach Karl Granlund said.

Lakeridge grabbed the advantage early in the second half. Nicole Bristol received the ball near the ned line in Clackamas territory and hit a terrific shot to the far post from a tough angle to put her team up 1-0.

Lakeridge received terrific defense from its back line of Sydney Lautze, Kaytlin Korte, Michelle Dupre and Mallory Walton throughout the playoff and Walton had a particularly strong game for Lakeridge against Clackamas.

Lakeridge steadily started to control the advantage in possession and earned a corner kick midway through the second half.

Brittney Dales took the quick and played a short ball in front of the goal to Maddie Krauss who scored it to put the Pacers up 2-0.

However, Clackamas responded quickly. The Cavaliers got the ball deep in Lakeridge territory and hit a high-arcing cross that along the end line that found its way into the net.

That instantly gave the Cavaliers a much-needed boost but the Pacers continued to play solid defense and preserved their slim lead.

Lakeridge ran time off the clock in the closing minutes but, with less than a minute to play, Clackamas earned a free kick along with sideline after a hand ball.

The kick was sent into the goal box where it was one-timed toward the far post. Swanson made a terrific save on the shot but the ball deflected to an open Clackamas player who knocked it in with 36 seconds left for a shocking goal.

Lakeridge needed to rebound quickly at the end of regulation and continued to play well in overtime.

“We didn't have a lot to talk about before the OT periods. We were confident in our ability to make them defend us and reaffirmed how we made it to the semifinals,” Granlund said.

Lakeridge dominated possession in the extra 20 minutes but couldn't knock in a decisive goal, sending the game to penalty kicks.

In the kicks, Dales knocked in Lakeridge's first but Clackamas' goalie recorded a save on the second attempt. Swanson countered by saving the Cavaliers' second shot.

Clackamas led 3-2 and seemed to have the game won win the Clackamas goalie saved Lakeridge's fifth attempt. However, she was whistled for leaving the end line to early and Korte stepped up to hit her next shot in.

On Clackamas' final attempt, Swanson got her fingers on it but it snuck in under the crossbar as Clackamas held on for the win.

“It's really important to recognize that our players accepted the premise that winning, while a desired outcome, was never one of the goals we established at the beginning of the year. Winning is only a by product of doing a lot of little things really well. Our team was willing to embrace this concept and we improved from week to week,” Granlund said.

To advance to the semifinals, Lakeridge first had to get past a very strong Tigard team on the road on Saturday. The first half of the game resembled the Clackamas contest. Lakeridge controlled possession but both teams struggled to come up with good scoring chances.

Tigard had a few chances in the closing minutes of the first half, the best of which was saved nicely by Swanson.

Lakeridge continued to dictate the pace in the second half, getting an early shot on goal from Dales and a nice run and cross by Bristol.

With 25 minutes to play in the game, Krauss won a ball near the top of the goal box and caught the Tigard goalie in no-mans land, scoring easily to put the Pacers on top.

“I wouldn't say we dominated the game by any means but we were definitely pleased with the amount of possession we had,” Granlund said.

Lakeridge continued to keep the ball on the Tigard side of the field, getting a nice run by Erin Elliott and another near miss from Dales.

However, with 13 minutes to play in the contest Tigard's Emilee Cincotta found some space from about 12 yards out and scored to tie the game.

But Lakeridge didn't panic.

“We were still feeling really positive. When we gave up the lead we weren't thinking it was a big deal,” midfielder Krissy Craig said.

The Pacers continued to put the pressure on and, with 3:42 to play in the game, Craig, who was subbed back into the game 10 minutes earlier, won a ball from a Tigard defender and found herself with nothing but open space in front of her.

“We had a lot of confidence in Krissy. We just had a feeling she was going to do something,” Granlund said.

Craig took a dribble and beat the goalie, covering her face in her hands as the Pacers went up 2-1 and held on for the win.

“I honestly have no idea what happened. I just looked up and the next thing I knew the ball was in the goal,” Craig said.

Lakeridge wrapped up another extremely successful season, one that saw the team make its third quarterfinals in four years and its second semifinal in that time.

The Pacers were team-oriented in Granlund's first year as head coach and, despite losing five talented seniors, should be extremely competitive again next season.



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