Lakeridge wins its 9th boys lacrosse title in school history and first since 2007 with a 15-7 win over West Linn

by: JOHN LARIVIERE - The Lakeridge boys lacrosse team celebrates after being presented the state championship trophy which it earned after a 15-7 victory over West Linn on Saturday.Since the sport's existence at the high school level in Oregon, lacrosse and Lakeridge High School have been synonymous. Heading into last week, the Pacers had captured eight state titles in 16 years and didn't know the meaning of the phrase “down year”.

However, despite a team that has been a fixture in the Final Four and a near-constant title contender, the championship trophy had eluded Lakeridge since 2007.

While some suggested that the Pacers had fallen off slightly as the rest of the state caught up, the numbers don't exactly back that up.

Lakeridge had only missed the semifinals once since 2007 and, of its last four losses in the semis, those games were determined by a total of seven goals.

The Pacers have been at least comparable to the Lincoln, Sunset and OES teams that have rules the lacrosse landscape for the past handful of seasons but have struggled to get over the hurdle.

This year, the team's biggest hurdle may have been the weight of expectations. Lakeridge entered the year as perhaps the prohibitive favorite to capture another title, a notion that the Pacers did nothing to quell early in the season as they rolled to big wins over in-state and out-of-state powers.

Lakeridge held the No. 1 ranking in the state for the vast majority of the season and, despite a hiccup in its final regular season game against Clackamas, still entered the postseason as the unequivocal team to beat.

When the Pacers avoided the upset bug which claimed multiple victims, including both Lincoln and Sunset prior to the semifinals, they appeared to be playing close to their best lacrosse of the season.

Lakeridge buried an upstart Beaverton team in the semifinals and then had just one more team to get past, a familiar rival in West Linn.

The Pacers had beaten the Lions twice in the regular season and were the only team in Oregon to knock West Linn off this year. Lakeridge more than met the challenge, using a dominant defensive performance and a quick-strike offense to pull away in the second half for a 15-7 victory.

With both teams so familiar with each other, the first two quarters were played somewhat tentatively with both squads biding their time offensively and holding for high-percentage shots.

Joel Schwarz, Chase Marshall, Kevin Mertz and the rest of the back line all put together another stellar effort and made up one of the state's toughest defenses all year.

“It's probably the deepest defensive team we've ever had even to the point of having two great goalies. We had six or seven long sticks who could come in and contribute,” coach Curt Sheinin said.

Chris Barman scored two first-quarter goals and Tyler Rich and JR McLaughlin added one each as Lakeridge led 4-3 after the first quarter.

West Linn had a few opportunities to seize the lead but Lakeridge goalie Jared Baumann made a pair of terrific saves.

Both defenses cracked down further in the second quarter as Michael Ashworth was the only Lakeridge player to break through, helping to give the Pacers a 5-4 advantage at the break.

Both teams knew that the opening minutes of the third quarter would be crucial to establish the tone for the rest of the game.

Lakeridge was prepared and quickly seized control. The Pacers scored three goals in just over one minutes apart off the sticks of Barman, Rich and McLaughlin to suddenly make it 8-4.

“We've been a second half team all year and had been playing very well on defense. When everything is clicking like that we're tough to stop,” Sheinin said.

West Linn rebounded impressively with back-to-back goals to make it 8-6 midway through the quarter.

However, Lakeridge's confidence was building and the team dominated the final five minutes of the third period.

The Pacers rattled off three more unanswered goals to lead 11-6 with one period to play.

The Lions would get one back early in the fourth quarter but wouldn't draw any closer. Lakeridge's defense was terrific down the stretch and Baumann frustrated the Lions in front of the net all evening as Lakeridge ground out the victory.

Chris Barman led the way with four goals while Rich, Ashworth, McLaughlin and Ryan Barman each scored twice.

For the Pacers, it was the culmination of a long process, one that saw the team grow incredibly close over the season.

“Our main point of emphasis all year that the team really adopted was becoming a family and that's what these guys did,” Sheinin said.

Lakeridge got to the finals with an equally impressive 10-2 win over Beaverton last Wednesday. The Pacers knew that the Beavers possessed a strong defense and would look to slow the game down which was the case. However, Beaverton had trouble getting anything going against the Lakeridge defense.

The teams traded goals early with Lakeridge building a slim 4-2 advantage.

However, Beaverton wouldn't score a goal in the next three quarters. Lakeridge's offense was hampered by penalties in the second quarter but the Beavers failed to capitalize with an extra man.

Lakeridge led 5-2 at the break but felt confident that Beaverton would struggle to come back.

“It was big for us to finally get over that hump in the semifinals and we were able to play everyone,” Sheinin said.

The Pacers controlled possession for the majority of the second half and when the Beavers were able to get off a good shot, Baumann was there with the save.

Ashworth led all scorers with four goals in the contest while Rich and McLaughlin each scored twice.

While the Pacers will graduate a strong senior class, the team is still relatively young and should return a very strong squad that will look to defend its title next season.

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