The Pacers are deep and athletic and one of the states top teams again

by: VERN UYETAKE - Jared Baumann is one of the top goalies in the state and returns to the Pacers healthy this year. Lakeridge is deep at vritually every position this season as it looks to make a run at another state championship.Lakeridge's boys lacrosse team opens this season as the defending state champions but coach Curt Sheinin insists the pressure isn't any greater on this year's squad.

“It seems like Lakeridge always has a target on its back. We definitely know we'll get everyone's best game,” Sheinin said.

The Pacers graduated a very strong group of seniors but replaced it with another exceptionally solid senior class. Lakeridge is loaded with depth at virtually every position and figures to make a strong run at another title.

“A lot of these guys have been in the program for three years now,” Sheinin said.

Lakeridge could be one of the most dynamic offensive teams in the state this year, blessed with at least six attackmen who can come at the opposition in waves.

J.R. McLaughlin, coming off an All-American season as a junior, is expected to be one of the most dangerous scorers in Oregon. He and Michael Ashworth are the team's two starting seniors on the front line and also combined for six of Lakeridge's seven goals in its 7-6 win over Lincoln Tuesday.

Also getting plenty of time up front will be John Finegan, Austin Gregg, Cam Troike and Corey Rich, all of whom have plenty of speed and scoring ability.

Lakeridge will look to get the ball up as quickly as possible to its high-potent offense and will play at a blistering pace at times.

“With the new rules where everything is on the fly except after goals or penalties, we'll definitely look to be fast,” Sheinin said.

In the midfield, Lakeridge returns Eleonso Cristobal, along with Ryan Dunham and Holden Catlett, plus a strong contingent of sophomores and juniors.

Lakeridge also has the luxury of returning its long-stick midfielder in Cam Strauss and Thomas Moore will also see time at the position.

On defense, the Pacers return junior all-American Joel Schwarz along with Chase Marshall and Brandon Kuhnert, who has come on strong since last season.

“(Kuhnert) played great in the second half of last season and looked really good for us against Lincoln,” Sheinin said.

That back line will play in front of a pair of goalies who Sheinin refers to as “the best in the state.”

Jared Baumann will be the team's starter after missing a good portion of last season. Brooks Dutton will also see plenty of time in the cage, after turning in a stellar season replacing Baumann last spring.

“It's such a luxury to have both of those guys back there,” Sheinin said.

Lakeridge won't duck any opponent this year. The team is facing some of the top teams in Oregon in the preseason and will play in a pair of tournament where they will see some of the best squads west of the Mississippi.

“It's probably the toughest schedule we've had in my 20 years of coaching,” Sheinin said.

Lakeridge already rattled off its first impressive win, topping Lincoln 7-6. In a tight, defensive battle, the Pacers and Cardinals were tied 4-4 with just five minutes left in the game.

Lakeridge then rattled off three unanswered goals in a two-minute stretch before fending off Lincoln's final run.

“I think there were some jitters and Lincoln is a very aggressive team defensively. I was really impressed with them,” Sheinin said.

The Pacers figure to be one of the elite squads in Oregon once again but will get strong competition from Lincoln, Sunset and West Linn among others.

“If we play our game, we really should be able to compete with anyone,” Sheinin said.

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