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"We always have a target on our back but it might be a little bigger this year," Lake Oswego girls lacrosse coach Lauren Anderson said.

The Lakers enter this season as the defending state champions and, while the team graduated a very strong senior class and is on the young side, Lake Oswego expects to be in the thick of the state title hunt again.

Lake Oswego is starting a new goalie this year in Julianna Ramey, a goalie for the soccer team and a basketball player.

"She's doing very well. It's nice to have a three-sport athlete in that position," Anderson said.

Defensively the Lakers have two returning starters in Siobhan Mead and Kate Hearon who will anchor the back line.

"We've been working a lot on defense and building the team from the back to the front," Anderson said.

At midfield, Lake Oswego might feature one of the most talented lines in the state with five starters returning.

The midfield consists of Lilly Newman, Libby Nielsen, Alyssa Dragelin, Tatum Johnson and Paige Timberg.

The midfield features a little bit of everything, from lockdown defenders to prolific scorers.

Up front, Lake Oswego will play Lexi Cheetham, who stepped up in the playoffs last year, freshman Madeline Reece and senior MacKenzie Dykes.

"I think we have a lot of power on attack this year. We've been lucky to get a group of really unselfish girls. Everyone can put the ball in the net and no one cares who does it," Anderson said.

Defense will be a point of emphasis for the Lakers this year and they are also working heavily on their transition game, hoping to turn turnovers into quick scoring opportunities.

"Playing full field defense has kind of been our trademark," Anderson said.

The Lakers have traditionally been a team that has come on strong toward the end of the season and peaked during the playoffs but Lake Oswego is already off to a terrific start this year.

The team is 3-0 with wins over Sunset, Wilson and St. Mary's, three traditional powers.

Timberg has led the way early on with 10 goals and 10 assists in the games combined, including an eight assist performance against the Apollos.

The Lakers appear to be one of the teams to beat this season but they will have to navigate another strong Three Rivers League.

West Linn, Lakeridge and Oregon City all expect to be very solid again this season.

"There are a lot of big games this year certainly," Anderson said.

The Lakers open up league play tonight (Thursday) at 7 p.m. against at Lakeridge.

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