From the moment the Lake Oswego girls lacrosse team left the field at Wilsonville High School exactly one year ago on May 25, 2016, this was the goal.
From the very second that the Lakers had beaten West Linn to win last year's Oregon Girls Lacrosse Association state championship, the goal was obvious — Lake Oswego wanted to do it again in 2017.
The top-ranked Lakers made that dream real on Wednesday, rallying from an early deficit against No. 2 Oregon Episcopal School and pulling away to win 13-3 at Wilsonville High School, giving Lake Oswego its second straight state crown and its third in the past four years.
"It's an amazing feeling," said senior goalie Riley Hertford, who stopped eight of the 11 shots OES took in the title contest. "I'm very proud of my team. We worked very hard for this and we came out on top and that's what we were going for."
"I couldn't even describe the feeling," said senior midfielder Lauren Gilbert, who scored twice in the win. "It just feels so good. I've been imagining it since last season."
The win — the team's 11th straight — capped Lake Oswego's 2017 season with a 20-2 overall record, an unbeaten record against Oregon teams and a 14-0 Three Rivers League championship. It also bookended the Lakers' season with two wins over the talented Aardvarks — Lake Oswego opened its 2017 campaign with a 13-8 victory over OES on March 14, then ended it with the title-game win 73 days later. The Aardvarks, the Portland League champs, saw their 11-game winning streak snapped and ended their season at 14-3.
"It's an amazing feeling," said junior midfielder Carlie Leach, who led all scorers with seven goals against OES and was named the game's MVP. "We are just a really well-bonded team. We worked so hard for this opportunity. We wanted this from day one and all of our efforts have come to this moment."
"I watched (the Lake Oswego girls lacrosse team) for years, since I was in seventh and eighth grade and this was literally my dream," added freshman attacker Katie Freeman, who added three goals in the victory. "I was so excited to be able to be a part of this."
The Aardvarks held their own early on, getting goals from both Catherine Lawliss and Maya Lawliss, the second of those giving OES a 2-1 lead with 16 minutes, 14 seconds remaining in the first half.
The Lakers, admittedly jittery at the game's outset, called a timeout, calmed themselves and dominated the rest of the contest. Lake Oswego outscored the Aardvarks 7-1 in the final 15:36 of the half and shut out OES in the game's final 36:20 to win going away.
Freeman got that first-half turnaround started with a score less than a minute after OES' second goal, and Leach followed with a three-goal streak in a span of just 3:12. The first two of those came on free position shots following OES penalties, and the third on a break that extended Lake Oswego's lead to 5-2 with 11:46 left in the half.
OES' Olivia Giannini stopped the Lakers' momentum when she connected at the end of a long run to bring her team within 5-3, but that was the end of the offensive highlights for the Aardvarks. Following that score, with 11:20 to go in the half, OES would not score again, the Lakers pitching a shutout for the final 36:20 of the championship.
"We were able to shut it down on their end of the field," Leach said. "It was incredible and it was fun."
"We've been working on possession and making sure we were taking care of the ball, and once we started doing that, that's when the tide kind of changed ... and we rolled," Hertford said.
Still leading just 5-3 late in the half, the Lakers closed the opening stanza with three scores in the final 3:59. Gilbert got the first two of those, converting a tough shot in traffic and scoring on a break assisted by Katy Gilbert, then Leach connecting again with just three seconds remaining in the half to boost her team's lead to 8-3.
"I think we just had to get the jitters out," Lauren Gilbert said. "After they scored that second goal, I could tell we were kind of a little high-strung and stressed out (so we called) a timeout, we got everyone in there and calmed everyone down … and then we got out there and we started playing our game."
"It was definitely (winning) the draw," Freeman explained. "Carlie and (Lauren) Gilbert and Rowan (Anderson) just came together and we got possession and our transitions were really on point."
While the Lakers dominated possession in the second half and the defense kept OES off the scoreboard, Lake Oswego tacked on five more goals in the final 25 minutes to seal up the team's second straight championship.
Leach collected the first three of those, scoring from five yards out just 2:27 into the second half, taking a high pass from Freeman and flipping it over OES goalie Alison Thomas three minutes later, then converting a 10-yard shot to make it 11-3 with 18:11 left in the contest.
Freeman extended that margin to 12-3 when she connected on the right side of the goal with 14:37 to go, and Garland Horwitz added the finale when she took a Katy Gilbert pass and scored with 6:59 remaining.
After that, it was just a countdown to celebration time for the Lakers.
"It's an amazing feeling," Leach said. "Fun, that's what it was. It was fun and nothing else."
Lauren "Gilbert and I told our team that no matter what we say or what the outcome is, we always love them," Hertford said. "But to come out on top, that's like 10 times a better feeling."
"We really had to focus ourselves coming into this game, not get too cocky, stay humble but also be confident," Lauren Gilbert said. "I think we just realized that we were out here to have fun and we just killed it."