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TRL primed to be state's premier league again

One year removed from redistricting, the Three Rivers League is loaded across the board

With another fall sports season nearly upon us, it's an opportune time to look back on last year's major and controversial redistricting plan which made a significant impact on the Three Rivers League.

After tossing around a handful of proposals, the Oregon School Activities Association ultimately landed on a plan that would greatly expand the TRL, disbanding the Pacific Conference and making an eight-team league (nine-team in girls sports with the addition of St. Mary's.)

The plan sent Oregon and Clackamas, longtime TRL participants, to the Mt. Hood Conference, leaving Lakeridge, Lake Oswego, West Linn and Canby (which had just recently been moved back into the TRL after an extended absence) as the league's old guard.

The result was far from perfect as it broke up longstanding rivalries and made for somewhat of a competitive imbalance from league to league but the OSAA was also somewhat handcuffed by the PIL's late decision to play all of its teams up at 6A.

The prevailing sentiment was that the TRL was going to be a juggernaut in many sports and the prognosticators weren't wrong.

Football was perhaps the most heavily anticipated league with Tigard, Lake Oswego, Lakeridge and Sherwood all figuring to be at least borderline state title contenders.

The league proved to be perhaps even deeper than originally thought. Tigard marched to a trip in the state title game and West Linn reached contender status a year early, finishing third in the TRL and reaching the quarterfinals.

Six TRL teams made the playoffs with five winning their first round game. And even Newberg, which just missed out on a bid, proved to be a tough out late in the season, losing to Lakeridge and Lake Oswego by just one score.

Tualatin, which was one year removed from a 5-2 finish in the Pacific Conference, went 0-7. Elsewhere in the fall, the new league made for brutal volleyball schedules with teams starting league play as soon as the school year started and playing double-headers to get in 16 league matches.

The additions to the TRL also flexed their muscles with Tualatin rolling to a girls soccer state championship and St. Mary's dominating in girls cross country.

In the winter, the TRL was maybe the most exciting girls basketball conference in the state with St. Mary's carrying the banner. The Blues would finish second in state but the rest of the league was wide open with eight of nine teams ultimately making the 32-team playoff tournament.

The addition of Tualatin, Tigard and Newberg also made the TRL the most vaunted swim league in the state.

The spring also brought added competitiveness. Tualatin cruised to the state championship in softball while St. Mary's and West Linn finished 1-2 in girls golf while boys golf was, from top to bottom, perhaps the best league in the state as well.

Baseball was also heavily anticipated and lived up to its billing. West Linn, Lakeridge, Lake Oswego, Sherwood and Tualatin combined to produce some of the best pitching in the state and a meat-grinder of a league that made it next to impossible to run the table.

The 2015-16 sports season appears ready for an encore presentation from the TRL. The redistricting still has some kinks as the unbalanced leagues routinely leave a few deserving playoff teams out in the cold. Fewer preseason contests also makes the OSAA's power rankings which is uses for postseason seeding more unreliable.

But the system is set in stone for the next few seasons and, at the very least, it should provide for some extremely exciting local athletics on a night to night basis.