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Pacers continue long history of soccer success

VERN UYETAKE - Lakeridge fans cheer their team on during last week's state championship victory.For five straight seasons, the Lakeridge boys soccer team failed to make it out of the first round of the playoffs. On the surface, that statistic doesn’t appear to be entirely noteworthy. However, considering the talent that has run through the program during that time period, it defied logic. So much so that multiple players mentioned a “curse” or “bogey” following the team’s dramatic victory over McMinnville.

Expectations heading into this season were remarkably high and they only grew as the Pacers’ results started to match up with their confidence.

Coach Jason Bell talked all season about how he felt some of his previous teams had peaked too early and experienced a lull as the playoffs got underway.

Avoiding that was a huge emphasis this season. However, it’s difficult to raise the ceiling when you can’t be beaten.

Lakeridge finished the year 16-0-3, closing on a 12-game winning streak. And in the playoffs, the Pacers scored victories over two of the teams it drew against in the regular season.

But Lakeridge was peaking in the playoffs, outplaying each of its opponents and getting the results to show for it this year.

In doing so, Lakeridge wrote another chapter in what is perhaps the school’s most impressive athletic legacy.

I spent a good portion of my childhood on the sidelines of soccer fields, watching my dad coach West Linn for more than a decade. And during that time, there was no team more feared than Lakeridge.

The task of beating the Pacers always seemed monumental. In 13 years, the most emotional I ever saw my father after a game was when his team finally knocked off Lakeridge in a rain-soaked shoot-out to advance in the playoffs. Lakeridge was Goliath.

While the school has had amazing athletic success over the years — winning state titles in major sports like football, baseball and basketball and putting together long-lasting dynasties in tennis, swimming and, most recently, lacrosse — it could be argued that Lakeridge has always been a soccer school.

The Pacers won their first state title in the sport in 1977, the second year in which an official state championship was recognized in boys soccer. They would go on to win three more titles in the next four years and make another state championship game in 1986.

For 40 years, Lakeridge has been a force in soccer with very few valleys along the way.

The 2016 Pacers earned their banner in the school gym and their trophy in a case brimming with accolades. The team, which scored 68 goals, and at times, looked to be playing on a completely different plane than their opponents, are worthy champions and a fitting addition to the program’s storied history on the soccer field.