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PREP FOCUS: Lincoln water polo girls rise to challenge, take 2nd in state

by: COURTESY OF LINCOLN WATER POLO - The Lincoln Cardinals swept through the Metro League, then finished second in state.It was a banner year for Lincoln water polo, especially for the upstart Cardinals girls team.

"They really did play over their heads," first-year coach Andrew Wilson says of the Cards, who finished second in the state.

Lincoln lost 7-5 to Tualatin in the Nov. 9 championship match at the Osborn Aquatic Center in Corvallis.

"It was a fantastic season," Wilson says. "They really came together, enjoyed being around one another and created a very good team environment."

Lincoln had never been to the finals.

"It was pretty cool just to be there," Wilson says. "It sucks not to win it, but we played well, and the girls really killed it in league."

The Cardinals dominated Metro League foes Westview, Southridge, Sunset, Beaverton and Aloha, going 10-0.

"I don't think anyone was within 10 goals of us. We were clearly the most dominant team in the league," he says.

Lincoln (27-7 overall) had some good senior leadership but was not a team of stars.

"There weren't one or two players way far above everybody else; I probably had about eight kids who were like interchangeable pieces," Wilson says. "It was a cohesive group. They really played together.

"We didn't have the star power, but we had depth."

Three Lincoln players made the all-state tournament team: Annabel Shepherd, Colleen Cameron and Kayla Lanker.

Two Cardinals were named to the all-tourney second team: Elise Cugnart and goalie Lizzy Wax.

Shepherd and Wax were voted co-MVPs of the Metro. Cameron also made the all-league team. Cugnart was named second-team all-Metro League, and Lincoln's Julia Page was voted to the third team.

Shepherd, Wax, Gravatt and Smiley were the seniors.

"We had a big junior class," Wilson says.

The Cards also took eighth out of more than 40 teams at the Western States Tournament in Modesto, Calif.

"I wouldn't say we were better at one end, offense or defense, from the other, but our speed and transition from defense to offense is what put pressure on teams," Wilson says. "Our quickness on counterattacks was something we used to our advantage."

Tualatin's girls had placed second in the state in 2012 and was making its sixth consecutive finals appearance. The Timberwolves also won the state crown in 2010 and 2011.

This year's Tualatin team was undefeated, edging Lincoln 7-6 during the regular season.

In the state championship game, Lincoln rallied from a 5-1 halftime deficit. Cugnart, AJ Gravatt and Cameron scored, as the Cards cut the gap to 5-4 going into the fourth quarter.

After a Tualatin goal, Cameron, a junior, scored 19 seconds later to pull Lincoln to within 6-5.

"She had a great state tournament," Wilson says. "It's going to be huge having her back next season."

The Wolves' final goal came with 3:16 remaining.

Other Lincoln team members: Rachel Davis, Audrey Weiss, Serena Zafiris, Kesiah Clement, Kena'Dee Needham, Sophie Hinshaw and Edna Waters.

 The Lincoln boys had "a great year," too, Wilson says. "After graduating most of our lineup, we exceeded expectations."

The boys made it to the final eight at state for 6A, after placing third in the Metro League.

Julian Stark, who was honorable mention all-state tournament, was selected for the all-Metro first team, along with Lincoln goalie Stephan Kennedy.

Also from the Cardinals, Thomas Prihoda was a second-team all-Metro choice, and Jackson Henderson was named to the all-league third team.

Other varsity boys: Cameron McKeown, Jacob Bustamante, Giovanni Zumbo, Kyle Corbett, Sven Burke, Brendan Carey, Nes Cohen, David He, Bayley Guy, Elliot Elfick and Brendan Dunn.

"The boys had graduated almost their entire starting lineup after last season," Wilson says.

An overtime play-in victory over Barlow got Lincoln into the final eight for state.

Kennedy was a stalwart in goal for the Cardinals.

"He was the best goalie in the Metro League and one of the best goalies in the state. He saved us on the boys side," Wilson says.

And Stark was a standout on the attack for Lincoln.

"He will end up playing Division I somewhere," Wilson says. "He was a beast. Teams had to change their entire defensive strategy to guard him."