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Lions girls' soccer ready to light it up

St. Helens played at Putnam on Thursday, will head to No. 8 La Salle Prep in regular-season finale on Tuesday

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: JAKE MCNEAL - Morgan Bingaman (00) and the Lions looked to bounce back on the road against Putnam on Thursday in Milwaukie.SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: JAKE MCNEAL - Gabrielle Duggan (5) controls the ball against Hillsboro senior midfielder Brenda Chavez (10).The Lions were not happy at all after their Senior Night loss to Hillsboro on Tuesday at Doc Ackerson Stadium.

The No. 7 Spartans (9-2-1 overall, 3-1-1 Northwest Oregon Conference) looped in two first-half goals from the top of the Lions box and St. Helens could not equalize.

Luckily, a little frustration goes a long way.

St. Helens (8-4, 2-3) was ready and raring to bring it to Putnam on Thursday and to No. 8 La Salle Prep in the 7 p.m. season finale on Oct. 25 in Milwaukie.

The result against the Kingsmen (3-8-1, 1-3-1) and all-conference seniors Abigail Herbert (midfielder), Maleah Maier and Megan Spaulding (defenders), who have taken two games and a tie from the Lions in the last three years, was unavailable at press time.

All-state senior midfielder Keegan Storlie and The Falcons have taken both meetings from the Lions since they came up from Class 4A in 2014, but times change.

"I'm excited for the challenges ahead," said Sophia Estep, a St. Helens junior midfielder and captain. "In the years that I've been playing with St. Helens, I've never experienced a greater opportunity to showcase our true talents than this one. The game against Rex Putnam is arguably our biggest game of the year state-wise, and I feel that if we play like we know how, we can pull through with some of the last points we need to maintain that fourth position."

The Lions' rank of 13th is, in coach Simon Date's estimation, the highest the Lions have ever had at this point in the season. They last reached the state play-in round in 2014 but have never won a state championship.

The rankings will freeze at 10 p.m. on Wednesday. If the Lions stay in fourth, they are projected to host third-place Mountain View (Bend).

If they drop lower, they'll face a higher-ranked opponent.

"We want to beat Putnam to avoid going to Bend," Date said. "We've only ever had two postseason games. One was in West Albany in 2012 — we lost in a shootout after extra time — and the other was in Bend in 2014: We lost 8-0."

On St. Helens' heels is fifth-place Milwaukie (6-5-1, 2-3), but the Lions beat the Mustangs 5-2 at home on Oct. 6. Hillsboro's fourth-place head-to-head tiebreaker is prohibitive.

"Of course we're aiming for third and higher, but I take it as one game at a time and I know Simon does too," Estep said. "La Salle is a fantastic team and will no doubt be a tough match, but they have never seen a team like this come from St. Helens before."

In the meantime, Mackenzie Carlson is in recovery from a bone bruise.

Lydia Walters and Morgan Bingaman saved everything but the two so-called bad goals against the Spartans on Tuesday, and the Lions' offense is tied for fifth-best in the state with 41 goals scored.

"I think that, if we come together as a team and do our best, we can come out with two wins before state," said Bingaman, a junior goalkeeper. "We've had our downs with the past two games, so it's time for us to come together for these last two and win, and I believe we can all do that."

Northwest Oregon Conference

League Overall GF GA Rank

Sandy 5-0 8-2-2 39 15 4

La Salle Prep 4-1 9-1-2 22 7 1

Hillsboro 3-1-1 9-2-1 36 15 6

St. Helens 2-3 8-4 41 24 13

Milwaukie 2-3 6-5-1 39 28 16

Wilsonville 2-3 6-6 20 24 9

Putnam 1-3-1 3-8-1 20 34 17

Parkrose 0-5 3-6-1 26 38 27