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The Lions rally to top Sunset and will play for the championship against a familiar opponent

Practically from the beginning of the season, all signs pointed to a repeat of last year's state championship in girls lacrosse. West Linn and Lake Oswego appeared to be the two dominant teams in the state with a significant drop-off behind them.

And, when the dust settled, the league rivals will, in fact, square off again tonight (Thursday) for the title at Hillsoro Stadium. But the road to the finals wasn't as neat and tidy as it was expected to be.

The Lions and Lakers split a pair of hotly contested league matches, which wasn't a surprise. What was a surprise was the Lakers then dropping a game to Oregon City.

And, in the playoffs another minor surprise emerged in the late-season push by a very strong Sunset team.

Sunset fell off the radar somewhat early in the year, dropping two of its first three games to Wilsonville and Oregon City.

However, the Apollos hadn't lost since, winning the Metro League handily and dominating the Pioneers in the quarterfinals to earn a date with the Lions.

“We knew that, if we made the finals, at least we'd be familiar with our opponent. But with Sunset we had to be ready for a lot of unknowns,” coach Meg Elston said.

Sunset was more than prepared for No. 1 West Linn on Tuesday. The Apollos were quick and dangerous, jumping out to a 3-1 lead and outplayed the Lions in the first half.

Sunset's speed all over the field proved to be exceptionally dangerous and the Apollos also out-hustled the Lions early on.

“Both teams were dropping balls and Sunset was beating us to them. They have a ton of team speed especially through the midfield and they put a lot of pressure on us. We just talked about getting back to fundamentals,” Elston said.

Despite trailing, West Linn seemed to have weathered the storm by the half and, after the opening minutes of the second half, righted the ship and took over in an 8-6 victory.

The Lions took better care of the ball and reversed the battle for ground balls. Defensively, West Linn was tighter as a unit as well and only gave up two second-half goals and just one in the final 18 minutes of the contest.

Offensively, Natalie Byrne led the Lions early and finished with three goals.

In the second half, West Linn looked to Mariah Gatti and she responded with a pair of goals late in the game to put the Lions up 8-5.

Kayla Bouchard also had a nice night all-around. She notched the go-ahead goal to make it 6-5 and had three assists in the game. Megan Longtain led West Linn with eight ground balls.

Up until the semifinals, it had been a relatively easy stroll through the playoffs for the Lions.

West Linn opened with a 14-4 win over Hood River, a game where seven different players scored and goalie Tara Sonnemaker notched 13 saves.

Then, against Wilson in the quarterfinals, West Linn's defense was stifling. The Trojans got off just five shots and scored only once in an 11-1 Lions' win.

“Wilson really was a good team. That was probably out best defensive performance as a unit of the year,” Elston said.

Bouchard had five of the team's goals.

West Linn will now gear up for perhaps the biggest game in the program's history. The showdown with the Lakers is not only a rematch of last year's narrow loss in the title game but also the rubber match between the two rivals this year.

The game will be played at 7 p.m. at Hillsboro Stadium.

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