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No. 1

West Linn ousts Lake Oswego 19-13 for its first girls lacrosse state championship since 2003


by: VERN UYETAKE - The West Linn girls lacrosse team poses with the state championship trophy after toppling Lake Oswego 19-13 at Hillsboro Stadium last week.It's never easy to dethrone the champions. Especially when you've spent virtually an entire year expected to do so.

But last Thursday, during a near-constant downpour, West Linn put an emotional capper on its terrific season, winning the rubber match with Lake Oswego convincingly 19-13 and claiming its first girls lacrosse state title in 10 years.

The Lions were ranked No. 1 for the vast majority of the year and had just one blip in an otherwise perfect season, a 10-6 loss to Lake Oswego in the teams' first meeting since the Lakers topped West Linn in last year's state title game.

“We kind of become headcases when we play LO so beating them earlier this year and being ranked No. 1 gave us confidence,” goalie Tara Sonnemaker said.

And West Linn looked every much the part of that ranking on Thursday, pulling away from Lake Oswego midway through the first half and never giving the defending champs breathing room to make a comeback.

“Without ever wanting to sound overconfident, I thought all year that we were the best team in the state,” coach Meg Elston said.

The Lions were aggressive from the opening face-off and never trailed in the game, scoring a season-high 19 goals at Hillsboro Stadium.

The tone was set early by the Lions. Two minutes into the contest, freshman Natalie Byrne would split two defenders and score the game's first goal.

Less than a minute later, Byrne would score again to the bottom corner and West Linn was off and running.

Byrne would provide a huge spark to the Lions in the game, leading the way with six goals and proving to be a near-impossible mark at times. She also led the team with five ground balls.

“Even though I'm a freshman, I really tried to be leader on the field. The team's worked so hard all year, they deserved it,” Byrne said.

The teams then traded goals with West Linn getting its from Hanna Morford.

The Lions led 3-2 10 minutes into the contest and then started to exert their dominance.

Annie Longtain scored on a breakaway and, one minute later, Byrne scored her third goal of the game, making a nice move through traffic and forcing a Lake Oswego time out.

As the Lakers tried to rally, Sonnemaker made a pair of terrific saves to keep momentum firmly in her team's favor.

Longtain would score again following a penalty as did Morford to make it 7-2.

West Linn routinely attacked Lake Oswego's talented goalie with low bounce shots and the strategy worked as the Lions were very tough to stop on penalty shots.

“Their goalie is big and tall and so we tried to keep the ball low and away from her,” Byrne said.

Jazmine Agcaoili and Longtain scored two minutes apart to boost the lead to 9-2 but Lake Oswego scored twice in the final three minutes, sandwiching Longtain's fourth goal of the first half to bring the score to 10-4 at the break.

Once again, West Linn refused to open the door for the Lakers.

The Lions scored the first two goals of the second half, giving them an eight-goal lead, their largest of the game.

Jessica Weinhart scored on a breakaway and Morford scored on another penalty shot, forcing another quick time-out by the Lakers.

Lake Oswego rallied, scoring four of the next five goals to bring the lead to 13-8 with 12 minutes to play.

“When you go on runs like that, the defense can get a little stagnant,” Sonnemaker said.

However, in that span, the Lakers were issued their fourth yellow card of the game which hindered their ability to come back.

Byrne answered Lake Oswego's run with another pretty goal and, after Lake Oswgo make it 14-9, the Lions put together another run to all but seal the game.

“We just wanted to keep shooting as much as possible and to stay aggressive,” Elston said.

Morford would score again after scooping up a rebound and Byrne and Agcaoili each scored on penalties.

Kayla Bouchard would then score on an assist from Megan Longtain. Lake Oswego continued to fight, scoring four goals in the final eight minutes, but West Linn's continued aggression on offense and its large lead were too difficult to overcome.

West Linn's last game came from center Mariah Gatti, who led the team by capturing seven draws, which played a huge factor into the Lions' dominance in the game.

West Linn's victory was a huge exclamation point for the team's talented senior class and for the program in general which has steadily been on the rise after tailing off following its run of three straight state title appearances from 2002-2004.

“Another senior and I were talking before the game that, if you told us as seventh graders when we first started to play, that this is where we'd end up, we wouldn't have believed it,” Sonnemaker said.

The Lions emerged as one of the state's elite programs the past two seasons and hopes to be building a dynasty.

“We're losing some great seniors but we have a very deep roster that will try and do it again next year,” Elston said.



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