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Lions move to 7-0 in league and a No. 2 ranking in the state

by: MATT SHERMAN - Lucas Evans looks to make a pass upfield in West Linn's win over Lake Oswego on Tuesday.
The West Linn boys soccer team has all but wrapped up the Three Rivers League title with still three games remaining in the regular season.

With a 2-0 victory on the road against Lake Oswego on Tuesday, the Lions extended their unbeaten streak to 10 games, notched their sixth straight shutout and vaulted to No. 2 in the state, according to the OSAA's rankings.

West Linn now holds an eight-point lead over the Lakers for first place.

For the second time this year, the Lions thoroughly outplayed Lake Oswego, breaking through with a pair of goals in the second half to give the hosts just their second loss of the season.

West Linn started the game quickly, putting early pressure on the Lakers and dictating the pace of the game by controlling possession and limiting Lake Oswego's chances on the counterattack.

“Their strength is really up top and they play very direct. When you can hold onto the ball and be composed, it gives them problems,” coach Greg Bean said.

But, once the Lakers settled into the game, it became more of a back-and-forth affair as both teams recognized the importance of the contest.

After West Linn had the majority of the chances early on, a dangerous corner kick and a late breakaway by the Lakers in the final minutes both went unanswered.

West Linn regrouped to start the second half and started to control the game again. Jackson Brooke sent a shot just a few feet wide from a tough angle and, seven minutes into the half, the Lions broke the scoring drought.

Ryan Barber, who was fighting illness all night, got some space on the right side of the field and buried a beautiful shot into the far top corner of the net.

“That was really one of those clutch performances from Ryan,” Bean said.

Lake Oswego nearly answered moments later when goalie Zach Nelson had to come out and make a sliding save on a shot by the Lakers' Kyle Gazzigli.

But West Linn continued to garner the better chances and picked up its pressure on the Laker defense.

Colton Hefty hit a rocket that slammed off the crossbar midway through the half and Kegan Wesley had a shot from straight on that was just deflected by a defender for a corner kick.

Lake Oswego struggled to keep the ball away from the Lions for extended periods of time but still had a few chances. Nelson made another nice save and another Laker shot just barely cleared the crossbar, preserving West Linn's slim lead.

West Linn would get some insurance a few minutes later. After earning a corner kick, Wesley sent the ball in and Blake Hepburn got a head on the cross, sending it into the net to make it 2-0.

“That goal is what we've been working on. We've been trying to find a way to scrap out that second goal because then it's really hard to come back on us,” Bean said.

The Lions continued to attack, nearly notching a third goal when Andres Goncalves got free deep in Lake Oswego territory and knocked a shot that glanced off the post.

West Linn continues to play with confidence and appears to be getting stronger with each game. The Lions knocked off Oregon City 3-0 last week and are now 7-0 in league. West Linn has not lost a game since its season opener against Wilsonville.

“These guys like each other so much and enjoy each other. I tried to give them a day off recently and the captains said no,” Bean said.

West Linn has tonight, Thursday, off but will play Canby Tuesday where a win or a loss or tie from Lake Oswego would clinch the league title.

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