It wasn't supposed to end this way, or this early, for the West Linn girls lacrosse team.
The fourth-ranked Lions, hosting inter-district rival Wilsonville — the state's No. 5 team — in the Oregon Girls Lacrosse Association state quarterfinals on Wednesday, fell behind midway through the first half and couldn't recover in their 13-10 loss to the Wildcats. The Lions, after reaching the state championship game in each of the past five seasons, finished third in the Three Rivers League at 9-4 and 10-6 overall.
"Unfortunately, we turned the ball over too many times once we got control and turnovers kill you," West Linn head coach Ben Finklea said. "Not every year is going to be a run to the state championship. It all ebbs and flows."
"We all thought we could have played better, but it's just something we have to deal with," added West Linn midfielder Adina Mollusky.
Throughout the game, and especially in the opening 12 minutes, Mollusky and the Lions won the majority of draws, but Wilsonville's defense either poked balls loose or saw goalkeeper Annalyssa Sassara stonewall the Lions' shot attempts.
On the other end, Wilsonville's Kacy Shrock scored three early goals and teammate Izabella Chimienti added two more to give the Wildcats a 5-2 lead with 10:34 left in the first half.
"We've been practicing crashing super hard (on defense) in practices and making sure we stop the players who are a big threat, and every time we did that, we took it coast-to-coast. We had a lot of confidence with that," Shrock said.
With former all-state player MacKenzie Welberg injured, Shrock has taken more responsibility for the Wildcats.
"MacKenzie being hurt and not in the game makes me have to step up a lot more and fill her spot, which is tough, but it's also a blessing because I like being able to step up and be the captain of the girls and really lead them in a positive way," she said.
Wilsonville led 8-5 at halftime and 10-6 with 17:12 remaining in the game.
Then, the Lions initiated a forceful push.
First, Jenna Ittershagen stole the ball from Wilsonville, dashed up the field and found Ragen Finklea for an impressive score. Then, after the Lions won the subsequent draw, Mollusky found the back of the net to cut Wilsonville's advantage to 10-8 with 14:40 left in the game.
With their lead dwindling and the West Linn crowd in a frenzy, the Wildcats concentrated on defense and ball control.
"We really focused on our defense and forcing turnovers and just settling on offense because we knew we had to stall time," Erickson said.
West Linn scored two more goals in the game, but Wilsonville's Kylie Hix, Erickson and Chimienti scored goals of their own and put the game to bed.
"Lacrosse is a game of runs, and we just went on a run, but we had too many turnovers and so they won," Mollusky said.
Mollusky won nine draws and scored four goals, while Morgan Finklea added three goals for West Linn.
For Wilsonville, Sassara finished with 12 saves and, according to Shrock, spearheaded the Wildcats' win.
"Our goalie saved this game. I don't think the result would have been the same if it wasn't for her coming to Wilsonville. She has impacted us in the most positive way possible," Shrock said.
Chimienti was the dominant scoring force in the game. The Wilsonville sophomore consistently zigzagged around Lions' defenders, drew fouls and accumulated a game-high six goals.
"She was doing a good job of taking it in, driving the opposite way and then forcing it in toward the middle and it was harder for them to crash on that. We were all moving around better this game so it drew away more defenders," Alexa Erickson said.
Erickson said the Wildcats miss Welberg, but winning without her was also satisfying.
"We really miss her, especially on the draw, but it's nice for us to be able to pull through with the players we have and controlling what we can control. It's a really good feeling," Erickson said.
Ben Finklea said the two teams are evenly matched but the Wildcats simply played better Wednesday.
"These last two games are more indicative of the two teams (Wilsonville won 9-3 in the first meeting and West Linn won 17-16 in two regular season meetings)," he said. "They had a great game the first time out. These are two evenly matched teams. So many of these kids have grown up together. Our coaching staffs are really close. And skill level-wise, it's a good matchup and tonight they had the better game."
West Linn had reached the state finals five consecutive years before this season. But the Lions are a young team and Finklea has high hopes for the future.
"I think we have an outstanding base. We have six freshmen on the team this year, which is the most we've ever had in the history of the program," Ben Finklea said. "I'm really confident that our base of young kids will progress at a good level. I expect us to be competing for state championships in the years to come."