Wildcats dealt first loss in anticipated clash with defending state champion
Competing at Randall Stadium in a color other than white was weird enough for Caitlin Malvar.
But even more bizarre, she said, would have been pretending not to know the opposing players during the April 22 girls lacrosse game between West Linn and host Wilsonville.
My teammates probably didnt want me talking to them, but I was talking to all my friends, said Malvar, a West Linn sophomore who spent her freshman year at Wilsonville. Theyre still my buds. I hang out with them all the time.
Malvar, who helped the top-ranked Lions defeat the No. 5 Wildcats 18-8 in an anticipated nonconference meeting, provides the latest connection between two programs that are already linked by their shared history and ongoing camaraderie.
That much was made clear by the scene after the game, when several Wilsonville and West Linn players emerged from their separate huddles to exchange hugs and laughs.
It was the 11th-consecutive victory for the Lions (11-1), who are in the hunt for a third-straight trip to the state finals and a second title in a row. And it was the first loss of the season for the Wildcats (8-1), who faced a true test for the first time all season after dominating their first eight opponents.
This is the greatest challenge in the state, Wilsonville coach Scott Chase said of West Linn after the game. Do we win by losing? I think we probably do. A lot of players are over there right now with a shaken confidence. ... To come out and be put in your place a little bit we needed that. Im not saying I wouldnt want to win the game, but it doesnt hurt as much as (the girls) think right now. And it makes for great material in practice.
West Linn is the natural favorite to win the state championship this year, but it isnt invincible. After defeating Lake Oswego 15-11 in the teams first meeting of the year, it lost 11-10 in the league rematch April 24.
In a previous era, Malvar wouldnt have had to switch teams. Indeed, the Lions and the Wildcats used to have just one girls lacrosse program between them a pretty good one, too.
In the nine seasons starting in 1996, the joint West Linn-Wilsonville squad played in nine-consecutive state title games and won back-to-back championships in 2002 and 2003 under then-coach Hilary Gilmore.
And although it didnt happen immediately, both schools have become legitimate contenders since their hybrid program split in two after the 2004 season. Of the 20 players on Oregons national tournament team in 2013, five were from the West Linn-Wilsonville School District.
One of those five players, Natalie Byrne, showcased impressive breakaway speed in the midfield as she scored a game-high six goals to lead the Lions past the Wildcats for the second year in a row. Jazmine Agcaoili and Hanna Morford each added three goals for West Linn.
Malvar, who plays mostly on defense, was tasked with putting the clamps on seniors Abby Chase and Alexa Dube, sophomores Jocelyn Welberg and Alex Monello and other former teammates.
We knew all their secrets, said Malvar, who won back-to-back state titles in the youth ranks alongside Welberg and Monello. They have their big four players, and we knew who they were.
Wilsonville managed a 2-2 tie early in the first half thanks to successful shots by Dube, who finished with a team-high four goals, and Bailey Kummerman. But the Lions responded with a commanding 15-minute stretch, using a 9-0 run that included three goals by Byrne to take an 11-2 lead it never relinquished.
Dube snapped West Linns surge with about two minutes left in the half. Welberg scored after a series of fakes to bring Wilsonville within 11-4 at halftime. As evidenced by rushed passes and lost ground balls, though, the Wildcats appeared flustered.
The first half wasnt great, Scott Chase said. We went into the tunnel and just asked the girls to play with some more composure. You could see how much pressure we were under. We were so frazzled.
The Lions scored the first five goals of the second half to take a 15-4 lead and quash any potential for a comeback by Wilsonville. The spurt included two assisted goals by co-captain Hanna Morford and one by co-captain Mariah Gatti, whom Scott Chase called probably the best player in the state.
The Wildcats were held to 15 shots and lost the battle of the draws, 17-9. Abby Chase, one of the state leaders in points per game, scored her only goal of the evening the last goal of the game with less than three minutes remaining.
She was double-teamed all over the field, Scott Chase said. It was almost impossible to get her the ball in the midfield.
Wilsonvilles loss masked a commendable effort by goalkeeper Olivia Chase, who made 11 saves. Annalyssa Sassara tallied five saves for the Lions.
In the games final sequence, Shelby Neilsen charged into West Linn territory as the Wildcats worked for a single-digit deficit. Byrne knocked the ball from her stick.
Weve got a lot of work to do, Scott Chase said. But it wasnt as bad as it seems.
As for what the rest of the season has in store, who knows? Perhaps Wilsonville and the Lions will meet again in the playoffs.
I think so, Malvar said.
AT A GLANCE
West Linn 18, Wilsonville 8
April 22 at Randall Stadium
Goals West Linn (18): Natalie Byrne 6, Jazmine Agcaoili 3, Hanna Morford 3, Morgan Finklea 2, Mariah Gatti 2, Hailey Bouchard, Adina Mollusky; Wilsonville (8): Alexa Dube 4, Jocelyn Welberg 2, Abby Chase, Bailey Kummerman.
Assists West Linn (6): Natalie Byrne 2, Hailey Bouchard, Morgan Finklea, Hanna Morford, Jessica Weinhart; Wilsonville (3): Jocelyn Welberg 2, Abby Chase.
Saves West Linn: Annalyssa Sassara 5; Wilsonville: Olivia Chase 11.
Shots: West Linn 29, Wilsonville 15.
Draws controlled: West Linn 17, Wilsonville 9.
Ground balls: West Linn 17, Wilsonville 12.