At some point, Lakeridge's stranglehold on the Three Rivers League will have to end. But it doesn't appear that it will happen this year. Despite some key losses, the Pacers are heavy favorites to emerge as league soccer champions again and could challenge for another state title.

Lakeridge is led by a quartet of returning varsity players. Eric Destefano will lead the Pacers up front. He and fellow first-team all-state selection Facundo Dipascuale are expected to handle the bulk of the scoring duties for Lakeridge.

That pair has become a lethal combination for the Pacers over the past few seasons and both players are among the most exciting to watch in the state.

Taylor Thompson, who was one of the team's leading scorers last year, has been moved to defense and will anchor a formidable back line.

He will play in front of returning standout goalie Jason Dodson, who is one of the best players at his position in the state.

'I think all four of those guys have the potential to be first-team all-state and could be player of the year candidates,' coach Paul Slover said.

Lakeridge will play a slightly different style of soccer this year. As usual, the team will play aggressively on offense but it will look to set up scoring opportunities from its defense as much this year.

Although the Pacers are expected to receive big contributions from their standouts this year, their success may lie in how well they function as a team.

'We're strong in each line on the field. It's a pretty balanced team and we have a lot of chemistry. We just need to stay healthy now more than ever,' Slover said.

Over the past few years, Lakeridge has fielded teams that have been among the best in the state and Slover feels that this squad has the potential to be near that level as well.

'This team has the potential to be very strong. I think it's the right mix of having individual abilities working in the framework of a team,' Slover said.

The Three Rivers League could be unpredictable this year as nearly every team made a coaching change in the past year. While Lakeridge is the odds-on favorite for a league title, Lake Oswego is expected to contend as well.

'It's tough to anticipate what we'll see but I expect that LO will be tough,' Slover said.

In Lakeridge's opening game at Roseburg, the Pacers didn't show much mercy, jumping out to a 3-0 halftime lead and cruising to a 7-0 victory.

Dipascuale led Lakeridge with four goals while Destefano added one goal and three assists. Will Marks and Nick Wilkinson also added a goal apiece for the Pacers.

'We took advantage of the opportunities we had. I like where this team is starting out,' Slover said.

Roseburg had one good opportunity in the game, a breakaway in the first half, but that chance was thwarted by a brilliant save from Dodson.

The Pacers will play Southridge tonight (Thursday) before taking on West Linn in the league opener.

Although it is far too early in the season to make predictions, Slover did guarantee that, at the very least, his team will be fun to watch again.

'It's going to be good, aggressive, attacking soccer and I hope people will come out and watch us. We're going to give them a show,' Slover said.

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