Youthful Pioneers eye a repeat trip to the girls lacrosse state playoffs

With the graduation of eight starters from last year’s lineup, Oregon City High School girls lacrosse coach Dara Kramer knew that this season would be a rebuilding year. But the Pioneers are off to a 5-2 start, and Kramer says she likes what she’s seen so far.

In games last week, the Pioneers handled St. Mary’s 16-3 and Clackamas 7-0. In earlier games, they defeated Jesuit 14-10, Liberty 17-2 and Clackamas 12-4, while losing to Southridge 13-11 and to defending state champion and No. 1-ranked West Linn 19-2.

“We started out the season knowing that we’d have a huge learning curve from the beginning to the end of the season, and we’re already seeing that happen,” Kramer said. “Clackamas is the only team we’ve played twice and our defense against them in the second game was a huge improvement. Our goalie, Gabby Amendolara, had her first shutout in an amazing performance [in last Friday’s game at Clackamas].

“This young group is small, but fast, and they’re really motivated to learn. Our strength really lies in our raw potential right now. Most of these girls were playing jayvee or on the varsity bench last year, so the first games of the season have been an incredible opportunity to learn what works for us and what doesn’t. What works for us is playing team ball. When we move the ball well and trust each other, we make great things happen. It’s definitely not about having a go-to super star; it’s a 12-player effort from defense to offense.”

Kramer has been going with a starting lineup that includes only two seniors and seven sophomores — senior captains Taylor Bass and Cassie Downing; juniors Monica Curtis and Amendolara; sophomores Jenny Burke, Alyssa Schroeder, Britney Smith, Claudia Hatch, Rachel Tacha, Lindsi Peters and Emily Sepulveda; and freshman Kimberly Peitz.

Downing and Peters headed the offensive attack in Friday’s game at Clackamas, Downing with two goals and three assists, and Peters with two goals and two assists.

Eight different players scored in the April 8 16-3 rout of St. Mary’s, led by Downing (5 goals), Bass (2 goals), Peitz (2 goals), Smith (2 goals) and junior Raegen Lyon.

Kramer commended several of her players for their growth and contributions through Oregon City’s first seven games:

“Britney Smith is proving to be a very strong center on the draw. She may be small, but she has great intuition for moving and tracking the ball.

“Sophomore midfielder Jenny Burke’s speed and intensity are key to slowing down star attackers on our opponents’ teams.

“Sophomore midfielder Lindsi Peters uses her basketball experience to serve as a great ‘point guard’ to get our offense going.

“Senior midfielder Cassie Downing has incredible speed on transition attack that often results in fast-break goals for us.

“Junior defensive leader Monica Curtis has really gotten our young defense to work together and cause turnovers off effective double-teams.

“Sophomore midfielder Rachel Tacha has been solid for us on both ends of the field, with strong shots and tenacious defensive pressure.”

“Our number one goal right now is to be in the playoffs, and it looks like we’re in good position to achieve that,” Kramer said. “The top four teams from the TRL will go to playoffs, and that’s very likely to include [No. 1-ranked] West Linn, [No. 2-ranked] Lake Oswego, Oregon City and Lakeridge....

“I am so grateful to be able to work with such a positive and hard-working group of girls. I know they’ll continue to exceed expectations, because they have the drive and passion to achieve whatever they put their minds to.”

The Pioneers have an away game with Lake Oswego at 7 p.m. this Friday.

In upcoming home games, Oregon City hosts Canby on April 23, West Linn on April 28, Lakeridge on May 2 and Lake Oswego on May 5. Gametime for the home games is 8 p.m.

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