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WL girls win state title rematch


Natalie Byrnes nine goals pace the Lions who topped Lake Oswego on its home field

by: VERN UYETAKE - West Linn's Natalie Byrne goes for a ground ball in Monday's shodown with Lake Oswego. Byrne scored a team-high nine goals in the contest.The West Linn girls lacrosse team won the year's first showdown with Lake Oswego Monday, fending off the perennial state contenders 15-11 and handing the Lakers their first loss on their home field since 2011.

“Our goal was just to leave the field feeling good about how we played. We knew it was going to be a battle,” coach Meg Elston said.

In doing so, the Lions firmly established themselves as the team to beat once again this season. West Linn was relentless in its pressure on both sides of the ball and Lake Oswego simply had no answer for midfielder Natalie Byrne.

If Byrne had a breakout game last season against the Lakers in the state title game where she was named the contest's MVP, her performance Monday solidified her standing as one of the state's top players.

The sophomore had nine goals and two assists against one of the best defenses in Oregon, rarely missing her target.

West Linn's entire midfield dominated the game. Hanna Morford and Mariah Gatti each scored three goals and that trio combined to win 18 draws. For the game, the Lions won 20 draws to just seven for Lake Oswego.

“That was a huge part of the game, just to be able to keep momentum,” Elston said.

The Lions set the tone in the first half, opening the game as the aggressors and with the confidence of having won the last two meetings between the two juggernauts.

“I think part of it was the excitement of the girls. They remember the game here last year and wanted to send a message,” Elston said.

West Linn dominated possession and was efficient on offense. After a back-and-forth start, the Lions started to settle into a rhythm and opened the game up late in the opening half.

Byrne began to take over, becoming the team's go-to target and she notched four goals in quick succession to close the half, staking the Lions to a 10-4 advantage.

But Lake Oswego wouldn't go away quietly. When the teams met at Lake Oswego High School last year, a very competitive game turned in the Lakers' favor in the second half when a quick burst allowed the home team to pull away.

The Lakers slowly started to claw their way back into contention, hustling to win ground balls and trying to make their own breaks.

“Our fitness caught up to us a bit. This was the first game we've played that's been close all the way to the end,” Elston said.

But West Linn had an answer. The Lions' defense held its own against Lake Oswego's renewed attack and West Linn stayed aggressive on the attack, getting goals at opportune times to fend off the rally.

It was an impressive showing for West Linn, who is also coming off wins over Sunset, a semifinals last year, and league rival Oregon City.

Against the Apollos, Byrne had six goals and controlled nine draws in an easy 20-9 victory.

The Lions will now try to stay focused in upcoming league games with Clackamas and Canby before squaring off against an up-and-coming OES team next Wednesday.

“Our target just got bigger. We know we'll have to change things the next time we see them. It was great to be able to win with just three players scoring but next time we'll probably need seven or eight,” Elston said.