The Lions enjoy one of the most successful years in the school's history

by: VERN UYETAKE - The West Linn sports teams had a phenomenal 2013-14 year which included a state championship by the boys lacrosse team.Whenever I sit down to write these end-of-the-school-year columns, recapping nine months of athletic achievements by West Linn athletes, there is never a lack of teams or individuals to highlight. West Linn has long been a power in Oregon high school sports and its trophy case displays decades of district and state champions.

However, I'd like to submit that 2013-14 may have been the greatest year in the history of West Linn sports. Across the board, the Lions were dominant, breaking records, extending winning streaks and racking up both individual and state championships along the way.

Perhaps the only years that could even rival 2013-14 would be in the late 90s when West Linn won its first boys basketball title and three straight boys track titles while also fielding one of its best football teams in school history.

But in terms of overall success with its programs, this year tops them all.

In the fall, West Linn's football team had its ups and downs but the unequivocal highlight came in its league opener against Lake Oswego.

Playing in a relentless downpour on Lake Oswego's home field, a long touchdown run by Louie Germain would be enough offense to snap the Lakers' remarkable 48-game league winning streak with a 7-3 victory.

In cross-country, West Linn's standout sophomore twins, Roman and Grayson Ollar, dominated the district meet, taking first and second respectively to help lead the boys to a state berth. The Lions would finish fifth as a team and Roman Ollar would take eighth individually.

West Linn's volleyball team also shined. Despite finishing fourth in what was perhaps the toughest league in the state this year, the Lions caught fire in the playoffs, knocking off both Reynolds and St. Mary's on the road to make another appearance in the state tournament.

But the story of the fall occurred on the soccer field. The West Linn boys entered the year with tempered expectations and opened the season with a loss to 5A power Wilsonville.

Not many people could have anticipated that the Lions would not lose another game for more than two months. West Linn gave up a goal in its league-opening 4-1 win against Oregon City and wouldn't yield another one until the state semifinals.

The Lions not only ran the table in the TRL, going 10-0-0, they also shut out nine of those opponents. West Linn pitched three more shutouts to advance to the state semifinals for the third time in school history. The Lions also shut out Jesuit in the opening half before falling to the eventual state champions 2-0.

In the winter, West Linn's girls swim team hoped to contend for the state championship. It would be an uphill battle as the Lions were led by a core of just five swimmers. However, the Lions were up to the challenge as the 200 individual medley team of Laura Laderoute, Robin Pinger, Kylie Norris and Brianna Dyrdahl won the state title for West Linn for the second year in a row.

Laderoute would also win the individual crown in the individual medley while Brie Balsbough scored a pair of top-five finishes to cap her career. As a team, West Linn finished second behind a much larger Century squad.

West Linn's wrestling team also had one of its best seasons in school history. The Lions started the season cautiously optimistic but did nothing to dampen those expectations throughout the season.

West Linn would win the league title handily and had aspirations of grabbing a team trophy at state. The Lions sent 10 wrestlers to the state meet and Tim Harman won the championship at 145 pounds, going undefeated for the season as West Linn finished second as a team, tying for its best-ever finish.

In basketball, the West Linn girls thrived under first-year coach Lisa Griffith. The Lions took third in the brutal Three Rivers League which included a victory over eventual state champion Oregon City. The Lions also knocked off No. 1 St. Mary's in the preseason but finished just one win shy of the state tournament.

West Linn's boys team entered the year as the defending state champions and the prohibitive favorites to repeat. But the Lions barely felt the pressure. West Linn was outstanding, taking third-place in the Les Schwab Invitational early in the year and then running the table in the TRL. In the playoffs, the Lions steamrolled opponents, winning every game by at least double-digits to capture back-to-back titles with sophomore Payton Pritchard earning player of the year honors.

West Linn's success rolled over into the spring as well. In tennis, Ella Riddle claimed her second straight district championship and made it to the singles quarterfinals at state.

Both of West Linn's golf teams qualified for state with the boys taking third at state in one of its best-ever showings. CJ Sitton finished sixth individually.

Meanwhile, the girls golf team continued its league winning streak and cruised into state and ultimately to a 30-stroke victory over Sheldon for its third state title in five years. Sarah Archuleta led the way with a fourth-place showing individually.

In track, Roman Ollar took fourth place in both the 3000 and the 1500 and Grayson Ollar was eighth in the 3000.

On the diamond, West Linn won league titles in both baseball and softball. The softball team played a brutally difficult early schedule but was battle tested heading into league play where it went 12-3 and ultimately advanced to the second round of the playoffs.

West Linn's baseball team also had a tough start to the season, picking up where it left off the previous spring by competing but ultimately dropping some tough one-run decision.

However, under first-year coach Joe Monahan, the Lions rallied impressively, winning five of six games against Clackamas and Lake Oswego to finish the regular season, earning a tie for the league title.

The Lions would also win a playoff game before falling to Clackamas in the second round.

West Linn was also the hotbed for both boys and girls lacrosse this spring. West Linn's girls entered this season as the defending state champions and rolled through early opponents, picking up a win in its first meeting with rival Lake Oswego.

Those teams were on a collision course again this year, ultimately tying for the league title and squaring off for the state title for the third straight season. This time it was Lake Oswego that earned the final victory but the Lions still emerged as one of the top teams in the entire Northwest.

For the West Linn boys, the young squad exceeded expectations. The Lions finished one win shy of the state title last season and were focused from the opening face-off this year.

West Linn rolled through a tough preseason schedule and knocked off Lakeridge twice in league play by a single goal to win the district title.

In the playoffs, the Lions advanced to the Final Four for the second straight year and used a stunning comeback to top Jesuit in the semifinals.

There would be far less drama in the title game as West Linn drubbed Lakeridge for three quarters, ultimately garnering its first state title in more than a decade.

West Linn now enters the summer with time to reflect but great things could be in store starting in the fall. The Lions will begin next year under the direction of a new athletic director and will have a new head football coach as well plus very strong young classes of boys and girls entering the programs as the school looks to build on some unprecedented success.

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