PMG Photo: Miles Vance – Lakeridge senior goalie Mitchell Parker raises his arms in triumph after the Pacers beat Newberg 9-8 at Chehalem Aquatic Center on Monday, Oct 21.
Pacers get a key Three Rivers League win that sets the table for the 6A playoffs
It was only a regular season game.
But what a game it was.
The Lakeridge boys water polo team rallied from two goals down in the fourth quarter to beat five-time defending Class 6A state champion Newberg 9-8 on Monday, Oct. 21, at Chehalem Aquatic Center’s Jim McMaster Competition Pool.
In the process, the Pacers reversed a 9-8 loss to the Tigers at Lake Oswego School District Pool on Wednesday, Oct. 2, and set the stage for what both teams expect at state — a third straight state championship match-up. Newberg beat Lakeridge 6-3 in the 2018 title contest and 9-7 in the 2017 finale.
Needless to say, the Pacers were beyond excited by their Monday victory.
“To take them down this game, it’s a huge deal,” said Lakeridge senior driver Brody Veater, who scored three goals in the win. “We’ve lost (to Newberg) at state every year since my freshman year and we’ve only come closer ever since, so this win really shows us that … we can win state this year. This is our year.”
“This is huge. We’ve broken the ice,” said Lakeridge junior holeset Torin Ferguson, who scored both his goals in the game’s fourth quarter. “We knew we could beat them and we’ve just got to keep on working hard.”
“We came to this game super excited, ready to go and really just wanting to win so bad,” added senior center defender Thomas Gooding, who tied Veater for team-high scoring honors with three goals.
With the win the Pacers improved to 5-1 in the Three Rivers League and 18-1 overall, while the Tigers fell to 6-1 in TRL play and 16-3 overall.
That said, none of it came easily against talented Newberg.
The Tigers and Pacers traded goals in the first quarter, with Newberg getting scores from Alex Touzeau and Osmand Evans, and Lakeridge answering with goals by Veater and Gooding, with Gooding scoring off a pass from senior Yeldar Daniyarbekov to tie the game at 2-2 with 1 minute, 20 seconds remaining in the period.
Lakeridge re-took the lead at 3-2 when Veater took a pass from junior Anthony Wang and scored off a man-up opportunity 1:57 into the second quarter, but it wouldn’t last. The Tigers came back to forge a 2-2 halftime tie when Touzeau set up Hudson Andrews’ score from just inside the 4-meter line on the left side with 1:45 remaining before halftime.
The Tigers and Pacers continued their back-and-forth defensive battle in the second half, with Newberg pushing ahead 5-4 in the third quarter, only to see Lakeridge come back to tie the contest again at the start of the fourth.
Newberg’s Grant Waldal started the second half with a quick goal off an Evans pass, and Evans capped the quarter when he lobbed a shot over Lakeridge senior goalie Mitchell Parker in the final second of the period to give Newberg a 5-4 lead.
In between those two scores, however, Gooding came through with a key goal for Lakeridge, pressuring Newberg goalie Nick Helikson after he stopped a man-up chance by the Pacers. Gooding eventually stole the ball away from Helikson at the left side of the Tigers’ goal and scored.
“I saw a chance and I said ‘I’m going to get this ball,'” Gooding said. “I just knew it. The goalie had been tentative with the ball … and I just went in there aggressive and I was lucky not to get a foul called.”
Ferguson then scored from the left side off a Daniyarbekov pass 14 seconds into the fourth quarter to tie the game at 5-5.
But Newberg appeared to take control there, getting a point-blank range score from Ty Patterson off an Evans pass, and 1:33 later, a goal from Mateo McKay that gave the Tigers a 7-5 lead — the first time all game either team led by more than one score.
But Lakeridge rallied back big-time over the next 3:16, scoring four unanswered goals to turn its 7-5 deficit into a 9-7 lead. Veater kicked off that stretch with a penalty shot, and Daniyarbekov came through next with a goal from 7 yards out that he powered through Helikson’s hands for a 7-7 tie with 3:19 left in the game.
Gooding then scored from short range off a Wang pass with 2:46 to play, and after a pair of fruitless Newberg possessions, Ferguson took another Wang pass and scored inside to give the Pacers a 9-7 edge with 1:33 remaining.
Parker stopped a Waldal shot on the Tigers’ next possession, and while Andrews connected from the left side (assisted by Touzeau) with 25 seconds left, it was too little, too late.
After scoring just five goals in the game’s first 3 1/2 quarters, the Pacers explained their late offensive outburst — they scored four times in just 3:03 — this way.
“In the beginning, we were a little nervous and just sort of in our own heads and distracted,” Ferguson said. “But after the half, we got ourselves together and we pulled together as a team.”
“We were tired of not being ahead the whole game,” Veater added. “Like I said after the last game, we were coming into this game knowing that we were going to win this and we were prepared 100%.”
Contact Sports Editor Miles Vance at 503-330-0127 or firstname.lastname@example.org.