LHS girls prepare for title run
It's that time again. After securing yet another Westside League crown, Lassen High School's girls' soccer team is preparing to claim its fourth Northern Section championship in six years.
The Grizzlies wrapped up their sixth consecutive league title after earning a 1-1 tie against Orland at home last Tuesday.
Courtney Oates punched in a penalty kick with less than a minute left to give the Grizzlies sole ownership of the league crown at 7-1-2.
A loss would have dropped Lassen into second place.
"We cut it close, but got the job done," Lassen head coach Steve Datema said. "We deserved to win the game. We created a lot more scoring opportunities and played outstanding defense. Their goal was on a mistake we made on a back pass."
Datema directed the team with just 14 players, including two goalies. Senior forward LeAnn McCracken did not play.
"The girls responded pretty well with the low numbers we had. They had to step it up and play a lot of minutes," Datema said.
The Grizzlies host Colusa in the first round of the Northern Section Division II playoffs on Thursday, Feb. 14 at Susanville's Riverside Park.
The game time was not set at press time.
A win pits Lassen against the champion of the Sacramento Valley League or the second-place finisher in the Butte View League.
"I don't know much about Colusa, but they've always played us tough in the past," Datema said. "For us, it's just a matter of sticking to our game plan and executing.
"The girls showed a lot against Orland. Knowing the league title was on the line and a loss would have changed our situation in the playoffs, they hung in there. It was one of toughest games this program has come across in a long time."
Lassen's girls have been one of the section's premier teams in the last six years. The Grizzlies have won three section titles.
"We don't set forth every year to win it all. We've been blessed with a lot of talent, and as long as we just play our game, we're going to have a shot at winning the last game of the season," said Datema, who has directed the Grizzlies for seven years.
Lassen boys' team backed into the playoffs with a 3-7 league record. Lassen was one of three WSL teams to make the postseason.
The Grizzlies finished the regular season with a 5-0 loss to Orland, which won the WSL with a 8-0-2 record. Oroville finished second.
Lassen opens the playoffs at Winters on Thursday. Winters captured the Butte View League crown and has been a contender for a section title the last three years.
"We didn't really expect to be here, having to play more games. We stumbled (into the playoffs) and have to play our very best game and take advantage of every opportunity we get," first-year Lassen head coach Dennis Michaels said.
"Playing on their grass isn't going to be easy either. It's going to be an uphill battle. We can't spot them any goals early in the game.
"Obviously, we're going to give it our best shot, but in some ways we're looking toward next year. This is a young team that has got a lot of promise in years to come. The guys have worked hard and given it their all during a tough season. I'm proud of them for that."
If the boys defeat Winters, they will most likely have to play the remainder of the postseason on the road.
The boys failed to win a league championship for the second straight year after capturing four consecutive WSL titles and section crowns. The Grizzlies have made the playoffs the last six years.