By Emily Oller

The Bulletin

After his team graduated 13 seniors from last season’s squad, Bend High boys lacrosse coach Joe Kerwin was not sure how far his team would go in 2014.

But there is little doubt now that Bend is a force to be reckoned with after cruising past West Salem 10-3 Wednesday in the first round of the Oregon High School Lacrosse Association State playoffs at 15th Street Field.

“These guys have definitely maximized their potential,” Kerwin said. “It’s been really fun to watch. They’ve definitely surpassed my expectations. Their cohesiveness and the chemistry they’ve created has been a lot of fun to see.”

Goals were scattered throughout the lineup, but Bend’s victory was due in large part to goalie Lake Larsen, who had seven saves for the 10th-ranked Lava Bears.

“It’s not just me that won the game,” Larsen said. “It was definitely the offense holding possessions, defense making the right decisions and everyone working as a unit to keep things together. So it’s not just me. It was everyone working as a team.”

That may be, but Kerwin noted that Larsen’s performance was crucial for the Lava Bears.

“Our goaltending was great,” Kerwin said. “He had a great game and made the game that uneven. Otherwise, I thought it could have been a close game. I don’t think we played a particularly well and I think we recognize that so we can tighten things up before next game.”

Wednesday’s victory earnd Bend a second-round matchup against No. 7 Sunset in Portland on Tuesday.

The Lava Bears proved dominant in the first half, scoring three goals in the opening quarter and four more in the second to grab a 7-0 halftime lead over No. 23 West Salem.

In the second half, the Titans limited the Bears to just three goals while managing three scores of their own. But it was not enough to overcome what was once an 8-0 Bend High advantage.

“Bend is well-coached and they don’t make a lot of mistakes,” West Salem coach Bob Fan said. “They don’t put the ball on the ground often, and when the ball is on the ground, they’ll end up with it. Every time we had the ball on their end, it seemed like there was always a quick turnover.”

James Rockett led Bend (15-3) with three goals — two in the first quarter — and an assist. Quinn Fettig racked up two goals and an assist for the Bears, Joseph Schwarz had two goals, and Eli Pite dished out a team-high two assists while scoring once.

“Offensively, I think we held onto the ball really well,” Pite said. “We controlled the tempo of the game most of the time. I think we played a little sloppy, but I think overall we just had the better players and we knew it, so we went in with a lot of confidence and executed when we had to.”

Wednesday’s win was Bend’s sixth in the last seven games and advanced the Lava Bears to the round of 16 — where they fell last season. After dealing West Salem its first loss in eight games in dominant fashion, Rockett knows that Sunset will be a tough opponent.

“We (need to focus on) playing really smart and controlling the ball a lot better than we did today,” Rockett said. “We need to work as hard as we can.”

“We have to really focus on the little things and play sharp and fast,” Pite added. “We have to execute all of our possessions. We can’t make dumb mistakes against better teams like Sunset.”

— Reporter: 541-383-0375,