September 16, 2003 11:00 pm

BEAVERTON — In an anticipated rematch of the 2002 playoffs, the La Grande High girls soccer team was hoping to get some revenge against Catlin Gabel, which eliminated them from postseason play in a 2-1 home loss last November.

The contest resembled an intense battle between two top-10 squads and it was scoreless at halftime. The defending state champions, ranked No. 1 in the Oregon Class 3A Coaches Poll, proved to be worthy of the honor too as they scored four second half goals to propel them to a 4-0 nonleague win over eighth-ranked La Grande (3-1) Monday at Catlin Gabel High School.

It remained 0-0 until 11 minutes into the second half when the Eagles (3-1) got on the scoreboard after scoring off a corner kick. Any thoughts that coach Alex Steenstra's Tigers had regarding a comeback were dispelled midway through the first half as Catlin Gabel's Lauren Bashman eluded La Grande defenders and scored twice in a three-minute span to break open the contest, as the Eagles took a 3-0 lead with about 20 minutes remaining.

The Tigers made a valiant effort to avoid getting shutout though, as senior forward Alexis Baum and senior midfielder Caitlin Schoenfelder each had good scoring opportunities, but their shots were smothered quickly by Eagle goalkeeper Sarah Smith.

Tiger defenders Megan Sherer, Tricia Nebeker, Kelsi Woodfield and goalkeeper Amber Rasmussen kept the potent Eagle offense under control, until the second half explosion. It marked the first loss this year for La Grande, which meets The Dalles in a home contest at noon Saturday.

"We played a great first half and I thought we had a chance to win at halftime, but I'm not sure what happened in the second half and maybe we just lost our composure a little on defense," said Rasmussen, who recorded 11 saves.

"I sure was hoping that we would get some revenge and beat them on their home field. Since it's a nonleague game though, it really doesn't mean much at this point of the season. The most important thing is that everyone played very hard and we all gave it our best shot, so we're not really too disappointed about losing."

"I was hoping to win and I felt proud of how well we played, particularly in the first half, but we were hoping to avoid getting shut out," said Baum.

"We'll bounce back well though, while learning some things from this loss and if we meet Catlin Gabel again in the playoffs, then I'm sure that we'll have a good chance to beat them."

The Eagles, who have won nine consecutive state titles, had a 37-game winning streak snapped in a 1-0 loss Sept. 9 at second-ranked Marist, which was their first defeat since the 2001 season.

"The outcome of the game didn't really matter too much, because we just wanted to see how well we compare to an excellent Catlin Gabel squad and now we know what we have to work to improve our team," said Steenstra, who has led his team to the state playoffs every year since becoming the Tigers coach in 1999.

"We usually don't play top teams like this until the playoffs and then it's too late because we don't know what to expect, so this was a valuable experience to compete with Catlin Gabel."

"Obviously, Catlin Gabel is the best team in the state and they deserve to be ranked No. 1," said Steenstra.

"It sure was a beautiful day for soccer with sunny weather and their field is just perfect, while it's probably one of the best high school soccer facilities in Oregon.

"Having a six-hour bus ride certainly was one detrimental aspect for us to overcome, but we weren't too concerned about the outcome, since it was a nonleague game. Our goal is to win our fourth straight District 7 League title and then advance to the state playoffs for the ninth consecutive season."