by: Vern Uyetake, Lakeridge volleyball coach Wendy Stammer says this could be the best team she’s fielded in eight years as the Pacers’ head coach. The team will be led by Katie Pearson, front left Taylor Horton, Jennie Bistolas, Kathy Ciechanowski; Julian Kay, back left, Jessie Jennings, Amanda Taylor and Julie Irvine. The Pacers are hoping to advance to the state tournament for the third year in a row.

Lakeridge volleyball coach Wendy Stammer likes her team's chances in 2006.

'Physically, this is one of the most talented, if not the most talented, teams I've ever had,' said Stammer, who is entering her eighth season as head coach at Lakeridge.

Stammer admits she's had good talent the last couple of years, with teams that have advanced to the state tournament.

'What's different and wasn't present last year is the trust and respect they have for one another….

'They've got tremendous enthusiasm and I know they're going to work hard. I look forward to practice every day.'

Stammer also has some depth to go with the talent.

'They're going to be fighting for a starting spot every practice,' she said. 'I don't have a 13th, 12th or 11th-best player. I'm going to have a very strong bench, where I can bring in any player [without losing anything].'

Among seven seniors returning from last year's varsity are four who garnered all-league recognition in 2005: Julie Irvine (a 6-foot middle blocker), Jennie Bistolas (6-0 OSH), Jillian Kay (5-7 setter) and Taylor Horton (5-3 DS).

Seniors Kathy Ciechanowski (5-11 MB), Jessie Jennings (5-10 OSH) and Amanda Taylor (5-7 setter) also figure to play key roles.

The Pacers will have good size, with freshman Lexy Ross (6-1 OSH/MB) and juniors Kiersten McNairy (6-0 MB) and Sydney Aldrich (5-11 MB. OSH) joining the varsity lineup.

Until someone proves different, Stammer sees West Linn as the favorite to win league.

But she cautioned, 'Every year the league gets tougher, and you can't overlook anyone. We've got great coaches in this league. There won't be an easy game.'

The Pacers begin league play tonight (Thursday), when they play host to Milwaukie.

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