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Lakers raised bar with 05 effort

by: Vern Uyetake, The Lake Oswego volleyball team, which will be led by Courtney Fitzgerald, far left, Avery Lee, Emily Murphy and Heather Anderson, will try to build on the success of last year’s team, which nearly advanced to the state tournament.

The expectations for Lake Oswego's volleyball team just keep getting higher. Just a few seasons ago the Lakers were mired at the bottom of the Three Rivers League with low turnout and very few reasons for excitement in the program.

Now, Lake Oswego is coming off a solid season in which the team broke a playoff drought and now is looking to keep building off its momentum.

The Lakers return five starters from last year's team and are favored to make the playoffs again this season, but coach K.T. Emerson has set the bar even higher this fall.

'We have a lot of good energy and the girls are excited to be back,' Emerson said.

Librero Courtney Fitzgerald is back for her senior season and will be an important factor in her team's success. She will be joined by returning starters Heather Anderson, Emily Murphy, Avery Lee and MacKenzie Walen on a team that has a good mix of experience and young talent.

At practices, the Lakers have been concentrating on defense, making sure that they force their opponents to work for every point.

'We definitely view our defense as a strength and it's something we're continuing to build on,' Emerson said.

Lake Oswego is not a particularly tall team so being scrappy on defense and keeping as many balls in play as possible will be crucial.

Sophomore Anna Gornbein will be one of the team's primary hitters replacing Robyn Barton and rounding out the squad are Lindsay Cowan, Keri Nielsen, Devon Brown, Maddy Noble, Amy Carlson and Hannah Neistradt.

This year's Lakers team is extremely quick and athletic and will look to utilize those assets against their opponents.

But perhaps Lake Oswego's biggest strength lies in the way that the team gets along with one another.

'One of our big goals is to always be supporting each other and the girls don't have much trouble with that,' Emerson said.

Much of the reason for Lake Oswego's recent success is due to its growing popularity at the youth level.

'We've had great turnouts at our camps and a lot of the girls come to our matches and cheer us on,' Emerson said.

After qualifying for the playoffs in 2005, Lake Oswego is now aiming to be one of the top three teams in the always competitive Three Rivers League.

It won't be an easy road for the Lakers and they will be up against some tough opposition right off the bat. Lake Oswego opens up league play against West Linn tonight (Thursday).

'We can't take a night off. The league is strong as always and that makes everyone better,' Emerson said.

Lake Oswego is also playing in some of the most competitive tournaments in the state this season. Along with the annual West Linn tournament, Lake Oswego will compete in the Central Catholic and South Albany tourneys as well.

'It's a wonderful group of girls and we have the chance this year to play against some of the best teams in the state. It's definitely exciting,' Emerson said.