West Linn netters prove to be unfriendly hosts to Pioneers

by: Vern Uyetake, Lacey Mannex goes up for a block in her team’s convincing three-set victory over Oregon City on Tuesday.

The West Linn volleyball team is still taking it out on Oregon City for what happened almost seven years ago.

It was 1999 and for a while that year, Oregon City looked like the team to beat for the Three Rivers League volleyball crown. That assumption was based largely on the fact that Oregon City beat West Linn in a mid-season match that year. As it turned out, West Linn hasn't lost a league match since then.

On Tuesday, the Lions beat Oregon City for the 14th consecutive time. It was a convincing 25-10, 25-8, 25-10 victory that left no doubt as to which team is the best.

The Lions had approximately one shaky moment in Tuesday's match. It came at the opening of game 1 when the Pioneers jumped to a 5-3 lead, thanks to three unforced errors by the Lions. Then the roof virtually caved in on the Pioneers.

After a quick timeout and a lecture from West Linn coach Carl Neuberger, the Lions turned the contest around in an instant.

'When you start off sloppy against a good team, you're going to be behind, and you're going to be fighting to get back in it,' the coach said. 'If the match goes long, it's unnecessary energy wasted.'

After the timeout, Michelle Hurt and Lacy Mannex each got a kill to tie the score at 5. Then there were a pair of Oregon City errors, a setter's dump by Kaitlin Locke, another error by the Pioneers, another kill by Hurt, then one by Alyssa O'Neil and two more Oregon City errors. By the time the Pioneers realized they were in trouble they were already behind 13-5.

The Pioneers got a brief reprieve when the Lions committed a pair of errors to make the score 14-7. But Oregon City returned the favor a short time later with four consecutive miscues. That was part of a six-point run, and part of a 17-2 streak that essentially put the first game away.

'It was one of those things where you get it rolling and the (other) team loses their belief,' Neuberger said. 'Granted, we might have been making some mistakes to help them, but they could have continued to put pressure on us.'

At the very least, Oregon City looked rattled heading into game 2. It showed on the scoreboard as West Linn reeled off 12 unanswered points to start the set. That run included four kills by O'Neil, plus two by Caitlin McDonnell and four more errors by the Pioneers. Even after a pair of points by the visitors, West Linn bounced right back with a 9-3 run that had the Pioneers back on their heels.

It was almost scary how well West Linn was hitting the ball in that game, but the Lions were serving well too. In fact, the 9-3 run included a service winner by Torie Bechtold and a service ace by Locke.

'We were all playing well as a team,' Locke said of that stretch. 'And the servers were doing well and we were executing nicely.'

What more could you ask for?

Well, how about a run of 14 unanswered points in the third game? That's what West Linn answered with after Oregon City managed a 4-4 tie to start the third set.

The run looked like a clinic on how and where to serve the ball and how to win the point if the other team somehow happens returns to return such a good serve.

The run started when Neuberger pinpointed a weak link in Oregon City's back line and he ordered Brittney Beatty to attack that spot with one perfectly-placed serve after another. Beatty wound up winning 11 consecutive service points during that run. Then, Neuberger brought in Dani Sargant to finish the run and she added two more service winners to the streak.

All of that great serving almost over-shadowed the front-line play of Mannex, who had three kills during the run. McDonnell also contributed a kill and Locke added another setter's dump.

'It's always an energy riser when we do that,' Locke said of her team's series of runs during the night. 'And it makes it more fun, so we relax and play our game.'

The barrage ended with an out-of-bounds hit by West Linn, but by then, Oregon City had virtually nothing left to give in return.