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Lake Oswego netters have second half of season to look forward to

by: Vern Uyetake, Lake Oswego’s Heather Anderson, right, looks for room to hit a shot during Tuesday’s volleyball match against West Linn. Anderson turned in an outstanding effort for her team but it wasn’t enough as West Linn won in straight sets. It was the 102nd consecutive league victory for the Lions.

The Lake Oswego volleyball squad has notoriously been a good team during the second half of the season. This year, the Lakers might need a large dose of that second-half magic just to qualify for the state playoffs.

The Lakers got themselves into a bit of hole when they lost last week to Oregon City, a team that Lake Oswego beat out for the final playoff spot last year. The Lakers will get a chance to avenge that loss on Oct. 19, a date that most Lake Oswego fans probably already have circled on their calendars.

Of course, the Lakers (2-5 in league play) could make up some ground by knocking off Clackamas or Lakeridge, a pair of teams ranked in the state's top 10, in the interim. The Lakers also had a chance to make up some ground in Tuesday night's match against West Linn.

Yet, beating West Linn has been next to impossible in recent years. Even though the Lakers played well through much of Tuesday's first game and almost the entire second game, West Linn still managed a straight-sets victory. It was West Linn's 102nd consecutive league victory, a string that dates back to the middle of the 1999 season.

In the end, Lake Oswego simply couldn't overcome West Linn's ability to string together long runs. In the first game, which the Lions won 25-13, the difference was a 12-3 run midway through the set.

Lake Oswego rebounded well in game 2, which featured a 7-4 Lakers lead and an 11-11 tie a short time later. Then, each team exchanged a flurry that left West Linn with a narrow 18-17 lead. But the Lions then summoned some extra energy at the end and won the game 25-20.

'The second game was great. They played awesome in the second game,' Lake Oswego coach K.T. Emerson said of her team's effort.

The third game was one long run for the Lions as Lake Oswego managed just six points in the contest and most of them came in the middle of the game.

Despite losing in straight sets, Emerson wasn't upset with her team. Nor does the coach expect her players to dwell very long on the loss.

'They're a team that can bounce back pretty fired up from a loss,' Emerson said. 'They'll show up at the practice gym tomorrow ready to practice.'

Errors really hurt the Lakers' chances more than anything. In fact, Lake Oswego committed 14 of them in the first game. They committed only seven miscues in the second game, which would partly explain why the game was so close.

The Lakers also had a few brilliant individual moments, like the all-around play of setter Heather Anderson. Although she spent most of her time setting up her teammates, Anderson also managed to contribute seven kills to Lake Oswego's attack.

The Lakers also got some solid offensive play from Avery Lee, Devon Brown and Anna Gornbein. And Emily Murphy and Courtney Fitzgerald played well on defense.

Despite the Lakers' recent woes, which includes two losses to West Linn and one loss each to Lakeridge, Clackamas and Oregon City, Emerson appreciates the way her team competes.

'I love them to pieces. I wouldn't trade any of them for anything in the world,' the coach said. '… They keep working hard and fighting for every win.'

That extra effort will probably be as evident as ever during the next three weeks as the Lakers try to secure the league's final playoff spot. It's a time of year when the Lakers seem to excel.

'We love the second round … That's historically when we play our best,' Emerson said.

So, Oregon City had better watch out.

'Oregon City played great (last time), but (the Lakers) definitely were upset about that loss,' the coach said. 'That is one that has stuck with them a little bit, which is a good thing.'