by: Vern Uyetake, Lakeridge’s Julie Irvine, right, tries to tip the ball past an opposing blocker during last Thursday’s match against Clackamas.

Lakeridge volleyball coach Wendy Stammer couldn't wait for her team to play Clackamas again, especially after the Pacers had a sub-par performance in an earlier meeting between the two teams.

Well, the Pacers played much better in the rematch, which was held last Thursday at Lakeridge. But a slow start and a couple of tough breaks late wound up costing the Pacers in a 3-1 defeat.

Coming into that match, Lakeridge still had an outside shot to win the Three Rivers League title. Now, after losing to Clackamas for the second time this season, the Pacers will be hard-pressed to finish better than third in the TRL.

After a closely played first game, which Clackamas won 25-17, the Pacers hoped to turn things around in the second set. But the Cavs took command of that game with a 14-2 run that turned a 6-3 deficit into a 17-8 advantage.

Typically, unforced errors make the difference in key runs and this one was no different. This time, Lakeridge had five miscues that helped Clackamas' cause. But that streak also included three kills by the team's star, Beth Hanna. Clackamas wound up winning that game 25-15.

Lakeridge looked good early in that game when middle blocker Kathy Ciechanowski rattled off three straight points. Then, late in the match, Sydney Aldrich collected a pair of service winners and Ciechanowski followed with another kill. But not much happened between those two short spurts.

At that point, with Lakeridge in a 2-0 hole, most Clackamas faithful probably assumed the match was all but over. Or, maybe not.

Instead, the Pacers played the rest of the match as if their season depended on an incredible comeback victory. The third game was especially impressive as Pacers displayed some of their greatest intensity of the year.

But Clackamas didn't take it easy that game. In fact, that game featured five lead changes and 12 ties. Through it all, Lakeridge seemed to come up with one crucial point after another.

There was a double block by Jennie Bistolas and Kiersten McNairy that gave Lakeridge a 7-5 lead. A short time later, McNairy climbed the proverbial ladder for a spike that started a mini run that put Lakeridge ahead 13-10.

Then, after two kills and a block by Ciechanowski and a kill by Jessie Jennings, the Pacers had a narrow 18-16 lead. Clackamas came right back to tie the match, but Bistolas answered with a kill and McNairy followed with another to push the lead to 21-18.

Once again the Cavs rallied for a tie. In fact, that happened two more times down the stretch. But the Pacers pulled out the decision with a pair of errors by Clackamas and another round of kills by Bistolas and McNairy.

Somehow, all of the momentum Lakeridge had established in the third game temporarily disappeared at the start of the fourth set, which had Clackamas jumping to a 5-0 lead.

No need to worry, though, because Lakeridge bounced back quickly. It helped that Clackamas made six unforced errors over the next few minutes, but the Pacers also helped themselves with kills by Ciechanowski, Jennings and McNairy. A short time later, Ciechanowski added three straight kills and Lakeridge led 15-12.

Then, the roof virtually caved in on the Pacers as Clackamas reeled off an 8-2 run to take a 20-17 lead. That run included four errors by the Pacers and not a single point by Hanna, who was being used as a setter at that juncture.

Despite the lapse, Lakeridge rallied nicely down the stretch. The turnaround started with a service winner by Ciechanowski, which trimmed the deficit to 20-18. Then, after a pair of errors by Clackamas, the Cavs' lead was 21-20. A three-point exchange on each side followed, leaving Clackamas with a 24-23 lead.

Lakeridge had the serve at that point and was in good position to send the match to a decisive fifth game. But match ended abruptly when Taylor Horton's serve struck the top of the net and bounced back, giving Clackamas the final point of the night.

It was an awful way to end a contest between two closely matched teams.

The good news is that Lakeridge is all but guaranteed a spot in the upcoming state playoffs. With five league matches left in the season, Lakeridge should finish no worse than third.

If the Pacers finish in the league's No. 3 spot, they will open the state playoffs against the No. 3 team from the Pacific Conference. A win there would likely advance the Pacers to a second-round match against Jesuit, the fourth-ranked team in the state.

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