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Pacer netters find WL tough to handle

by: Vern Uyetake, Lakeridge’s Lexi Ross keeps her eyes on the ball as she attempts to hit a backwards shot over the net in Tuesday’s match against West Linn. The Pacers never got untracked in that match and wound up losing in straight sets.

The Lakeridge volleyball team always seems to have a tough time against West Linn and Tuesday's regular-season finale was no exception.

But Lakeridge isn't the only team that is searching for a winning formula against the Lions. In fact, everyone in the Three Rivers League has been humbled by West Linn, which has now won 107 consecutive league matches after Tuesday's three-set victory over the Pacers.

With a third-place finish in the Three Rivers League standings already guaranteed, Lakeridge had virtually nothing to play for coming into the match. The Pacers had hoped to be in the running for second place, but they were eliminated from that chase after losing to Lake Oswego the previous Tuesday.

So, it's understandable that Lakeridge didn't come up with his best match against the Lions. West Linn, on the other hand, had a lot of pride at stake as the team tried to finish another league season unbeaten.

'You know what? They're a solid team,' Lakeridge coach Wendy Stammer said of the Lions. 'They don't make a lot of errors. They have just solid all-around defensive passing. And in high school volleyball, serving and defensive passing is what wins the games for you.'

The two teams seemed to be on opposite ends of the spectrum during the first game of Tuesday's match. In that set, West Linn played as well as it has all year. The Pacers, though, had seen better days.

West Linn had runs of 7-2, 8-2 and 10-0 en route to a 25-7 decision. Of the seven points Lakeridge scored, only three came from the team's offense. The other four points came as a result of West Linn errors.

Lakeridge also committed four miscues in that game, which is nothing to be ashamed of. But the help West Linn got from the Pacers paled in comparison to the number of kills and blocks (20) the Lions' frontline players got.

Things improved considerably in the second game, which ended 25-15 in West Linn's favor. In that set, Jennie Bistolas, Lexi Ross, Jessie Jennings and Kiersten McNairy each had a kill while Bistolas and McNairy teamed up for a block.

But it wasn't enough to turn the tide against a West Linn team that was tenacious with its efforts along the front line. West Linn setter Kaitlan Locke did such a good job of distributing the ball to the Lions' hitters that Lakeridge had trouble figuring out who to set up a block against.

'We had a few good blocks here and there, but we should be putting up a tough block where (opposing) hitters are having to change their game,' Stammer said. 'But we didn't change anything that West Linn was doing tonight. They were hitting around us like we weren't even there.'

Lakeridge had its best offensive game, and its most enthusiastic effort, in the third set. For a while in that set, the Pacers seemed destined to extend the match to a fourth stanza.

The Pacers jumped to a 4-3 lead after two kills by Kathy Ciechanowski and one by Julie Irvine. The lead was short-lived, though, as West Linn responded with an 8-1 run that gave the Lions a 10-5 lead.

The momentum then shifted three times over the next few minutes.

First, Lakerigde reeled off three straight points, including kills by McNairy and Jennings. Then West Linn scored four straight points, and Lakeridge answered with a 4-1 run, which included two kills by Ciechanowski, to cut the deficit to 15-12.

Unfortunately for the Pacers, that short exchange proved to be the highlight of the night for Lakeridge. The Lions then scored 10 of the game's last 12 points to put the contest away in three sets.

It proved to be a quiet night for the Pacers in more ways than one.

'We go quiet when we're not playing well and it's hard to get out of that,' Stammer noted. 'We did a few good things out there, but they were few and far between.'