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Lakeridge netters miss state by one match

The Lakeridge volleyball team had just lost a tough second-round playoff match to Jesuit. It could have been the most depressing time of the season but the Pacers didn't act like it.

'My girls played great,' Lakeridge coach Wendy Stammer said after her team's closely-contested four-set loss to the Crusaders. 'When they walked off the court, I could tell they were very satisfied with the way they played.'

After being ranked in the state's top 10 most of the season, it almost seemed unfair that Lakeridge would have to play No. 4 Jesuit in the round of 16.

'I was bummed that we had to play Jesuit to get in the top eight (and the state tournament). It's really sad,' Stammer said.

Stammer is one of many coaches around the state that would support a seeding system for ranking playoff teams. Such a system would make the most sense for volleyball since the top teams play each other multiple times during the various weekend tournaments. Until then, though, there will be more early-round matchups between highly ranked teams - like the Lakeridge-Jesuit contest.

The host Pacers didn't make it easy on themselves when they lost the first two games to the Crusaders - by scores of 25-21 and 25-15. The second game probably should have been closer than it was but the Pacers were called for a number of infractions, including some that were questionable, at crucial moments.

'How am I supposed to coach against that?' Stammer wondered. 'I'm not blaming the ref … but it's so frustrating.'

The Pacers bounced back nicely, though, in the third game, which they won 25-17.

'We really played a flawless game,' Stammer said of the third set in which Lakeridge led from start to finish.

But Lakeridge couldn't maintain the momentum as the Crusaders won the fourth game 25-14 while playing probably their best ball of the night.

'We were just playing catch-up the whole game,' the Lakeridge coach said of the final set.

The Pacers were led by seniors Kathy Ciechanowski and Jennie Bistolas, who had 13 and seven kills respectively. In addition, Taylor Horton had a superb defensive game with 31 digs.

Lakeridge was a senior-laden team this season with eight players set for graduation next spring. All of them had hoped to make it to state for the third season in a row. But none of them hung their heads after the Jesuit loss.

'They dealt with it great,' Stammer said. 'They decided if this is the way we have to end the season, then we're satisfied … There was nothing negative about it.'

Lakeridge advanced to the second round of the playoffs by beating McMinnville in a three-set match that was much tougher than anyone expected. Lakeridge won the contest 25-22, 25-23, 27-25. To win the second game, the Pacers had to rally from a 23-19 deficit.

After that second set, Stammer said she knew her team would win the match.

A crucial point in that match came when Stammer inserted junior outside hitter Liz Early into the lineup. Her play proved to be instrumental during the rally. Jillian Kay then put the second game away with a string of service winners.

The way Lakeridge played in that match, and for most of the season, it's a shame the Pacers didn't have a chance to play at state. Stammer said something needs to be done to make sure the best teams advance that far.

'Once you get to the top 16, you've got to seed (the playoffs),' the coach said. 'I'm proud of the way the girls played but I'm upset about the way the bracket was set up.'