by: MATTHEW SHERMAN Elizabeth Howell, Paxton Nielsen, Anna Spalding, Krissy Hengesh and Alyssa Hitchcock are the five seniors on this year’s hard-hitting volleyball team.

The Lakeridge volleyball team has five seniors, six returning starters and seven returners overall giving the squad some continuity as it looks to turn around some of its narrow losses from last season to make a playoff run.

With that many familiar faces coach Wendy Stammer says that her squad's chemistry is one of its strong suits.

"I really love this team. This group really encourages each other. They're good players and good people. This team is special," Stammer said.

Krissy Hengesh and Anna Spalding are the team's two senior captains and both are very strong hitters as well.

"They're probably the best senior leaders I've ever had," Stammer said.

The team should have plenty of firepower this season with Hengesh, Spalding and Saskia McNairy all hitting the ball very well in early practices.

"We're stronger this year. The team has been doing some weight training to get stronger and hopefully hold off injuries," Stammer said.

Liz Howell has also been impressive in practices and will be more of an all-around player for the Pacers this season after seeing time as a defensive specialist last year.

Lakeridge also has two talented young sophomore setters. Both Malia Scott and McKenna Moore handled those duties as freshmen and have only improved with a year of experience under their belts.

"Our setters are so calm. They don't get flustered or emotional. They are doing a nice job getting our middles the ball and those girls are pounding it right now," Stammer said.

Lakeridge's offense should be dangerous this year but it should also be very strong defensively with plenty of quick athletes on the court.

"I'm so pleased with how we've been playing defensively," Stammer said.

The Pacers won just one league match last year but the team was still highly competitive.

"We played hard and we did very well in tournaments. I still think we have the toughest league in the state," Stammer said.

As was the case last year, the league appears to be wide open again and close matches are expected to be the norm.

Right now the Pacers are just excited to get on the court against an opponent and are anticipating league play.

"This team is going to win games this year," Stammer said.

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