by: VERN UYETAKE Nikki Spathas is one of a handful of talented hitters returning for the LO volleyball team this year.

Lake Oswego's large senior class has been anticipating this volleyball season for a few years now.

The Lakers have eight seniors on this year's squad, returning a significant portion of last year's team that went 4-6 in league and finished in fourth place.

Lake Oswego also has an influx of talented younger players which is providing for some healthy competition.

"We're challenging at every position this year which is something we haven't had before," coach Christy Burnett said.

Burnett expects the team to be very strong on offense with plenty of strong hitters to get the ball to.

Jen Braschayko, Nikki Spathas, Erika Treske and Lara Thomas are all returning and give Lake Oswego some pop up front.

"We have some great hitters from both the attack line and at the net," Burnett said.

The team also returns an experienced setter in Abby Gray and libero in Allison Buchman which is a luxury not many teams have.

In practices the team has been working on staying consistent throughout the course of a match.

"We're looking to be disciplined and work as a team instead of six individuals. That's definitely a team goal," Burnett said.

The league schedule proved to be a grind last year and no wins came easily. The same is expected this year in a wide open and competitive TRL.

"We have returners with that experience of playing in close matches," Burnett said.

The Lakers will be powerful and, if the team can limit mistakes, it should be very competitive this year.

"Ball control is something we're working on to try and get into a rhythm," Burnett said.

The league will be difficult to handicap this year but the Lakers appear to have as much returning talent as just about anyone.

"We're looking to be contenders in the league and hopefully make it further in the playoffs than we have in years past," Burnett said.

Lake Oswego will play a strong preseason schedule, taking on Aloha, West Salem and Beaverton and will play its usual tournament slate, including three separate tournaments in the month of October.

The Lakers open up play on Thursday and will begin league on Sept. 20.

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