by: MATTHEW SHERMAN West Linn’s Brittany Westover looks to get a ball past a West Salem blocker in the Lions’ three-set victory over the Titans on Tuesday.

West Linn's volleyball team kicked off its season over the weekend by taking on some of the top schools in the Northwest in the annual Central Catholic Tournament.

The tournament is generally a showcase of teams that figure to be in the running for a state title and this year was no exception.

West Linn was up and down in its handful of matches, knocking off Jesuit in straight sets but losing to a strong Central Catholic team 25-16, 25-12.

The Lions also dropped a pair of three-game decisions that could have gone either way.

Against the Rams, West Linn played well in the first set but the defending state champions pulled away late and cruised to a win.

"They're not quite as good as they were last year but they're so big. They have a front line where their shortest player is about 6'2"," coach Carl Neuberger said.

The Lions' biggest win of the tournament came against perennial powerhouse Jesuit.

West Linn was consistent and had very strong blocking throughout the match to grind out a win, holding off a late comeback by the Crusaders.

One of the best matches of the tournament occurred between West Linn and Gresham.

The Lions had two match-points against the Gophers but Gresham fought them both off and rallied for a victory.

"I wasn't happy about losing that match since it was the same way we lost to them last year at Liberty (in the state tournament)," Neuberger said.

A handful of errors down the stretch proved to be the difference as Gresham held on.

"I think if we play them again this year it will be the same kind of story. We're pretty evenly matched," Neuberger said.

In all it was a solid start to the season for the Lions who got to immediately see where they stacked up against some of the state's elite teams.

"Central Catholic was really the only team we played where I thought we weren't really in their ballpark," Neuberger said.

The Lions then knocked off West Salem in straight sets on Tuesday, using strong blocking and defense to turn the Titans away.

West Linn hurt itself with a handful of serving errors which allowed the Titans to make things close in the second set but the Lions were in control of the match from start to finish.

"West Salem usually has a fairly solid team so I was pleased with how we played tonight for the most part," Neuberger said.

The easy victory also allowed Neuberger to get everyone into the contest which is a goal of his this year as the team's bench is relatively inexperienced.

West Linn will play in the Tualatin tournament this weekend and opens up league play next week on the road against Clackamas.

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