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by: VERN UYETAKE,  
From left: Emily Owens, Natalie Potts, Megan Dunn, Megan Russell, Michaela McNairy and Sarah Grewenow will look to lead Lakeridge back to the playoffs this season.

As Wendy Stammer observes her 10th anniversary as volleyball coach at Lakeridge High School, she has plenty of reasons to celebrate.

* Lots of returning talent from last year's state playoff team, which tied for second in the Three Rivers League.

* A potential super star in junior Lexi Ross.

* A booming program that has attracted a remarkable 51 players.

The 2008 Pacer volleyballers could well rank among Stammer's best teams, which include several top 16 at state and one elite eight bunch.

'It's going to be a tough road,' Stammer said. 'But we have very good chemistry on this team. We had a very good unit last year, and our players want that to happen again.'

Any coach would like to anchor her team with a player like Lexi Ross. She is just an all-around natural athlete, versatile in track (including third in the high jump at the state meet last spring) and a fine basketball player. But Ross's volleyball talents make Stammer pull out her glossary of superlatives.

'Lexi is good at any sport,' Stammer said. 'She was first team all-league as a sophomore. She's a phenomenal all-around player. She passes well, she's quick, at 6'1' she's good at the net, she has court sense. She changes how other players play against us.

'The thing that is really neat about Lexi is that she works harder than anyone in the gym, and she's such a good leader. It's fun to coach her.'

And awful to coach against her. Ross serves as a good measuring stick for the other Pacers.

'If they can get the ball by Lexi, they know they can do it against anybody,' Stammer said.

Stammer is so sold on the potential of Ross that she hopes she eventually ends up at her alma mater, Louisiana State University, which has one of the strongest women's sports programs in the nation.

'It would be fun to see Lexi go on there,' Stammer said. 'There's no reason why she couldn't be a multi-sport athlete in college.'

But if Lakeridge had just one great player, it would be in for a long season.

Instead, Stammer can count on players like senior Michaela McNairy.

'Michaela is another phenomenal athlete,' Stammer said. 'She's our quickest player and she jumps higher than anybody.'

McNairy also has good bloodlines.

Her sister Kiersten was a standout on last year's Pacer team and is now playing at Northern Arizona University.

Other returning starters are Meagan Russell, the team's senior captain and setter/DS, and junior setter Allison Miller.

Other returnees include seniors Megan Dunn, Emily Owens, Becca Perkel and Sarah Grewenow.

While Stammer watches her 2008 team excel, she can also think about the future, because she has so many young players, including 17 sophomores and 22 freshmen.

'It wasn't this way for awhile,' Stammer said. 'But we brought in a new staff and there's lots of excitement around here now.'

Could there possibly be a gray lining in this silver cloud of Pacer volleyball? Well, returning state champion West Linn looks like it again will be incredibly formidable. Plus, rival Lake Oswego has a powerful club that will battle Lakeridge for the league runnerup berth.

Still, Lakeridge has an excellent chance to rank among Oregon high school volleyball powers; this season and in the years ahead.

'It's great to see what we have now,' Stammer said, 'and what's coming up in the future.'

Schedule

Sept. 6 at Central Catholic jam.

Sept. 10 Lake Oswego

Sept. 11 at Putnam

Sept. 16 at West Linn

Sept. 18 McKay

Sept. 20 Lakeridge Invitataional

Sept. 23 at Oregon City

Sept. 25 Milwaukie

Sept. 30 Clackamas

Oct. 2 at Lake Oswego

Oct. 4 Westview Invitational

Oct. 6 Putnam

Oct. 8 West Linn

Oct. 14 at West Salem

Oct. 16 Oregon City

Oct. 18 West Linn Invitational

Oct. 21 at Milwaukie

Oct. 23 at Clackamas

All league matches at 6:30 p.m. Most tournaments begin at 8 a.m.