Pacers claim volleyball Civil War

by: MATTHEW SHERMAN, Lakeridge’s Lexi Ross and Sarah Grewenow go for a block in Lakeridge’s four-set win last Wednesday.

There was a playoff atmosphere surrounding the first league volleyball match between Lakeridge and Lake Oswego last week.

The two teams are expected to be playoff contenders if not two of the top three teams in the league and Wednesday's early-season showdown would give the victor a quick leg up.

The Pacers were bolstered by their raucous home crowd and came away with a four-set victory in an exceptionally well-played match on both sides.

'I am thrilled with how my girls played tonight. Our defense played fabulous behind the block. Everyone contributed tonight,' Pacer coach Wendy Stammer said.

Lakeridge got off to a quick start winning the opening set 25-20.

But the second set would prove to be crucial. Lake Oswego took an early advantage with precision passing and strong play at the net.

The Pacers never found themselves out of striking distance, however and made their move midway through the set.

Lakeridge picked up four straight points on Lexi Ross's serve to take the lead and held a slim 24-23 edge, needing just a side-out to take a two-set lead.

After one of the best rallies of the evening the Pacers finally put the point away and seemed to have the match under control.

But, once again, the Lakers got off to a quick start in Game 3. Not wanting to give Lake Oswego momentum, the Pacers fought back thanks to good passing from setter Megan Russell.

Ross had a team-high 16 kills in the match while Michaela McNairy added nine. Meanwhile, Alex Pyle had 27 passes in the effort for the Pacers.

Russell also hit a service winner to tie the set at 16-16.

But a handful of service errors allowed the Lakers to regain the advantage and hold on for a 25-19 win to keep their hopes alive. Lake Oswego's Anna Gornbein was a force at the net for thet majority of the match.

'We need to find a way to get her the ball,' Laker coach K.T. Emerson said.

Hanna Niestradt has also been providing strong hitting for the Lakers in recent matches.

In each of the previous three sets, Lake Oswego began as the aggressors and Lakeridge knew that, if it happened again, the match could be headed for a nail-biting fifth set.

So the Pacers upped their intensity and started the fourth set by playing some of their best volleyball of the night.

Lakeridge scored the first four points of the set and eventually took an 8-1 lead.

'We came out in that fourth game fired up. We had tough serving and a lot of focus,' Stammer said.

It seemed like an insurmountable advantage but the Lakers managed to mount a rally.

Lake Oswego recorded two consecutive blocks against the powerful Ross and, after falling behind by 10 points, cut the lead to 20-14.

But Lakeridge was consistent and didn't panic, winning the final set 25-17 to clinch the important victory.

'It's a great start to the season but we have a ton to work on,' Stammer said.

Both the Lakers and Pacers were beaten in straight sets by No. 1 West Linn with Lake Oswego falling last Thursday and Lakeridge losing to the juggernaut on Tuesday.

'It was a high-pressure start but we learned a lot last week,' Emerson said.

Lakeridge beat Putnam last Thursday 25-16, 25-21, 25-17.

The Lakers picked up their first league victory on Tuesday with a 25-8, 25-9, 25-11 win over Milwaukie. Lake Oswego also tied for third at the David Douglas tournament over the weekend.

'I'm very encouraged. The girls show up to practice every day wanting to get better,' Emerson said.