By MATTHEW SHERMAN
Undoubtedly, there are five teams deserving to make the playoffs in the Three Rivers League this year. Unfortunately, the OSAA is not at liberty to simply grant the league five berths this year.
That means that one very good squad is going to be left at home this year and with West Linn looking as dominant as ever, the fight for second through fifth is shaping up to be exceedingly interesting.
Lake Oswego did itself a huge favor last week by rallying from two sets down to knock off Clackamas and create a three-way tie for second place.
'The girls are pushing for that playoff spot and they're putting in a lot of time to make that happen,' coach K.T. Emerson said.
For a while, it looked like the Lakers would have to spend the weekend trying to regroup while preparing for an uphill battle during the second half of league play.
Lake Oswego was on the verge of being swept out of the building by the Cavaliers and not putting up much of a fight in the process.
After battling back and forth in the opening game, Clackamas capitalized on a handful of Lake Oswego errors to outscore the Lakers 14-3 down the stretch and win 25-15.
That momentum carried over into Game 2. Clackamas jumped out to a 5-2 lead before a pair of kills by Anna Gornbein stopped the bleeding.
But Clackamas continued to put together long scoring runs, eventually going up 16-8. The Lakers got back into the game on Tai Locke's serve and a nice tip by Keri Nielsen got the score down to 16-12.
Sarah Porter came off the bench to provide a spark for the Lakers on the front line. But Clackamas was able to fend off a late rally and won the second game 25-21.
With their backs against the wall, the Lakers got off to a strong start in Game 3, going up 7-3 before Clackamas started to chip away.
The Cavaliers ran off six straight points midway through the game to go up 16-13 but Lake Oswego kept its cool.
'This team has started to gain some tenacity and when things aren't going well, they're good at sticking it out,' Emerson said.
A kill by Megan Mooney tied the game at 21. Setter Rachel Novitsky came up with a number of terrific digs late in the game to keep points alive as Lake Oswego's scrambling ability was its saving grace all evening.
After Clackamas went up 22-21, the Lakers recorded a side-out and looked to make a late run. Lake Oswego rattled off three straight points highlighted by a kill from Hannah Niestradt and a well-placed tip by Novitsky to seal the game.
The Lakers then used that momentum to dominate the fourth game. Leading 11-6, Niestradt went back to serve and recorded two straight winners to key a seven-point run. Lake Oswego would win the game 25-16 to set up a 15-point tiebreaker.
'We haven't had a big comeback like this yet this season and having that experience playing five games is great,' Emerson said.
Once again Lake Oswego started quickly. With a 2-1 lead, it was Michelle Dolinar's turn to serve.
Dolinar had already made a huge impact in the match as a defensive specialist and she proceeded to knock the Cavaliers back on their heels with some big serves.
'Michelle did a phenomenal job for us. She's been sparking us in practice and tonight she capitalized,' Emerson said.
A five-point run made it 7-1 Lake Oswego. From there, the team simply needed to hold on and, after a long rally, Niestradt came up with a kill to give the Lakers a 15-11 win in the fifth game.
Lake Oswego carried that momentum into the State Preview tournament where it made it all the way to the consolation finals before losing in three games to Mountain View.
On Tuesday, the Lakers recorded an easy straight sets victory over Putnam to keep pace in league.