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The Pacers top the Cavaliers in an epic five-set match to stay tied for second place in TRL

by: MATTHEW SHERMAN, 
Lakeridge’s Krissy Hengesh goes to the ground for a dig during the Pacers’ dramatic victory over Clackamas on Tuesday. Lakeridge is now tied with Oregon City and Lake Oswego for second place in league.

Quite simply, the Pacers needed to keep pace. In a Three Rivers League that is more wild and more wide open than it has been in years, every match and, frankly, every point is crucial.

And, in one of the most hotly contested battles of the year, Lakeridge found a way to hold serve on its home court against Clackamas on Tuesday.

After walking away from the gym, one got the sense that, if the Pacers and Cavaliers were to play 50 sets instead of five, things would have ended up knotted at 25 apiece. It was that close.

Eventually Lakeridge came away with the 25-18, 20-25, 29-27, 25-27, 15-7 win in a match that was close to a must-win for the Pacers.

A loss would have put Lakeridge into a tie for fourth place with Clackamas and would have made for a far more tenuous grasp on the postseason.

Now the Pacers are in a tie for second place with Lake Oswego and Oregon City at the midway point of the league schedule.

'We're all right there fighting for those other three spots. We have so much parity in this league this year. It was a fantastic match,' coach Wendy Stammer said.

Lakeridge started off strong against Clackamas, a team that has now lost back-to-back five-set matches.

The Pacers went on a run on Anna Spalding's serve and jumped out to a 14-9 advantage. And Lakeridge didn't look back. Some terrific touches at the net from Lexi Ross and Sarah Grewenow helped the Pacers keep Clackamas at arm's length as they captured the first game.

But, in the second game, Clackamas rallied thanks mainly to its blocking at the net. The Cavaliers went up 19-13 before Lakeridge cut the lead to 21-19 on a big block by Spalding.

Clackamas ran off six of the next seven points, however, to even the match.

Game three went back and forth with neither team able to establish much momentum. Each point took on greater significance as the game progressed and, despite multiple chances from both teams to put the game away, neither could do it until Ross's kill to give the Pacers the 29-27 win.

After a heartbreaking loss, Clackamas could have been forgiven if it was demoralized but that wasn't the case.

Instead, the Cavaliers scored the first four points of the fourth game.

Lakeridge rallied and took the lead on Michaela McNairy's serve. The Pacers played terrific defense in the fourth game, keeping a handful of balls in play that resulted in Lakeridge points.

Megan Russell also had a phenomenal night setting balls to her hitters.

The Pacers had a chance to put the match away but Ross hit a pair of kill attempts into the net which set up a fifth game.

Ross wasn't kept down for long. In fact she dominated the first few minutes of the fifth game. Ross came up with seven kills in the final game alone and Allyson Miller did a terrific job serving as the pacers jumped out to a quick lead that all but wrapped up the match.

'It all came together in that fifth game. Both teams had spurts of greatness but we were solid,' Stammer said.

McNairy's well-placed tip proved to be the winning point for Lakeridge setting off a big celebration.

The victory came after last week's easy three-set win over Milwaukie.

Now the stage is set for an extremely dramatic Civil War rematch tonight (Thursday). Lakeridge won the first meeting with Lake Oswego but will play on the Lakers' home turf this time with the winner likely moving into sole possession of second place.