by: VERN UYETAKE, Lakeridge’s Lexi Ross celebrates after the Pacers won a big point in last week’s dramatic five-set victory over Lake Oswego.

With plenty of big matches still to come, the Lakeridge and Lake Oswego volleyball teams have already filled this season's quota of intense matches.

At this point, whenever these teams take the court it would almost make sense just to save everyone some time and skip right to a fifth game.

But, if the teams were to do that, it would mean the audience would be deprived of two hours of exceedingly entertaining volleyball.

That's what happened in Round 2 of the Civil War last week. Not only could the entire match have gone either way but each individual game hinged on one key tip or dig.

In the end, the Pacers came up with the series sweep winning 25-22, 24-26, 23-25, 25-22, 15-12.

In front of a terrific crowd at Lake Oswego High School, Lakeridge dramatically improved its playoff chances while the Lakers solidified themselves as one of the league's toughest competitors.

'It feels good but we have to make sure we stay steady because you can't lead up in this league at all,' Lakeridge coach Wendy Stammer said.

'Both teams played phenomenally and both crowds were so supportive. This match will fuel our practices,' Laker coach K.T. Emerson added.

In the opening game, neither team ran off more than four points in a row. Lake Oswego took an early lead, getting kills by Keri Nielsen and Hannah Niestradt to go up 6-2.

But the Pacers rallied, eventually tying the game at 8-8 on a nice tip by Allyson Miller.

The remainder of the game went back and forth. Lake Oswego eventually went up 20-18 before the Pacers rallied and took a lead on a service winner by Miller.

The game was tied at 22-22 before a net violation gave Lakeridge a side-out. The Pacers then got the key point of the game on a kill by Michaela McNairy that caught the line and a Lake Oswego error gave Lakeridge the victory.

The Pacers took that momentum in to the second game, jumping out to a 6-2 lead on a pair of kills by Lexi Ross. But, Lake Oswego responded and knotted the score at 8-8.

The Pacers held a slip lead midway through the game before Lake Oswego rattle off six straight points with some terrific net play by Niestradt.

The Lakers held a 19-14 lead but Lakeridge chipped away with back-to-back service winners from Ross.

The Pacers kept themselves in the game with some terrific defense on the back line and fought off a game point to earn a tie at 24-24.

But a huge kill by the Lakers' Anna Gornbein and a hitting error by the Pacers helped Lake Oswego even the match.

The third game was one determined by mini-runs. Lakeridge scored three straight points on kills by Ross and Sarah Grewenow and Lake Oswego countered with two straight blocks from Niestradt.

Neither team could take more than a three-point lead until the Lakers rattled off five straight points, three of which came on kills by Gornbein, to go up 19-15.

Lake Oswego eventually led 24-20 but the Pacers were resilient and scored three straight points. But, with their backs against the wall, the Lakers came up with the game-winning point on a kill by Nielsen which gave her team a 2-1 advantage.

'Keri came out on fire and really got some key kills throughout the match,' Emerson said.

Game four was equally exciting. Lakeridge took an early 8-3 lead on a trio of kills by Ross and a handful of Lake Oswego errors.

'(Ross) went to a new level of play in that fourth game. She jumped higher, she hit harder, it was terrific to see that,' Stammer said.

But the Lakers came right back thanks to two kills from Niestradt and a service winner from Amy Carlton. Lake Oswego would take a 15-14 lead before Lakeridge took hold of the game.

During a six-point spurt, Ross had four big kills to help the Pacers go up 20-15. Another block from Niestradt got the Lakers as close as 22-19 but the Pacers would hold on to force a decisive fifth game.

In the fifth, Lakeridge took a big lead early. Back-to-back kills by Anna Spalding helped the Pacers go up 9-2 and it appeared that the match was all but over.

'I felt we played steady for the whole game and then in the fifth we just came out strong,' Stammer said.

But the Lakers weren't ready to roll over. Lake Oswego's Sarah Porter had three straight kills to cut the lead to two. The Lakers would get as close as 11-9 but a terrific kill from Miller and an ace swung momentum back to the Pacers and they recorded two clutch side-outs to win the match.

On Monday, Lakeridge picked up an easy victory over Putnam while Lake Oswego was downed by league-leading West Linn.

The Pacers currently sit in second place in the Three Rivers League while the Lakers are tied for fourth with Clackamas.

However, Lake Oswego has an easier schedule the rest of the way and has a crucial rematch with the Cavaliers at home on Oct. 21.

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