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Pacer netters look strong again despite inexperience

The 2007 volleyball season marked the changing of the guard for many of the teams in the Three Rivers League, and one of the biggest changes occurred at Lakeridge.

'We begin with a new team on the floor this year,' said coach Wendy Stammer, who is beginning her eighth season at Lakeridge.

Stammer had a larger than normal varsity team last year, with 14 players on the roster. But eight of those players graduated last spring and only three of the returnees saw significant action during the 2006 season.

With that amount of turnover, some opposing coaches probably figured that Lakeridge would have a down year this season. Admittedly, the team did get off to a slow start by losing all seven of its games at the Central Catholic jamboree two weeks ago.

But the Pacers have rebounded nicely since then. Particularly impressive was last week's straight-sets victory over Clackamas, which was expected to challenge for the TRL title this season.

Leading the way in that victory were the top returnees from last year - seniors Kiersten McNairy and Sydney Aldrich and sophomore Lexi Ross. They comprise what could be one the most powerful front lines in the league.

Aldrich is quick and is a good leaper, and she's is a strong hitter. McNairy appears to be even stronger and she's an intimidating blocker.

But the one who seems to be getting the most attention from opposing coaches is Ross. She won the league high jump championship last year, so it's no surprise that she can soar well above the net. Plus, she's agile enough to play virtually every position on the floor.

'She's solid and she improved a lot playing club (volleyball) this year,' Stammer said. 'She's fast and she can pass the ball really well … (plus) she works hard and she's positive on the court.'

In fact, everyone on the team carries that positive attitude. Because of that, Stammer appears to be having the most fun she's ever had at Lakeridge.

About the only problem Stammer has encountered this year was a breakdown in her team's passing at the Central Catholic jamboree.

'We were kind out to lunch on our passing for a while,' the coach said. 'But it got better as the day went on.'

To correct the problem, the team worked on its passing for an entire practice the following Monday. Stammer called it one of the most boring practices ever, but by the end of the day, all of the kinks had been ironed out. The next day, the Pacers went out and hammered Clackamas.

In a way, it's understandable that Lakeridge started the season slowly. The Pacers have only three seniors on their team. Lizzy Early is the third senior in addition to Aldrich and McNairy.

The roster does include six juniors - Emily Owens, Michaela McNairy, Megan Russell, Megan Dunn, Natalie Potts and Sarah Grewenow - but that group was thin on varsity experience because of last year's senior-laden team. Stammer then balanced out this year's roster with three sophomores - Ross, Allyson Miller and Rebecca Perkel.

It's a young, slightly inexperienced team. But a lot of other teams are in the same boat.

'Just watching the teams play (at the jamboree), I was actually encouraged to see what's out there,' Stammer said. 'There's a lot of teams that lost a lot of players. There's a lot of parity in our league this year. It's going to be any team that shows up to play on any given night is going to win the match.'

Apparently, Lakeridge was the better prepared team when Clackamas paid a visit last week. It was expected to be a closely contested match that could go a long way to determining league seeding by the end of the season. But on that night, it was a lopsided affair in favor of the Pacers.

'I'm super happy with the way we're playing right now,' Stammer said.

'The thing that is so great about this team is everybody is playing as a team. I don't have anyone … who (thinks) it's all about me. The team is playing as a team and they're not concerned about their own success. They're concerned with the success of the team.'