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Pacer netters nip Lakers

by: Vern Uyetake, Lakeridge’s Lizzy Early extends over the net for a kill during last Thursday’s volleyball match against Lake Oswego. The Pacers won the first two games with ease but then had to scramble to win the match in five sets.

The two local high schools might want to consider charging for admission to their volleyball matches.

Last Thursday's match between Lakeridge and Lake Oswego certainly would have been worth the cost of a moderately priced ticket. Even a high-priced ticket would not have been out of line for that match, which went the full five sets and had fans standing and cheering much of the night.

It was a match that Lakeridge seemed destined to put away early after winning the first two games with ease. After that, the momentum seemed to change hands about once every minute as the two teams exchanged one big hit after another.

It wasn't a big hit that that won the match, though. Instead, the winning point came on a setter's dump by Lakeridge's Allyson Miller. It was a brilliant move at a crucial moment as everyone on Lake Oswego's side was setting up for possible block against the Pacers' big hitter, Lexi Ross.

Miller's winning point, which found an empty spot in Lake Oswego's front line, gave Lakeridge a draining 25-13, 25-8, 24-26, 23-25, 15-13 victory. It might go down as one of the most exciting matches in a rivalry that has been full of exciting matches.

'I hope I don't have to do that again,' Lakeridge coach Wendy Stammer said with relief after the match.

'It was a great effort by both teams,' Stammer added.

Just the fact that the Lakers stayed in the match until the bitter end was a credit to them. After seeing the way Lakeridge played in the first two games, it appeared everyone would be going home early.

'We were in a rhythm,' Ross said afterward. 'Our passing was great and our serving was great. We were going good.'

Lakeridge middle blocker Kierstan McNairy helped set the tone as she registered emphatic kills for the evening's first three points. The score of that first game was 6-0 before Lake Oswego even had a chance to blink.

Then, Ross got in on the action with a pair of kills and Sydney Aldrich added two blocks and a kill and suddenly Lakeridge was ahead 17-5. The Pacers finished off the first game with another block by Aldrich, plus a pair of errors by the Lakers and two points by Miller.

The Pacers looked even better in Game 2 as they jumped out to a 14-3 lead. The run included three points by Aldrich and two each by Ross, Miller and Sarah Grewenow. A series of Lake Oswego errors helped the Pacers close out the second game.

'Then, I think we kind of relaxed a bit and weren't as aggressive,' Ross said.

Actually, the Pacers didn't let up too much in Game 3. In fact, they had a 15-9 lead on the strength of three points each by McNairy and Ross.

At that point, one could almost see the mind set change for the Lakers. They simply decided they weren't going to get routed in this match.

'We've become really close as a team and we just weren't going to let that happen,' Lake Oswego middle blocker Anna Gornbein said.

The Lakers quickly caught fire behind the play of Gornbein and outside hitter Keri Nielsen. Three kills by Gornbein during a short stretch and one by Nielsen gave the Lakers a 19-18 lead.

Lakeridge bounced back for a 23-20 lead, thanks to four consecutive errors by the Lakers. Then it was Lake Oswego's turn again on offense. A block by Nielsen and three straight errors by the Pacers and Lake Oswego was in front 25-24. Amy Carlton finished off the game when she scored the Lakers' 26th point on a setter's dump.

In Game 4, the Lakers had the advantage early, then, Lakeridge jumped up 11-7 with Ross leading the charge.

Lake Oswego regained control with seven-point run, including three kills and a block by Gornbein, for a 14-11 lead. The Lakers' lead was 20-15 after Gornbein, Nielsen and Cassie Mitchell each registered a block and Tai Locke added a service ace.

Ross answered with three kills to trim Lake Oswego's lead to 22-21 but Gornbein followed with a block and a kill to close out Game 4 for the Lakers.

'Our crowd was disappointed after the first two games, so we knew we had to step up and play together,' Gornbein said.

'Once we started picking it up on the defense and trusting each other … I think that was the key to us being able to play real well,' Lake Oswego coach K.T. Emerson said.

At that point, all of the momentum seemed to be in Lake Oswego's favor.

'When they're on, they're really on and it's hard not to get down,' Ross said of the Lakers' comeback.

But the Lakers didn't help their cause much by committing five early errors to give Lakeridge a 7-3 lead in Game 5.

Lakeridge returned the favor a short time later with three consecutive errors to trim the Pacers' lead to 10-9. After a kill by Grewenow, Lake Oswego's Mackenzie Walen followed with a pair of cross-court kills, and a Lakeridge error put the Lakers in front 12-11.

Then it was McNairy's turn and she knocked down a pair of kills to put Lakeridge in front 13-12. Each team then committed an error, leaving the Pacers one point shy of victory.

Everyone thought the final play would run through Ross, but Miller pulled off the unexpected when she dinked the ball over the net instead of setting it up for the big hitter.

At times, the officials seemed to play a part in the match as much as the players did. There were a surprising number of infractions called on plays that seemed to be within the rules.

'(The official) wasn't letting the girls play,' Stammer said. 'Both teams were making the best digs you can make in volleyball and she was calling everything a lift. It was disheartening.'

Lake Oswego's loss followed a difficult setback against Clackamas last Tuesday.

'It was a very emotional match and very draining,' Emerson said of the Clackamas contest. 'You could see it in practice the next day. The girls were still pretty emotional and fired up about it.'