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Back to drawing board in effort to end WL's run

by: Vern Uyetake, Lakeridge middle blocker Lexi Ross goes high to score a point during last Thursday’s TRL match against West Linn. The two teams entered the match with unbeaten league records but West Linn came out on top with a straight-sets victory. That ran West Linn’s league unbeaten streak to 112 matches.

One of these days, West Linn will lose a Three Rivers League volleyball match. For a few fleeting moments last Thursday, it looked like Lakeridge might be the team to do the honor.

Last Thursday's meeting was a crucial TRL match-up as both teams entered the contest with 4-0 league records. So, it wasn't just West Linn's 111-game league winning streak that was on the line. First place in the TRL was also at stake.

The Pacers appeared to be more fired up and more focused than their Lion counterparts for the first half of the first game. The key was strong front-line play of Lakeridge stars Lexi Ross, Kierstan McNairy and Sydney Aldrich, who kept West Linn's defense off balance with their hard hitting.

Their efforts helped the Pacers post a 12-9 lead against a West Linn team that was having trouble getting untracked.

Then, the game and the match completely turned around. And it had very little to do with the way Lakeridge was playing. The key was a time out taken by West Linn coach Carl Neuburger, who gave his squad a much-needed pep talk.

'I called that time out because they were a little sloppy and not paying attention,' the West Linn coach said.

Neuburger's advice, whatever it was, paid instant dividends as the Lions became more focused and almost inspired with their play. The result was a streak of eight unanswered points, which was part of a 12-1 run that turned West Linn's three-point deficit into a 21-13 lead.

After that, all the Lions had to do was hang on for a 25-16 first-game victory.

The momentum that West Linn got from Neuburger's pep talk ballooned into something even bigger in the second game. In that set, West Linn went on a 19-2 rampage that turned a close game into a 21-4 rout. The Lions eventually won that set 25-7.

In game 3, a 7-1 run at the start and another 7-1 run at the end made the difference in West Linn's 25-11 decision. That gave the Lions a straight-sets victory and sole possession of first place in the TRL.

The Pacers had their hands full with West Linn's star outside hitter, Alyssa O'Neil. She finished the game with 13 kills and 13 digs. She also had four service aces and three blocked shots. O'Neil and teammates Michelle Hurt and Reagan Beatty often hit the ball with such force that Lakeridge's defenders had trouble making smooth passes to their setter.

And that made it hard for the Pacers' hitters to put their hits away.

As a result, Ross finished with just five kills and one block. McNairy had three kills and one block and Lizzy Early also had three kills.

Aside from those hits and a couple of Allyson Miller's setter's dumps that caught West Linn by surprise, the Pacers didn't have much to cheer about.