Lakeridge too keyed up for pivotal volleyball match and Oregon City takes advantage for a three-set victory
At times this season, it seemed that Lakeridge would be the only Three Rivers League volleyball team that could challenge West Linn's league supremacy. Now, Oregon City has stepped into the picture.
In what could wind up as one of the most pivotal matches of the year, Oregon City scored a straight-sets victory over Lakeridge on Monday. The two teams are now tied for second place in the TRL with 6-2 records while West Linn remains on top at 7-0.
Lakeridge needed to win Monday's match to stay within striking distance of West Linn. Now, the Pacers will have to scramble to earn a home match in the first round of the state playoffs.
The Pacers were definitely aware of the significance of Monday's match. If anything, they were almost too pumped for it.
'We were a little too tense tonight,' Lakeridge coach Wendy Stammer said. 'We were too tight. We wanted it so much.'
Oregon City came out pumped up as well. But the Pioneers managed to channel that extra energy through their play. They took early command of Game 1 with a 9-3 run that had Lakeridge back on its heels.
The key of that run was the play of outside hitter Kelsie Moore. She had five of her team's first nine points and she did it with the kind of all-around play (hitting, blocking and serving) that has made her one of the top players in the league.
Lakeridge was able to close the gap to 11-7 behind the front-line play of Lexi Ross and Lizzy Early. At that point, it looked like anyone's game.
But the Pacers started losing ground when Oregon City began serving the ball so well that Lakeridge players had trouble getting good passes to setter Allyson Miller. Oregon City took advantage of its fortune and gradually pulled away for a 25-16 first-game victory.
'They have a really good serving team,' Stammer said of Oregon City. 'They didn't really beat us on anything else.'
The Pacers also had trouble stopping Moore at the net. In Game 2, she had five early points as Oregon City jumped to an 8-6 lead. But Lakeridge fought back behind the play of Kiersten McNairy, Ross and Miller.
With some additional help from Oregon City miscues, Lakeridge tied the match four times and then took an 18-16 lead. But the Pioneers took the lead for good after going on a 6-1 run. The teams then traded points the rest of the way before Oregon City registered a 25-23 second-game victory.
With a 2-0 deficit, Lakeridge appeared to be in big trouble, especially playing on the opponent's home floor. Sure enough, Oregon City came out with even more intensity for the third game and used it to jump to a 13-5 lead.
The Pioneers then seemed to relax and committed seven errors in a short span that let Lakeridge back into the game at 17-15. The Pioneers righted the ship a bit to push their lead to 20-15. Then, suddenly, it was 20-19 after three more errors by Oregon City and a kill by Ross.
But Oregon City finished off the game and the match with five unanswered points, including four by Moore, to make it 25-19.
'We were just too tight,' Stammer repeated after the match. 'Maybe it was the pressure of the game. I think we have to relax when we play. It looked like we were trying to be so perfect in everything.'
Moore finished the match with 22 points, including kills, blocks and service winners. The Pacers actually blocked a number of Moore's shots, but she hit them so hard that many of her attempts still landed on Lakeridge's side of the floor.
'We weren't pressing over the net (on the block). We were going straight up,' Stammer noted. 'We should have clamped onto some of their sets, because they were tight and low, but they still got through us.
'Their hitters were in trouble more often than not when they were hitting, especially in that last game when many of the sets were low and tight … We should have been all over that.'
Also, whenever Lakeridge got close or had a slight edge, Oregon City would seem to get back on track with its serving. The most deadly of Oregon City's servers was Moore with her jumping, top-spin serve that had a wicked break at the end.
Moore's serves not only made it hard for Lakeridge to pass the ball, but just putting it in play was difficult sometimes.
'I've said it over and over again. High school volleyball is about passing and serving,' Stammer said. 'It doesn't matter how good your hitters are. If you can't pass the ball, you can't play.'
Despite a disappointing outcome, Lakeridge still remained tied for second in the TRL.
'I don't like to be in that position, though,' Stammer said. 'If you stay tied for second, it comes down to a coin toss and that is not fun.'