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Solid year comes to an end for Pacer netters

It fell well short of being Lakeridge's best showing ever in the state volleyball playoffs. But, from coach Wendy Stammer's perspective, this might have been the most fun she's had since taking over the program in 2000.

'It was such a fun team to be around,' said Stammer, who felt the same way at the beginning of the season as she did at the end.

It didn't seem to matter that Lakeridge got knocked out of the first round of the playoffs when they lost in straight sets (25-13, 25-21, 25-12) to St. Mary's last Wednesday.

'The score doesn't really reflect how well we played,' Stammer said. 'We got off to such a slow start in each of those games.'

Lakeridge was ranked in the state's top 10 for the most of the season. St. Mary's proved that it deserved to be there as well. But the Blues couldn't make it to the round of eight because they got knocked off in the second round by North Medford.

'St. Mary's was a very good team, and then they got beat by North Medford. So that was a tough task for us to get into the top eight,' Stammer said.

Lakeridge's toughest break seemed to come at the end of league play when the Pacers lost a coin flip (against Oregon City) for the TRL's No. 2 seed. That dropped the Pacers into a portion of the playoff bracket that everyone wanted to avoid.

Since the OSAA refuses to seed its playoff teams, 'why not play those (tiebreaker) matches (in league),' the Lakeridge coach said. 'It was just a shame that it happened that way … But what can you do? Those things are out of my control.'

The Pacers, who had one of the youngest teams in the TRL, were nervous for the start of the St. Mary's match. 'But I can understand that,' Stammer said.

Eventually, the Pacers got themselves into too big of a hole to dig out of, but Stammer was still pleased with the way her team played.

The play of middle blocker Kiersten McNairy probably stood out the most for the Pacers. 'She had a good match,' Stammer said of her senior captain.

On defense, junior Megan Russell probably turned in the best effort for Lakeridge, the coach said. Russell was also the team's top passer for the match.

Afterward, it was announced that McNairy, Sydney Aldrich and Lexi Ross all earned first-team all-league honors this season. Russell, Lizzy Early and Allyson Miller received honorable mention.

Overall, it was hard to complain about the season Lakeridge (9-3 TRL) had.

'It's more than I expected,' said Stammer, who noted that 2007 was supposedly going to be a rebuilding year for the Pacers.

'We won a lot of matches on heart and team chemistry,' the coach said.

'Losing eight seniors (from the 2006 team), you're pretty much starting over,' the coach continued. 'But our team was steady the whole season.

'It was the most cohesive group I've had at Lakeridge … I looked forward to going to practice every day.'

The Pacers will lose three seniors off this year's team, and all three of them - McNairy, Aldrich and Early - were major contributors. And they were excellent leaders, too.

'They weren't in it for themselves. They were in it for the team,' Stammer said of three seniors. 'They led in a way that the team respected them.'

That helped turn this 'rebuilding squad' into 'a great team to be around,' Stammer said.