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Only three returnees for LHS girls

It is truly a rebuilding year for the Lakeridge girls basketball team but the potential is there for a very successful season.

Only three players return from last year's team who saw significant minutes, but a strong group of athletes turned out for basketball this season which might make the Pacers one of the more unpredictable teams in the metro area.

Kiersten McNairy, Kai Schmidt and Courtney Bird all return for the Pacers. Schmidt was a second-team all-league selection last season.

'We're starting anew. We don't have many holdovers from the Jillian Harmon era so it's a clean slate,' coach Mike Melin said.

The three returnees have taken on leadership roles for Lakeridge this year. McNairy, a six-footer, has been particularly strong in the early going and should be a force inside for the Pacers.

Adding to Lakeridge's height will be volleyball standout Lexi Ross who will be playing her first year of varsity basketball.

Soccer star Riley Costello is also out for the team this season and will help with the Pacers' quickness.

Rounding out Lakeridge's squad this year are a handful of players who saw limited time at the varsity level last year but still have valuable experience.

Zoe Teton, Andrea Hopkins and Kayla Glanville are all familiar with Melin's system as is Lauren Joyce, who has been plagued by injuries for the past two seasons but has a clean bill of health this winter.

'She's had a string of bad luck and she's shown us a lot so far,' Melin said.

The Pacers are also carrying freshman Emily Dengey on the varsity roster.

With so many new faces it will understandably take some time for the team to develop an identity. The team has height and speed so it can play a variety of different styles.

'We'll have to look at each individual game and opponent and try and emphasize the things we do well but I think we'll probably use a lot of different defenses and really try and limit turnovers on offense,' Melin said.

But there is still a lot of rust to kick off. Early practices have been encouraging to Melin as the team is committed to working hard and the athletes that are on the team bring a competitive spirit.

'The girls have great attitudes and they want to win,' Melin said.

The Pacers kicked off the season with their jamboree and performed admirably, tying Sunset and narrowly losing to Beaverton.

Lakeridge's first game was on Wednesday against Sprague and the Pacers will take on North Salem on Friday.

This year, the Three Rivers League is expected to be fairly open. Oregon City has long been the favorite but Clackamas is expected to contend with the Pioneers for a league title.

'West Linn, with Rosetta (Adzasu), can make a lot of things happen and Lake Oswego is always in the mix,' Melin said.

But the Pacers might not be far behind. The league season doesn't get into full-swing until after the Christmas break, giving Lakeridge plenty of time to gel.

'Our hope is to compete as best we can and hopefully we'll be there for one of the four spots in the Three Rivers League,' Melin said.