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Pacers capture first-ever volleyball state title


Lakeridge stuns No. 1 Central Catholic in four sets to cap a magical season

by: VERN UYETAKE - Lakeridge players celebrate after winning their first volleyball state title.The Lakeridge volleyball team made history all season long, riding an impressive start to a No. 1 ranking in the state at one point, tying for a rare Three Rivers League championship, and dropping just two matches heading into the regular season.

The Pacers headed into the playoffs with the No. 2 ranking in the state yet still had the feel of a significant underdog considering that the No. 1 Central Catholic Rams had not lost to an Oregon 6A opponent all year and had beaten Lakeridge soundly in straight sets during their lone meeting just a few weeks ago at the West Linn Invitational.

But the Pacers, who have been as close-knit a team as coach Wendy Stammer has ever had in her long tenure, entered the state tournament at Liberty High school with a relaxed intensity.

Lakeridge played far from its best volleyball in its first two matches, knocking off rival and TRL co-champions Clackamas and then No. 3 Roseburg each in four sets, setting up a predictable showdown with Central Catholic, who had been the heavy favorites to win the state title all year.

The raucous crowd and the high-octane Rams didn't seem to intimidate the Pacers in the least and Lakeridge rolled to a stunning 31-29, 23-25, 25-12, 25-22 victory, capturing its first state title in the sport.

After falling behind 12-5 in the opening set, Lakeridge regrouped and chipped away at the deficit, going on a 9-2 run and taking a 22-21 lead. Central Catholic would win the next three points.

Lakeridge tied the score again at 24-24 and the teams then traded points in a thrilling opening set.

It would be the longest in state championship history and the Rams thought they had won the set twice, but a pair of spikes hit out of bounds were ruled to have been tipped by Central Catholic.

A service winner from Kacie Van Stiphout sealed the 31-29 win for the Pacers.

The second set was equally close with Lakeridge running off six straight points early before the Rams rallied.

This time it was the Rams who pulled out the narrow victory down the stretch and knotted the score.

Again, Lakeridge refused to get down. After a back and forth start to the third set, the Pacers ran off perhaps their most impressive stretch of volleyball of the season.

Lakeridge went on a stunning 17-4 run to take a 2-1 lead and send the Rams reeling.

Central Catholic was noticeably rattled with its back against the wall. The Pacers ran off eight straight points early in the fourth, six of which came off of hitting errors by the Rams.

Lakeridge was firmly in control but had to fend off one last rally. Central Catholic got back to within 14-11 and then, with the Pacers leading 24-17, scored five straight points before a Saskia McNairy kill clinched the state championship.

It was a stunning victory for the team and the program, one that left players, coaches and administrators in tears.

Look for full coverage of the Pacers' state title run in Thursday's Lake Oswego Review.