The Lake Oswego volleyball team was ready.
The Lakers, hosting crosstown rival Lakeridge on Monday, gave the Pacers a rude welcome to their gym, stepping up to win the night's first set by 11 points and seemingly take control of the match.
Lakeridge, however, did not blink.
The Pacers came back strong from that early defeat, won three tight sets in a row and walked away with a 14-25, 25-21, 27-25, 25-23 victory at Lake Oswego High School.
"We were just trying to get our jitters out," said Lakeridge senior setter/outside hitter Ashley Warmenhoven. "People were nervous, but once we got that out of the way, we started playing like a team and came together."
"There were definitely nerves," added senior middle blocker Deborah Brigman, who led her team in kills on Monday. "We have eight new girls on varsity this year so they haven't done this kind of big game with all the fans and stuff, so definitely there were some nerves, but I think everybody kind of settled the last few games and we really just worked together. It's a big win for us. We're really excited."
The win, Lakeridge's third straight, lifted the Pacers' Three Rivers League record to 3-1 (4-2 overall) and kept them just a match behind league-leading Canby. Lake Oswego, meanwhile, fell to 2-2 in TRL play with the loss and 3-4 overall.
"I think it's all about momentum," said Lake Oswego senior defensive specialist Natalie Laizure. "I think maybe some of the (officials') calls threw off our momentum. It's always up and down and whoever has the energy at the time."
The Lakers were also hampered by the loss of sophomore outside hitter Jensen Kaelin, who injured her right ankle near the end of the match's third game and did not return.
"One of the (reasons) for sure was losing Jensen. She's one of our key players," said sophomore outside hitter/middle blocker Jordan Noble. "She's one of our really good players on our team, but I think, other than that, we came together really well. We were really close."
The Lakers started fast in the first set, built a lead as large as seven points — at 10-3 on a Kaelin kill in the middle of the net — saw Lakeridge pull back within 12-8 on a block by Sloan Culver and Reilly Santa, then outscored the Pacers 13-6 the rest of the way to their 25-14 win.
Highlights from that run included a kill and a block by Noble, two Kaelin kills, a pair of aces by Julia Woolf and a game-winning tip set by Olivia Salita for Anna Kate Treske.
"I think we were just communicating really well," Noble explained. "And our tip coverage and block coverage worked really well."
"I think our communication was really strong," Laizure added. "I think the setters and the front row were really connecting well and the back row was really covering well. I think just the excitement and chemistry — and just wanting to beat Lakeridge — was really our fuel for that first set."
To its great credit, however, Lakeridge came back strong after that. The second set — and the two that followed — was a back-and-forth struggle that featured five lead changes, eight ties and wasn't settled until Santa served her team through a six-point run late in the contest.
There, Santa notched three aces, Brigman scored on a free ball and two other points came on Lake Oswego errors for a 23-19 Pacer lead. Addison Crawford then ended the set for Lakeridge when she connected from the left side for the 25-21 win.
The third set was the closest of the night, with Lakeridge grabbing a 17-12 edge on a Santa ace, and the Lakers battling back with Libby Elmes at the service line, then tying the score at 18-18 one rotation later.
After that, neither team led by more than two the rest of the way, with Lakeridge finally pulling away to win 27-25 with three straight points following Kaelin's injury. The Pacers scored there on a Brigman tip, a Santa ace and a Laker hitting error.
The fourth set was another slog, this time with the Pacers rallying from an early 10-4 deficit to win. From that early six-point shortfall, Lakeridge raced back into contention with an 8-2 stretch highlighted by kills from Crawford, Brigman and Holland Jackson, and a block by Santa.
Later, Lakeridge ripped off five straight points — two on Jackson kills — to take control at 22-18, then sealed its 25-23 victory with a block by Jackson and Warmenhoven, a Laker error and another block by Santa and Warmenhoven.
"We came together as a team, we settled down and we calmed down," Warmenhoven said. "We strategized after the first game and we could see where the spots were open, where we could swing, where the other players had hit at us."
"Our team has a really good ability to pump each other up, so one person gets excited and then we all get excited," Brigman added. "So I think that in the second, third and fourth games, we just got really pumped up, we were cheering each other on and it just really got us excited."