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Pacers fall in state title rematch

Lakeridge wins a nailbiter before losing to No. 2 Central Catholic

Photo Credit: VERN UYETAKE - Lakeridge's Mari Chang makes a pass during the Pacers' match with Central Catholic last week.The Lakeridge girls volleyball team survived a tough opening round match with a resilient Lincoln squad before setting up a rematch of last year's state title match against Central Catholic.

While the Rams were returning a good portion of last year's squad that was ranked No. 1 in the state for much of the season, the Pacers were rolling out a very different team but one that had galvanized late in the season and was one of the hotter teams in the state heading into the postseason.

In the end, Central Catholic emerged with a 25-13, 25-13, 25-10 victory but one that left coach Wendy Stammer encouraged about the future.

“I thought we did some really good things. We dug some great balls but they're a very refined group and they came out with a vengeance,” Stammer said.

The Pacers held their own against the Rams, playing strong defense as they tried to stay in the match early but Central Catholic was simply too consistent and the second-ranked team in the state advanced to the quarterfinals comfortably.

Lakeridge took on Lincoln in its playoff openers at home last week and appeared to be set for a stress-free match. The Pacers cruised to a 2-0 lead, winning the first two sets 25-14, 25-14 with strong serving and a balanced offensive attack.

But the Cardinals weren't quite ready to roll over. Lincoln took advantage of a slight drop in the Pacers' intensity and were the beneficiaries of a few late errors to win the third set 25-21.

“I think we got a little complacent and they gave us a reality check,” Stammer said.

That victory gave Lincoln some momentum which it carried over to a 25-18 win in the fourth set.

Suddenly the Pacers went from a comfortable advantage to being faced with the possibility of being sent home early.

Lincoln continued to outplay Lakeridge in the fifth, jumping out to a 14-11 lead before the Pacers collected themselves, scoring three straight points to tie things up.

Lakeridge fended off two more set points before clinching the set. The Pacers' experience in close, five-set matches earlier this year paid dividends in its most important match of the season.

“I'm so proud of this group and our JV team was very good this year. It will be exciting to see what we can do,” Stammer said.

Lakeridge will return a young but experienced team next season that could be among the best in the league.

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