West Linn claims a huge five-set victory against Lake Oswego in its first TRL match

by: VERN UYETAKE - West Linn's Shawna Erickson looks to knock a spike through a Lake Oswego blocker. Erickson played a big role in helping the Lions build an early lead against the Lakers.The West Linn volleyball team picked up an enormous victory to kick off league play on Tuesday, relinquishing a 2-0 lead before rallying for a thrilling 25-12, 25-19, 21-25, 24-26, 15-12 win over Lake Oswego.

The Lakers were expected to be a top-10 team this year, one that still figures to challenge for the league title but the Lions were fantastic in the opening two games and rallied just in time to pull off the win.

Lake Oswego had very few answers for the Lions early in the game. West Linn's offense was clicking and the team made very few errors while jumping out to a big lead.

“We were doing a good job dealing with what they were throwing at us,” coach Carl Neuberger said.

Shawna Erickson was the team's primary target at the net and she responded with a bevy of loud kills as the Lions earned all of the early momentum.

It was more of the same early in the second game. Sophomore setter Hanna Rucker did a nice job putting her hitters in advantageous positions and Hannah Clarke knocked down some important kills as the Lions built another big lead.

But late in the second game, West Linn started to let the foot off the pedal slightly and began making a few errors that they had avoided up to that point.

The Lakers began to capitalize and although they lost the second game, the visitors had some momentum despite the big hole.

“We did some careless things to give them confidence and then it was just like dominoes and doubt crept in,” Neuberger said.

The third game went back and forth with neither team able to gain much separation. The Lakers led by a slim margin early and the teams traded side outs for almost the entire game.

West Linn could never get over the hump and continued to struggle with unforced errors as Lake Oswego won the game and got back into the match.

It was more of the same in the fourth set. West Linn fell behind early on but quickly rallied back. The Lakers again took a slim advantage late and the Lions couldn't come up with the key point to steal the game.

Lake Oswego stole the fourth game 26-24 and suddenly the Lions were on the verge of dropping a heartbreaker.

“I let our assistant coach talk to the team. It's just all about confidence and belief,” Neuberger said.

West Linn got off to a strong start in the decisive fifth game. Mackenzie Granville was a huge spark for the Lions down the stretch, coming up with key plays to give the Lions the edge.

“She was just lights out and a rock for us. She really helped us stabilize things,” Neuberger said.

Libero Leah Beyer also was solid, shoring up West Linn's passing from the back row.

West Linn held a big lead at match point and the Lakers fended a few of them off before the Lions finally slammed the door shut.

It was a big early victory for West Linn as the team heads into another important showdown tonight (Thursday) against unbeaten Lakeridge.

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