In the playoffs, all a team can ask for is the opportunity to face the best competition and that's what the Lake Oswego volleyball team got last week. The Lakers knocked off a solid Sunset team in the opening round before being upended by Central Catholic, the favorite to capture this year's state championship.

Following an emotional victory over Oregon City to close out the regular season, Lake Oswego traveled to Sunset in the opening round of the playoffs last week to play in front of a spirited Apollo crowd.

Earlier in the year, Sunset and Lake Oswego split games in the David Douglas tournament although the Lakers were playing without a number of key contributors in that contest.

If Lake Oswego was feeling any jitters they didn't show. The Lakers played consistent volleyball to open the match and allowed Sunset to make the majority of the mistakes.

'The kids have always enjoyed playing on the road and they played with a lot of confidence,' coach K.T. Emerson said.

By the end of its 25-19 victory in the first set, it was clear that Lake Oswego had the Apollos on their heels.

But Sunset rallied dramatically in the second set and fed off of the energy from the crowd to take a 17-11 lead.

'We've struggled in the second set this year. I think we started to hesitate a bit on defense and that's just not how we play volleyball,' Emerson said.

Lake Oswego recovered quickly and stormed back, nearly capturing the second set in the process. The Apollos hung on 25-23 but the Lakers' late run was key to their success later in the match.

'We felt the momentum shift. Even though we lost that set the girls felt like they were in control,' Emerson said.

Although the remainder of the contest was hard-fought, Lake Oswego outplayed Sunset convincingly, focusing on defense and accurate passing to grind out the third set victory 25-22.

With the momentum firmly in hand, the Lakers easily put away the Apollos in the final set 25-18 as every Three Rivers League playoff qualifier advanced to the second round.

'I think we play in one of the toughest leagues in the state and it helps us to play that kind of competition,' Emerson said.

However, looming in front of Lake Oswego was Central Catholic, a team that held the number one ranking in the state for the majority of the year.

The Lakers were, perhaps, a bit intimidated by the talented Rams team. It was a difficult opening set with Central Catholic triumphing 25-7.

'Central Catholic is a terrific team and they play at an incredible speed,' Emerson said.

But Lake Oswego adapted quickly to the flow of the play. Midway through the second set, the Lakers started to take advantage of opportunities and were competitive with the Rams for the entire third set, losing 25-14.

The loss marked the final match for seniors Courtney Fitzgerald, Emily Murphy, Avery Lee and Heather Anderson, all of whom made significant contributions to the team during their time on the varsity squad.

'Those will be big holes to fill for sure,' Emerson said.

But there is also much reason for optimism for the Lakers in the future. A solid core returns to a team that is now accustomed to reaching the postseason.

'We have a number of kids returning who started for us this year and there's a lot of excitement for volleyball in this area. We're looking forward to next season all ready,' Emerson said.

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