by: VERN UYETAKE Nicole Blizzard returns for her senior year and is one of the leaders on a fast-paced Lakeridge team.

The Lakeridge girls basketball team may not have a ton of height this year, but the Pacers are more than making up for it with speed, athleticism and hard work.

Under new coach Kevin Berry, Lakeridge is playing at a frenetic pace this year and has already rattled off two wins to start the season.

"You might call what we have a four or even five-guard set. We have a lot of talent, athletes and shooters and the girls have been really receptive. It's something I brought up to the hiring committee. I knew enough about the program to know that if we just tried to pound the ball we wouldn't be successful. I wanted to bring a system that was fun to play, coach and watch and that could build up our numbers which was one of my main goals," Berry said.

Lakeridge is led by guard Kyleigh Young who figures to be one of the top players in the league this year.

"Obviously she's a tremendous athlete. She can rebound, pass and score. There's really no glaring weakness in her game," Berry said.

Nicole Blizzard also returns to the Pacers bringing intensity on defense and terrific range from behind the arc.

Colleen Ellis has also been handling point guard duties and went off for 20 points in the team's opening win over Milwaukie.

"She's a quick little player with a fast release. She just needs a glimpse to get her shot off," Berry said.

With as fast as Lakeridge plays on both offense and defense, Berry is playing a roster that goes 11 deep and expects to often sub in five completely different players at a time.

"We don't really place much of an emphasis on who's starting and that's really helped with our chemistry," Berry said.

Lakeridge is also receiving great leadership and play from senior Elie Daskalos.

"She does everything a coach could ask for. She rebounds and plays great defense and is always around the ball. She's a player you might miss if you're watching the game but everything she does shows up on the game film," Berry said.

Lakeridge will definitely give teams a different look this year and hopes to be extremely competitive in the Three Rivers League.

Oregon City is the obvious favorite but the league figures to be wide open after that.

"Our goal is always going to be to earn one of the three automatic playoff spots. That's challenging but it's realistic. Oregon City is tough but after them I think we can beat anyone in the league," Berry said.

Lakeridge used a huge third quarter to knock off Milwaukie 74-61 in its opener and then buried Wilson 78-28 on Tuesday. Blizzard led the way with 21 points followed by Young with 18 and Ellis with 11.

Lakeridge will travel to Wilsonville next Tuesday.

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