The Lions drop the third set, come back with their best performance in the fourth.
*This story has been corrected.
It’s never easy to follow up on a championship season.
West Linn, which won the 2021 Class 6A state title, knows that as well as anyone.
The Lions led 2-0 in sets and 24-22 late in the third, but couldn’t close out the match until the fourth set.
“I think we’ve been working really hard in practices and fighting out of situations,” said West Linn senior outside hitter Amyah Semau, who led her team with 27 kills against Lakeridge. “With Tigard (in the Lions’ league opener), we were pretty close to losing in the third set, but I think we are a team that fights hard.”
For a team that graduated nine seniors from last year’s championship squad, communication and camaraderie are the keys to this year’s new West Linn team.
“We have a lot of newer players, but they’re all working hard and they’re working really hard on their chemistry so I think that’s really a tribute to all of them,” said junior setter Olivia Doel. “We are definitely working on it in practice.”
With the victory, West Linn — third-ranked in the latest Class 6A coaches poll — won for the second time in its last three matches, and improved to 2-1 in TRL play and 4-4 overall. Lakeridge, meanwhile, lost for the second straight time and fell to 1-1 in TRL play and 2-3 overall.
“I think that everyone played great, but I think our energy could have been better,” said Lakeridge senior middle blocker Isabella Walsh. “We definitely lacked energy on the court and the bench, which would have helped. We definitely could have talked more.”
“In the first couple of sets, we were lacking a little bit of energy and missing a couple of balls that we definitely could have gotten, but then we were all just determined to fight back and give it our all,” added senior setter/right-side hitter Lila Strupp.
The Pacers hung tough early in the first set and trailed the Lions just 13-11 on a Semau hitting error. But West Linn took over down the stretch, outscoring Lakeridge 12-5 the rest of the way, with Semau notching three kills in that span and senior Ruby Michelon ending the game with a block of Walsh to win 25-16.
The second set was even closer, with Lakeridge tied 17-17 when Pacer senior Sydney Littler blocked an attack by West Linn senior Addie Hoover. But as was the case in the first set, West Linn came through when it needed to, outscoring the Pacers 8-3 the rest of the way.
Hoover served her team through a four-point run — including one ace — in the victory, with junior Jillian Colarchik scoring on a block and Semau recording kills on four of her team’s final five points, including the game-winner from the left side set by Doel.
The Lions carried that momentum into the third set, too, leading 8-4 early when junior Caroline Nielsen served an ace, but this time, they couldn’t hold their edge. The Pacers strung together a 6-2 run to tie the the set at 10-10, led there by a kill and an ace from senior outside hitter Niyah Coleman.
The set was still tied at 20-20 when Lakeridge senior Sydney Hamlin made a kill off the West Linn block on the left side, and even after three straight Semau kills gave the Lions a 24-22 edge, the Pacers didn’t falter.
After a missed serve by West Linn, Coleman scored off the block, the Lions gave up another point on an error and Strupp ended the set at 26-24 when she blocked Lions’ senior Olivia Trobetsky.
Suitably awakened by Lakeridge’s victory, West Linn responded with its most effective performance in the fourth set. There, the Pacers trailed just 9-7 — that on a tip from Walsh — but the Lions took over from there.
They outscored Lakeridge 16-8 the rest of the way to win 25-15, with Doel scoring on a tip and recording three aces, Semau making three kills and getting an ace of her own, and both Michelon and sophomore Allison Hawk each adding one block and one kill.
After the victory, the Lions said that they remained confident of their ability and chances in 2022.
“The expectations are still the same,” Semau said. “We are a very athletic team — (coach Emilie Smith) always tells us that we are — and we’ve got a lot of potential. But bonding together, chemistry, is a big thing we need to work on, but I think once the chemistry is set in stone, we’ve got it.”
On their side of the net, the Pacers saw a lot of positives in their loss.
“I think in the next games, we need to come out with as much energy as we had in the third set,” Strupp said. “We need that at the start, to start on the good foot and build that up. We have a great team and I think we just need to keep working on some things.”
For the game, Semau added 13 digs and had a hitting percentage of .360, Hoover finished with 11 digs and a 2.0 passing stat, Hawk hit .308 and Doel had 41 assists and 11 digs.
Unofficially for Lakeridge, Hamlin had eight kills and one assist, Strupp finished with seven kills and two blocks, Coleman had five kills and three aces, Littler collected four kills and two blocks and Walsh had four kills and a block.
*The original version of this story listed Lakeridge’s TRL record incorrectly.