Lakeridge wins first title in historic fashion
HILLSORO - In one of the biggest upsets in tournament history, the Lakeidge Pacers beat Central Catholic in four games to win the school's first state volleyball title.
Lakeridge won a tense battle in the first game, survived Central Catholic's answer in the second and rolled through the final two games to win 31-29, 23-25, 25-12, 25-22, before a raucous crowd at Liberty High School.
The Pacers got 24 kills from Saskia McNairy, 12 more from Maddie Marshall and won the battle of hitting errors 25-36.
"We knew everyone was looking at us as a big underdog, so we just played like we had nothing to lose," Lakeridge coach Wendy Stammer said "This is a huge win for our program, for our girls. They've worked so hard for this, it's such a great thing for them."
Central Catholic got 13 kills from Ramey Gardner and 10 more from Whitney Turner. The Rams were top top seed in the tournament the past two years, but won just third place last year and second place this year, having won the title from 2009-11.
Lakeridge wasn't a significant underdog in terms of play from this year - earning the No. 2 seed in the 32-team playoff bracket. In terms of seeding, they were supposed to reach the championship match.
In terms of program history, though, they essentially had none - having not reached a final, and not even played into one of the final eight spots that make up the double-elimination tournament last year. One of the team's first goals was just reaching the tournament this season.
Central Catholic was aiming for the program's six title in its 14th appearance in the finals under coach Rick Lorenz, who had won three titles before moving to the school.
And, halfway through the first game, that history showed itself as the Rams, who easily beat the Pacers in two games during a tournament earlier this year, roared to a 17-10 lead.
The Pacers, who had a 5-2 edge in seniors on their roster, rallied to 18-16 and the game stayed closed from there. Central served for the game at 24-22, but a service error gave the ball back to Lakeridge and they scored two straight for a 25-24 edge and served for the game. The Rams actually celebrated having won the game, though, 25-23 when Marshall hit an attack long, but the head referee ruled the ball had been tipped at the net and scored the point for Lakeridge to tie the game. The same celebration happened when the Rams thought they had won at 28-26, but the point went to Lakeridge and tied the score at 27-all.
Finally, junior Kacie Van Stiphout served an ace to end the battle and give the Pacers the game, igniting their boistrous crowd that spelled out a giant 'L' in the stands behind them.
After an equally thrilling second game went to the Rams, 25-23, the top-seeds began a two-game slide into hitting errors and only a late, five-point run made the fourth-game score close.