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PREP VOLLEYBALL: Rams have an off night as Pacers turn it on

by: COURTESY OF DAVID BLAIR - Central Catholic fans cheer on their volleyball team at the state tournament finals.About everything that could go wrong for Central Catholic's young volleyball team went wrong Saturday night. Including timing, as the Rams ran into a blue-hot, senior-laden Lakeridge squad one day after CC's emotional, five-set victory over rival Jesuit.

Friday night's win over Jesuit put Central Catholic back in the championship game after a one-year absence and gave CC a shot at its sixth state title, all since 1997.

But it also sapped the Rams of some energy and focus, and the upstart Pacers, with no No. 1 ranking or history to lose, aggressively made them pay for that.

With Central Catholic hitting .065 in the finals, making numerous unforced errors and coughing up a lead late in the opening game, Lakeridge was able to capitalize.

The Pacers' 3-1 victory at Liberty High claimed the Class 6A crown. No. 2-ranked Lakeridge took the main trophy 31-29, 23-25, 25-12, 25-22 before an announced crowd of 2,031.

Central Catholic had downed Lakeridge 2-0 in tournament play three weeks earlier, but the Rams were relatively flat in the state final.

"I don't know if we came in under-prepared or thought too highly of ourselves, but we didn't execute," Central Catholic setter Camille Foster said. "We shot ourselves in the foot.

"Three weeks ago, we came out on fire and beat them handily. We had to show them we were Central Catholic and we'd been around."

In state tournament play, though, these Rams really hadn't been around much. This year's team had seven juniors, four sophomores and one freshman, along with lone seniors Foster and Natalie Batiste.

Central Catholic finished with a 29-3 record, its only other loss to an Oregon team coming against 5A champion West Albany in a regular-season tournament.

Senior-laden Lakeridge, which lost to fourth-place Clackamas 3-1 during the regular season, was 26-2.

Saskia McNairy's 24 kills and Emily Scott's 31 digs led the Pacers in the championship match.

For Central Catholic, Foster had 38 assists and junior Kealia Rosa had 23 digs. The Rams' kill leaders, juniors Ramey Gardner with 13 and Whitney Turner with 10, also combined for 16 errors.

"Not the type of game we wanted to play on this night," Central coach Rick Lorenz said. "We played better yesterday. We were just off tonight, in so many ways, which is too bad. So many kids were off. Our hitting was very poor, and our serve returns weren't good at all.

"Give Lakeridge credit. They played good defense. We knew they were going to score some points off their defense and middles. They played the game they had to play to beat us."

Central Catholic easily could have had a 1-0 lead after the first game, which it led 15-7 and 17-10 before losing steam.

The first game was tied 11 times and had eight lead changes. The Rams had a 24-22 lead and five chances to close it out. Each time, something went wrong on their end, with Lakeridge getting new life: service ace, service ace, attack error, bad set, attack error.

"That first game was so pivotal," Lorenz said. "Once we lost that, it gave them a lot of momentum, and I think they believed they could beat us."

Other things went wrong that first game, too. The Rams were called for being in the net six times.

But the hitting …

"At one point, (assistant coach) Malcolm (Doi) said we were hitting a negative number," Foster said. "Our offense really struggled."

It was much different from the semifinals match against longtime main foe Jesuit.

"We get more mentally hyped for Jesuit," Foster said. "We really wanted to win the semifinal, because that's where we got knocked out last year, and we have a long history with Jesuit. We brought a lot of energy to that match."

Earlier Saturday, Jesuit beat Roseburg for third place, 25-27, 25-15, 25-11, 25-17, and Clackamas swept Sheldon for fourth, 25-15, 25-21, 25-22.

Foster and Turner made the all-tournament second team, while Gardner and Batiste were voted to the all-tourney first team.