Lee had long considered West Springfield a rival even before realignment landed the Lancers in the Patriot District this season. With the showdown now having added significance, the Lancers signaled their intentions of contending for the title with a 25-23, 25-17, 25-10 victory last night over the defending district champion Spartans.

The host Lancers (9-3, 4-0) moved into sole possession of the Patriot lead with their victory over the 2004 Northern Region semifinalist Spartans (8-4, 3-1), and can seal a district crown with wins in their four remaining matches.

"This is the biggest thing in the world," sophomore outside hitter Amanda Friday said. "We had the same record. We showed that we could compete even if we are considered underdogs. Our attitude was the difference."

The Lancers dominated with an aggressive attack that often left the Spartans flat-footed and on the defensive. The team also matched the Spartans in intensity and crowd support, heeding Coach Rebecca Waters's mandate that her players bring three friends to the match in an effort to a drown out a band of "Ace Guys" that travels with West Springfield.

"We never have this many people at a game," said Lee junior outside hitter Mary Horner. "They were pumped and we felt it."

Lee setter Pam Horner gave the Lancers a 24-23 lead in the first game on a kill down the middle of the court. They captured the game soon thereafter.

In the second game, the Lancers jumped out to a 21-11 lead and Pam Horner and junior opposite Anush Mooradian provided the spark with a combined three kills and one ace for the 25-17 margin of victory.

"We've played six five-game matches this season and won four of them," West Springfield Coach Rick Dunetz said. "I expected my girls to handle the pressure, but we didn't have the answer today."

In the final game, the Lancers took an 18-7 lead over the Spartans during a stretch in which Friday had three kills and an ace. At 22-10, the Lancers won three consecutive points with kills from Friday and Mary Horner to take the game.