ASHLAND — Southern Oregon shocked No. 5 Biola in a five-set thriller, overcoming a match point in the fourth set to cap a dramatic opening day at the Paul Elliott Invitational Friday at Bob Riehm Arena.
The 19-25, 25-20, 19-25, 26-24, 15-11 victory wrapped up a successful start for the Raiders, who beat UC Merced in straight sets in an earlier match.
Against Biola (1-1), Mona Goudarzian tallied 22 kills and 10 digs to lead SOU to the upset victory, while Natalie Scheller added 14 kills, including the match-clincher in the final set.
Caryn Westrick and Angela Spieker combined for 49 assists and Renee Yomtob added 21 digs in the comeback victory.
For Biola, Christine Douglas tallied a team-high 17 kills and Amy Weststeyn added 11. Justine Shoneveld finished with a match-high 34 assists.
The Raiders, who are unranked because head coach Josh Rohlfing missed the NAIA's deadline to submit his Cascade Collegiate Conference ballot, return to action today as the tournament concludes with six more matches. Southern Oregon will play against Westminster at noon before closing the tournament with a match against Viterbo at 8 p.m.
Biola was one point away from victory in the fourth set, holding a 24-23 lead before Southern Oregon scored three in a row to force a deciding set. The Raiders never trailed in the fifth, and with the set tied at 4-4 used a 4-1 run to take a three-point lead. Biola never pulled closer than two points again.
With the Raiders up 9-7, Nikki Keller sparked another 4-1 run to give the Raiders a five-point advantage. Biola called timeout and scored three of the next four points, but Scheller clinched the upset for the hosts with her final spike.
Southern Oregon's season began with low-profile, quick-and-easy straight-set victory over UC Merced of Merced, Calif., in a match that started at noon and was through by 1 p.m.
Scheller had 11 kills on 21 swings with only one error, Yomtob led everybody with 19 digs and Spieker and Westrick combined for 36 assists in the Raiders' 25-13, 25-19, 25-20 win.
Valeria Martinez finished with 11 kills and Victoria Rouse 10, while Genna Garret had 25 assists to lead the Bobcats.
SOU bullied the Bobcats in the first set with a quick-hitting attack that produced 11 points in 12 rallies. A spike by Scheller concluded the run and gave the Raiders a 17-5 lead. UC Merced responded with a five-point run of its own, but an attack error by Rouse stopped the rally and the Raiders finished the set strong. Liz Madden's down-angle spike secured the set for the Raiders, who had 40 kills as a team with an efficient .314 attack percentage.
"I felt like from the start we were pretty rhythmic," Rohlfing said. "It looked good, it was pretty smooth. But then as things got dysfunctional with both teams we lost rhythm completely. I thought we were really good to start the match then kind of got into a funk and didn't set the tone for what we needed to do from there on out."
Compared to the first set SOU labored through the rest of the match, though was never in harm's way. It went on a 7-2 run in the second set to push ahead 20-15 and snared the set on a Goudarzian smackdown. The junior outside hitter finished with six kills and five digs.
In the third set, the Raiders won eight of the first nine points — three on kills and two on aces. UC Merced went on a five-point run to get back in the set, but SOU then scored six straight points to go up 16-10 and was content to trade points the rest of the way. A thunderous spike by Scheller seemed to bend the momentum back in SOU's favor. The bullet pelted UC Merced libero Raquel Casto, who managed only to deflect the blast to the floor.
"Natalie Scheller probably was the one that set the tone for us," Rohlfing said. "When we got into any kind of trouble or any type of tough spot she seemed to be right there pulling us back in. I thought she showed great leadership."
Following the tournament, Southern Oregon will play its next two matches — Tuesday against Pacific Union and Aug. 31 versus William Jessup — at Ashland High School's Mountain Avenue Gym while Bob Riehm Arena is equipped with a new floor.