ASHLAND — The Oregon Tech Owls should be happy to be home Friday for Cascade Conference play. Just not as happy as the Southern Oregon volleyball team usually is to visit them.
It's been 12 years since the Raiders (4-5 overall, 1-1 CCC) last lost in Klamath Falls, but that fact won't make them any less wary Friday when they make the trip over the hill for a 7 p.m. start.
That's par for the course this time of year for SOU coach Josh Rohlfing, especially considering all the different versions of the Raiders he's seen already. A couple were on display during the start of conference play last week — a good one in Friday's sweep at Corban, and a worse one Saturday when history proved to be meaningless and Northwest Christian swept the Raiders for its first win in 14 all-time meetings between the schools.
The Owls (7-7 overall) split with identical outcomes on the same trip.
"We're still not even close to where we're going to be by the end of the year in regard to understanding and tempo," Rohlfing said. "It takes time — we know that — and we learned some good lessons against some good teams (in Corban and NCU)."
Saturday's setback ended the Raiders' four-match winning streak and looked more like a nod to the four-match skid with which they began the year. The net presence of three Beacons who stood at 6-foot-2, 6-0 and 6-0 caused problems for SOU, as did an NCU service attack that produced 12 aces to SOU's two.
The Raiders attacked at a .172 average a night after Paulla Pinheiro (13 kills) and Liz Madden (nine kills) led them to their fourth straight match at .295 or better.
"I felt like we played really consistently against Corban and were pretty businesslike in front of a fantastic crowd," Rohlfing said. "But NCU served us so aggressively and they stayed on us. They made it difficult to regroup and I hadn't seen us like that in a long time."
Regrouping against the Owls won't be an easy task despite the fact that the Raiders have won 29 of 30 in the series since their 2001 loss at Danny Miles Court. Oregon Tech won only three conference matches in 2012 but appears to be well on its way to surpassing that total behind two dangerous hitters: Kelsey Sampson, who is sixth in the league at 3.11 kills per set as a freshman, and sophomore Marlee Smith, who is ninth at 2.92.
Despite the efforts of Sampson and Smith, OIT still has the most inefficient attack in the CCC with a team average of .099. But the Owls are holding opponents to .129 hitting.
"They'll cause a lot of problems if you're not solid with your blocking," Rohlfing said. "But I still expect the difference to be in how we handle their serving, because they're going to be aggressive just like NCU was."
Like the Raiders, the Owls use two primary setters. OIT's Megan Holland and Kayleigh Whelchel are combining for 8.02 assists per set while SOU's Lindsay Verboort and Lauren McGowne are combining for 10.64.
SOU's Tyana Andrews, a sophomore outside hitter, will enter the contest ninth in the conference with a .268 hitting average, just ahead of Madden's .268 in 11th and Pinheiro's .229 in 14th. Madden is also 12th in kills per set at 2.67 after producing 18 last week.
Also among the league leaders for the Raiders: Sam Boehnke's 1.13 blocks per set rank third, as do Renee Yomtob's 5.07 digs.
Following this trip, the Raiders will be home for matches Sept. 20 against Concordia and Sept. 21 against Warner Pacific.