ASHLAND — The Southern Oregon University women's basketball team will open its season this weekend when the Raiders host the SOU Season Opening Classic, beginning Friday evening at Bob Riehm Arena.

ASHLAND — The Southern Oregon University women's basketball team will open its season this weekend when the Raiders host the SOU Season Opening Classic, beginning Friday evening at Bob Riehm Arena.

Following the tournament opener featuring Northwest Christian and Great Falls at 5 p.m., the Raiders will take the court for their first game of the season at 7 p.m. to play Holy Names.

"We've got a big weekend coming up," SOU head coach Lynn Kennedy said. "It should be a good combination for us to see where we're at early on, with some really good teams that are coming in this weekend."

Holy Names will offer a tough opening test for the Raiders, as the Hawks received mention in the NAIA preseason poll following last season's 20-13 showing that ended in a California Pacific Conference championship. The Hawks will look to defend their conference title under new leadership, as Catherria Turner takes over as the head coach for the 2011-12 season. Holy Names returns several of last season's top performers, including Britni Ronolo (13.2 points, 6.3 rebounds per game) and Yesenia Garzon (team-high 7.2 rebounds per game).

On Saturday, SOU will face a Great Falls team that is looking to rebound from last year's 10-20 showing. The Argonauts return all of their top players from a young 2010-11 squad, led by guards Kezia Ford (12.9 points, 6.9 rebounds per game) and Sarah Sciascia (11.1 points, 5.6 rebounds per game).

For Southern Oregon, the 2011-12 active roster will feature a blend of seven returning players and six incoming transfers. Preseason All-Cascade Collegiate Conference honoree Josi McDermott, a former Ashland High standout who originally played at the University of Utah, will be the lone senior on the team. She is the top returning scorer for SOU after averaging 8.3 points and 3.1 rebounds per game during her junior campaign.

Kennedy also highlights returners Celonna Arrington and Kiara Moore and points to newcomer Krysten Copeland as a valuable post player this season.