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Setter Erin is rarely errant

Southern Oregon senior Lytle ranks fourth in the nation

ASHLAND-- Erin Lytle has the perfect mentality for playing setter for Southern Oregon University's volleyball team.

I want to make my team and our players look better, says Lytle, a former Ashland High player, who is ranked fourth in the NAIA in assists with 1,043 this year. If I make them look good, I feel good.

Lytle, 22, has totaled 4,298 assists in four years at SOU.

Her career is winding down as the Raiders pursue their first Cascade Conference championship since 1991.

I just told my teammates last night that I would trade all my awards for us to win the conference and for them to have success,'' says Lytle, a team co-captain along with senior Monica Fisher. I want my last year to be a championship year.

With four Cascade Conference games to play, the Raiders (10-2) trail Concordia (11-1) by one game. The two teams meet in the regular-season finale at Concordia Nov. 6. SOU defeated Concordia earlier this season.

Southern Oregon (19-5 overall) plays at Western Oregon tonight in Monmouth in a non-conference game before returning home for weekend conference matches against Cascade Friday night and Northwest College Saturday night.

Both matches are at 7 p.m. at McNeal Pavilion.

Friday night is senior night.

That will be an emotional night, says Lytle. The season, and my career, have gone too fast. I'm going to miss a lot of things here, including my teammates and Paul (coach Paul Elliott). That's why it's important to finish it out right.

There hasn't been much that Lytle hasn't already done right.

She's a player who's quick to the ball and has a very unselfish attitude, says Elliott. She was an outside hitter at Ashland High, but she was always a setter in my mind. She has a great team attitude, and she knows how to get the ball to her teammates. She's gotten better and better each year as a setter.

Lytle was a first-team Cascade Conference all-star last year and an honorable mention All-American. She was also named a first-team NAIA Strength and Conditioning All-American last season.

Her play has carried over.

She's playing about as well as she ever has for us, says Elliott.

Lytle's 1,043 assists rank her first in the Cascade Conference. She leads Carly Merkel of Albertson College by one with four matches left.

The main thing I try to do is keep our offense flowing and make my teammates look good, says Lytle. When I'm doing that, we seem to play pretty well.

One thing Paul (Elliott) tells me to do is not to think too much out there, says Lytle. He says to use my athletic ability and skills and don't think about it, just do it.

Lytle is confident the Raiders will win the league. Concordia still must travel to Idaho for tough matches against Albertson College and Northwest Nazarene, in addition to its finale against SOU.

But no matter what, we win the league if we win our last four conference games because we've already beaten Concordia once, says Lytle.

The Cascade Conference champion will play host to the league tournament Nov. 12-13.

Lytle, who will graduate next June with a degree in communication, says she will pursue a job with that degree when the time is right.

I'm not thinking about it too much right now, she says. I can worry about that after the season.

Photo by Jim Craven Erin Lytle is one reason Southern Oregon is in line for its first crown since 1991.