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Raiders outlast rival Oregon Tech

ASHLAND ' The 12th-ranked Southern Oregon University volleyball team took a two-match lead in the Cascade Conference title chase with six contests remaining by toppling second-place Oregon Tech in a back-and-forth slugfest at McNeal Pavilion Friday night.

The Raiders (16-4, 11-1) won their 11th consecutive home match dating back nearly a year with the 29-31, 31-29, 30-15, 30-28 triumph over the archrival Owls (11-8, 9-3), who had a four-match win streak halted.

Southern improved to 8-0 against OIT in Ashland since 1998 after senior outside hitter Kristin Ferris compiled her ninth double-double of the season (14 kills, 16 digs) along with a match-best 15-kill, seven-block performance by junior middle blocker Nicholette Le Bel.

We didn't have our typical solid service reception and defense tonight, but we fought through it and came out with a big win, Raider coach Paul Elliott said. Ferris and Le Bel had great stats, but I was really happy about how our freshmen performed in key situations.

Jennifer Cueto (14 kills, 10 digs), Michelle Klaja (13 kills) and Melissa Frank (12 kills) each finished in double-digits for kills to lead OIT.

— Despite falling to the Raiders for the seventh time in as many meetings since 2002, the Techsters were on the verge of putting SOU in a 2-games-to-none hole after compiling 19 kills and erasing a 27-25 deficit in Game — and pulling even at 29-all in the second stanza.

An Owl service error followed by a Ferris kill sealed Game 2 for SOU, which then cruised through the third game with a 16-kill, one-error, .366 attack percentage.

The teams battled to 14 ties and eight lead changes in Game 4 before four OIT attack errors broke a 19-19 tie and fueled a 5-1 Raider run from which the Owls got no closer than one (29-28) before the match-clinching kill from freshman middle Richelle Millsap.

Tech outperformed the league's top offense and defense in kills (69-63) and digs (84-68, including a match-best by Jamie Ferry), but the Owls, the top blocking team in the league, committed 36 attack errors and were out-blocked 11-6.

Raider setter Jamie McCreary finished with 54 assists, while libero Kristin Lilly posted 19 digs.

Tech setter Megan Albertson narrowly missed a triple-double with eight kills, 53 assists and 18 digs.