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Raider soccer is mix of old, new

ASHLAND — Just four days after starting camp, the Southern Oregon women's soccer team will take its first test today when it hosts the California Development Academy in a friendly exhibition match.

As Coach Jon Clement half-jokingly admitted, "I'm still just trying to learn the girls' names," but more than that, he's hoping to learn more about his half-new team in the next few weeks.

The Raiders, picked fourth in the preseason Cascade Conference poll, return nine players who saw action last year on a team that finished 7-3 in league and fell one match short of the CCC tournament championship. Featured in camp, though, are 13 faces new to the program.

"The upperclassmen are providing great leadership right now, they're doing a great job of creating the right atmosphere and I'm very proud of that," Clement said. "It's a little too early to tell what this team is going to be like, but give us another week or so and I think the atmosphere will be exactly where we want it."

Among the returners are five juniors, including defender Auika Muragin, who garnered first-team all-conference honors last year. The defense, which yielded only one goal per game in 2008 (third-best in CCC play), also returns Dianne Uehara — entering her fourth year in the program.

"I think Dianne is poised to have a great year," Clement said. "She's a very technical player and we're extremely happy with the way she's concentrating in camp right now."

Goalkeeper Jessica Kuehlwein returns for her second season and figures to be an essential piece to the puzzle if Southern Oregon is to enjoy similar success to last fall. The sophomore orchestrated six shutouts in her first season as a Raider.

"I strongly felt like (Kuehlwein) was one of the best two goalkeepers in the league last year," Clement said.

The Raiders are also counting on a strong year from junior midfielder Sarah Switzer, who has impressed in practice so far and "would probably be the first to say she didn't have a year up to her standards last year," Clement said.

Clement expects freshman forward Stephanie Carr to be a big contributor to a scoring attack that struggled at times in 2008, producing only 19 goals in 19 games. The Raiders return only three players who scored last season.

Sophomore Denise Powell, who netted three goals last season, is Southern Oregon's leading returning goal-scorer.

Volleyball

The Southern Oregon volleyball team has been picked to finish second this year, according to the Cascade Conference preseason coaches' poll.

The Raiders went 20-10 last year and advanced to the conference tournament championship match.

The College of the Idaho is picked to win the conference, coming away with 98 points and eight first-place votes. SOU is second with 87 points and one first-place vote, and Eastern Oregon is third with 78 points and one first-place vote.

The Raiders open the 2009 campaign next Friday and Saturday when they host the SOU Raider Classic. The Classic field consists of SOU, Oregon Tech, Concordia and national power Fresno Pacific.