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SOU netters rally to down Concordia

ASHLAND — The 13th-ranked Southern Oregon University volleyball team’s unflappable play in big moments came in handy Friday with a Cascade Conference title hanging in the balance.

The Raiders were dismantled in the third set, picked up the pieces in time to break match-point three times in the fourth and dominated the fifth, downing the Concordia Cavaliers 25-23, 23-25, 12-25, 31-29, 15-8 at Riehm Arena.

The Raiders (21-4 overall, 15-2 CCC) remained in a first-place tie with 11th-ranked Eastern Oregon going into today’s regular-season finale at 5 p.m. against Warner Pacific. They’d lost three straight to the Cavaliers dating back to last season, and had they lost again Concordia would’ve stolen the inside track to the No. 2 seed in the CCC tournament and a quarterfinal bye.

SOU is 5-0 in matches that go the distance this season and has needed to win the fourth set on three of those occasions.

Motade Atanda registered a match-high 19 kills with 15 digs to lead the Raiders, while Paulla Pinheiro racked up 12 kills and 18 digs. Kelsea MacPhee stepped in with a career-high 10 kills, Sam Boehnke totaled nine kills and six blocks, and libero Brookelynn Cole bailed SOU out on several occasions with 30 digs.

SOU hit at averages of .049 and .088 in the second and third sets, unable to loosen up Concordia’s sturdy back row. Cavs libero Shantel Gritsch devastated the attack with 32 digs, and 6-foot setter Jenessa Taylor had 50 assists, 16 digs, seven kills and three assisted blocks.

Emma Gasman recorded nine kills and assisted three blocks, and Abbie Hanser assisted eight big blocks in all. The Raiders ran out two setters, getting 28 assists and eight digs out of Lauren McGowne and 23 and six from Tyana Andrews.

Wrestling

SOU 37, MENLO 6: At Ashland, second-ranked SOU kicked off the season in winning form over No. 10 Menlo College at Riehm Arena.

The Raiders started fast with wins from two wrestlers making their debuts and eventually got pins from All-Americans Brock Gutches, Taylor Johnson and Dalton Urrutia.

Grants Pass product Casey Colter, a 125-pounder, won his first match at SOU in an 8-2 decision against Elias Hernandez, not conceding a point until the third period. Devon Poppen, a 133-pound freshman from Oregon City, then pinned Brian Ha in 3:44 for his first win.

After Menlo’s Steele Escobedo beat freshman Kyle Sether 5-1 in the 141-pound match, the Raiders claimed the next six weight classes.

At 149 pounds, fourth-ranked Tyler Cowger broke a scoreless tie with a takedown in the third period on his way to beating Jose Maldonado, 3-1. The sixth-ranked Urrutia, who redshirted last season, took care of Christian Franks in 2:13 at 157 pounds, and Urrutia’s brother, Garrett, scored an 11-3 major decision against Zac Grove at 165 – receiving the final point on riding time.

Gutches, the three-time defending NAIA 174-pound champion, finished off Josh Sowma in 56 seconds, and third-ranked 184-pounder Jacob Abrams handled Nick Harris, 9-4.

Johnson, ranked No. 2 at 197, scored a near fall of Paul Bracamonte early and pinned him in 1:28. Clayton Burtis nearly pulled off an upset of second-ranked Scott Brasil in the heavyweight match, but Brasil’s takedown in the final seconds sealed a 5-2 decision for Menlo.