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Vanguard ousts SOU from NAIA tournament

SIOUX CITY, Iowa — The Southern Oregon University volleyball team’s time at the NAIA Championships was cut short Thursday afternoon by a suddenly hot Vanguard squad that has played its way into the final 12 at the Tyson Events Center.

The final match of pool play, which was an elimination contest for both teams, was over in four sets — 25-22, 21-25, 25-18, 25-19, getting the 21st-ranked Lions (25-12) into the final single-elimination bracket for the second time in program history.

The 17th-ranked Raiders, who wrapped up with a record of 24-7, were attempting to accomplish the same thing. Their four-set win over eighth-ranked Columbia on Tuesday was followed up by a three-set loss to Texas Brownsville on Wednesday. The match against Vanguard was a rematch of SOU’s preseason sweep of the Lions on Aug. 22.

Vanguard’s attack got hot Wednesday in 3-0 steamrolling of Columbia, hitting at a season-best .457 average, and stayed that way against SOU at .246. The Lions also out-blocked the Raiders, 12-4, becoming the second Raider opponent to do so all season.

Charlotte Heerlyn totaled 17 kills on 37 swings with four blocks, and Stephanie Flores had eight kills on 16 swings and seven blocks.

SOU was led by Motade Atanda and Paulla Pinheiro with 16 kills apiece. Pinheiro also had 12 digs, Brookelynn Cole had 21 digs, and Lauren McGowne dished out 26 assists with eight digs.

The Raiders were initially rolling along with a 17-10 advantage in the first set before Vanguard went on a 13-3 run, running off eight straight at one point to take the lead with Kelly Heenan serving.

SOU didn’t trail after going up 8-7 in the second set but was grounded by a .063 attacking clip in the third. Although the Raiders shot back up to .280 in the fourth, the Lions finished 16 of their 28 attacks and turned a 17-15 lead into 22-16 with the assistance of four SOU miscues.

Emma Gasman added seven kills for the Raiders.

The loss ended the careers of seniors Atanda, Pinheiro, Cole, Sam Boehnke, Nikki Keller, Kelsea MacPhee and Shelby Young. Young and Keller were both out with injuries.

Cole ended the season with 610 digs, the third-best mark in program history. Atanda’s 458 kills were the seventh-most for a Raider in a single season.

The NAIA tournament action was the first for any Raider on the roster and the program’s eighth appearance.

This was the 30th 20-win season in the history of the program and Josh Rohlfing’s sixth in eight years.