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No. 15 SOU takes on No. 25 Coyotes

ASHLAND — The Cascade Conference volleyball regular season made way for slightly more parity than in years past, but the same heavyweights as usual highlight the remaining field of the CCC Championships.

Southern Oregon University (24-3, 17-3 CCC) earned a first-round bye by attaining the No. 2 seed in the tournament, and at 4 p.m. Friday in La Grande has a semifinal matchup with third-seeded College of Idaho (19-10, 16-4), which has won the last three tourney titles. The Coyotes advanced to the final site Tuesday by taking down sixth-seeded Oregon Tech in straight sets.

The other semifinal pits league champion Eastern Oregon (23-3, 18-2) — the No. 1 seed and host of the final site — against Northwest (18-9, 14-6), which advanced Tuesday by sweeping Corban. The championship is scheduled for a 4 p.m. start Saturday at EOU.

SOU and C of I split their two regular-season meetings as each won on their own home floors. The Yotes won in four sets on Oct. 2, and the Raiders won most recently on Oct. 30 in a five-setter that produced a 19-17 finish.

"Both teams are evenly matched and the difference in the matches has been being at home," SOU head coach Josh Rohlfing said. "The difference between winning and losing was a sliver at our place and similar at theirs, so whichever team settles into playing like itself first is going to have the upper hand."

The Raiders finished the season winning nine of 10, losing only to Eastern Oregon (which suffered its only CCC losses at Northwest and Oregon Tech). Similarly, C of I's only conference setback outside of SOU and EOU was a three-set loss at Corban.

SOU, EOU and C of I have been included in the final-four in five straight seasons, and all three were at the NAIA Championships final site in 2014. SOU and C of I are the only teams to have won the tourney title since 2003.

"First and foremost, I have a lot of confidence in what we're doing right now and the effort we've given every day over the course of the last few weeks," Rohlfing said. "I feel like we've turned a corner and are making improvements at the right time of year."

NAIA Top 25: SOU moved up one spot in the latest NAIA Top 25 poll to No. 15, while Eastern Oregon went up three spots to No. 9 and College of Idaho was included at No. 25 for the second straight week. The final poll heading into the postseason will be announced Sunday.

Like last year, the top-11 teams in the final poll will advance automatically to the NAIA Championships final site in Sioux City, Iowa, along with tournament host Briar Cliff (Iowa). The other 12 spots will be decided on campus sites in the NAIA opening round on Nov. 21, meaning SOU will host an opening-round game if it finished at No. 23 or better in the poll. Last year the Raiders were 17th in the final rankings and hosted College of the Ozarks. They advanced to the final site for the first time since 2011 with a sweep.

Quick Hits:

- The Raiders won consecutive CCC tournaments in 2010 and '11 but haven't advanced to the championship match since. They were eliminated in last year's semifinals by Concordia.

- SOU finished the regular season ranked second in the NAIA in assists per set (13.1), third in kills per set (14.2), ninth in attacking average (.265) and 30th in blocks per set (2.1).

- One more victory would give SOU its most wins since 2007, when it went 26-6 with a conference title.

- Individually, Lauren McGowne leads the nation in assists per set (11.9). When Erin Lytle set SOU's single-season record for assists in 1999, she averaged 12.16.

- The four CCC teams left were the most efficient attacking teams during conference play: SOU (.269), C of I (.254), EOU (.250) and Northwest (.208).

- Emma Gasman (.380) and Niki Small (.375) finished second and third in the CCC in attacking average. Gasman's overall clip of .366 also ranked 12th nationally.

- Corynn Kopra, the reigning CCC attacker of the week, has 27 kills in her last six sets and ranked seventh in the conference with a 3.17 average. Tyana Andrews (2.94) was eighth.

About College of Idaho: The Yotes have appeared in the NAIA Championships seven straight seasons, and are in position to do it again this year behind All-American senior setter Sierra Porter and player-of-the-year candidate Kylie Porter, a 6-3 senior middle. A few weeks ago Sierra Porter became the first player in program history to record 4,000 assists, 1,000 digs and 200 blocks for her career, and Kylie Porter led the CCC in attacking average (.413) while ranking fifth in kills (3.57). During the last matchup, which saw the Yotes take a 2-1 sets lead, Porter had 28 kills on 46 attacks and Randi Sturtz had 16.

The Yotes have gone 6-2 in the postseason against SOU over the last 10 years.

Women’s Soccer

CONFERENCE HONORS: Three Southern Oregon University soccer players have been selected to All-Cascade Conference teams and four more received honorable mention, the league office announced late Monday night.

For the Raider women, junior midfielder/forward Presley Lambert was voted onto the first team and senior midfielder Allyson Ward earned second-team honors. Defenders Jaclyn McQuiston, a senior, and Serena Robertson, a junior, were honorable mention.

And for the Raider men, forward Brendan Allen landed on the second team while midfielders Among Afenegus and Diego Buenrostro garnered honorable mention. All three were freshmen this season.

Lambert, who was honorable mention as a sophomore, was one of four midfielders and 14 total players on the first team. She finished the regular season with four goals and one assist, including late game-winners in consecutive road games Sept. 25 at Corban and Sept. 26 at Northwest Christian that resulted in 1-0 decisions and sparked a 7-2 run that got the Raiders back in the playoffs for the sixth year in a row. She now ranks 10th on SOU's career goals list with 11.

Ward led the Raiders with six goals and also had consecutive game-winners in conference play, Oct. 10 in overtime at Northwest and Oct. 16 in the 87th minute at Oregon Tech. She was also a second-team selection last year, making her the 13th two-time All-CCC pick in Raider history, and was recently named to the CoSIDA Academic All-District 4 team.

McQuiston and Robertson anchored an SOU defense that was third in the conference with four CCC shutouts and allowed just seven goals over its final nine regular-season games.

Allen, a freshman from Roseville, Calif., helped the Raider men to a 10-8 record in their inaugural season. He led the team in scoring with eight goals and two assists and was tied for tops in the circuit with four game-winning goals in CCC play.

Afenegus, a freshman from Vancouver, Wash., finished with four goals and a team-high five assists, and Buenrostro, a freshman from Sacramento, scored four of his six goals in conference play. Overall, freshmen accounted for 31 of the team's 38 goals and 20 of the team's 27 assists.