SOU in playoffs; players honored
ASHLAND — The Southern Oregon University volleyball team's season was on life support over the weekend after a loss to College of Idaho in the semifinal round of the Cascade Conference tournament.
On Monday, however, the NAIA office revealed that the Raiders will be in the 36-team NAIA Championships field. They'll host La Sierra (Calif.) at Riehm Arena in an opening-round match at a time yet to be determined on Friday, Saturday or Sunday.
Tickets will go on sale at souraiders.com/tickets as soon as the match time is set.
The Raiders got more good news Monday when it was announced four players made the all-conference team.
Junior middle Emma Gasman, junior outside hitter Corynn Kopra and junior setter Lauren McGowne were voted to the all-CCC team, and senior hitter Tyana Andrews received honorable mention.
The Raiders (24-4 overall) went from 15th to 19th in Monday's final NAIA Top 25 and subsequently received the eighth and final at-large berth. Because nine of the top-15 teams were upset in their conference tournaments and therefore had to rely on at-large spots instead of automatics, the at-large cutoff was atypically high; last year, the final spot went to No. 26 Concordia.
The top-11 teams in the poll plus tournament host Briar Cliff (Iowa) got free passes to the final site in Sioux City, Iowa, and the other 12 final-site reservations are to be played out in opening-round matches on campus sites this weekend.
La Sierra (18-9), a member of the California Pacific Conference from Riverside, Calif., advanced by virtue of winning its conference tourney. The Eagles' only previous appearance in the opening round was 2011, when they were swept by Vanguard. The trip to Ashland and meeting with SOU will be their first.
Last year, as the No. 17 team, SOU hosted College of the Ozarks (Mo.) in the opening round and, with a sweep, moved on to Sioux City for the first time since 2011. The Raiders went 1-2 at the Tyson Events Center and placed 13th.
In all-CCC voting, SOU and regular-season champ Eastern Oregon were the only teams with three all-stars.
McGowne, from Coos Bay's Marshfield High, repeated. She was all-CCC as a freshman in 2013 and honorable mention last season. This year, she ranks second in the NAIA in assists with 11.76 per set and has led the Raiders to a team attacking average of .265 — their highest since 1998. Her 3,159 career assists rank fifth in Raider history, and she averages career bests of 1.69 digs and 0.55 blocks per set.
Gasman, a 6-foot native of Clovis, Calif., ranks first in the CCC and 15th in the NAIA in attacking average (.360), ninth in the CCC in blocks (0.94) and is averaging a career-high 2.62 kills.
Kopra, from Gresham High, is first on the team and sixth in the CCC at 3.27 kills per set on a .226 average. She's hit double figures in kills 18 times, including 12 or more in each of SOU's last six matches.
Andrews, from Rochester, Wash., owns averages of 3.15 kills (.265) and 2.39 digs and has a team-high 26 service aces.