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Raiders fall to Vanguard in four

For the second time in as many days, the Southern Oregon University volleyball team outplayed a top-10 power for long stretches at the NAIA national championships, only to walk off the floor disappointed with the final result.

The 19th-ranked Raiders dominated sixth-ranked Vanguard in the second set and surged ahead 19-17 in the fourth before the Lions sharpened up late to claim a four-set win and eliminate SOU from championship contention Wednesday at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa.

Vanguard’s 25-18, 13-25, 25-15, 25-23 pool play victory improved the Lions to 2-0 in Sioux City and dropped the Raiders to 0-2.

It looked like the Raiders had a chance after ripping 16 kills on 26 swings in the second set against Vanguard, but the Lions bounced back to take the third and used a crucial three-point stretch in the fourth to turn a 21-20 deficit into a 23-21 lead.

Following a timeout the Raiders won the next two points on an attack error and a combo block by Niki Small and Tyana Andrews to pull back into a tie, but Vanguard reclaimed the lead on a powerful spike to the floor by Stephanie Flores and clinched the win when a blast by Andrews sailed two feet past the end line.

The disappointing finish was SOU’s second in less than 24 hours after the Raiders suffered a five-set loss to seventh-ranked Midland on Tuesday.

“I think in most all aspects we played better (Wednesday),” SOU head coach Josh Rohlfing said. “But the one key aspect was that we didn’t play with as much sheer tenacity and we didn’t play with a sense of urgency the whole time, and that was really the difference in the match.”

Junior outside hitter Corynn Kopra had another phenomenal outing for the Raiders with 21 kills and five digs, senior outside hitter Laura Morse had 13 kills and nine digs and Andrews had eight kills, 14 digs and five blocks. Also for the Raiders (25-6), junior setter Lauren McGowne had 46 assists, redshirt freshman libero Ashlyn Flynn had 18 digs and junior hitter Emma Gasman added five kills.

For the Lions (23-5), who beat Coastal Georgia on Tuesday, Sarah McKinny had 15 kills, Rachael Barker 14 kills and Rebecca Lowden 23 digs.

Rohlfing praised Kopra for her second outstanding performance in as many nights. The hard-hitting outside was SOU’s go-to threat again, upping her two-day total to 44 kills.

“(Kopra’s) just so special,” Rohlfing said, “and in the second half of the season she’s just been on a tear.”

Rohlfing said SOU’s winless mark through the first two days is not a fair representation of how the Raiders have played in Sioux City.

“For me, the most difficult part of this is to be knocked out today knowing that we truly have the toughest pool in the tournament,” he said. “And we played well. We didn’t just come to the tournament and roll over. We played tough and had an opportunity to win and could have moved on. But that’s what it’s about. Coulda-shoulda-woulda.”

Kopra