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Raiders begin season ranked 18th

ASHLAND — The Southern Oregon University volleyball team will start the season at No. 18 in the NAIA Top 25 poll, which was released Tuesday by the national office.

The Raiders have finished 13th in the country following appearances at the NAIA Championships the last two seasons, and they haven't been left out of the coaches' poll since the 2014 preseason ratings. They'll start the 2016 campaign on Thursday at the Biola Summer Slam in La Mirada, Calif.

SOU is scheduled to play four matches at the Summer Slam and three more in Southern California early next week to round out its nonleague slate, matching up with four other top-25 teams along the way: No. 24 Northwestern (Iowa), No. 9 Vanguard (Calif.), No. 19 Biola (Calif.) and No. 16 Westmont (Calif.).

Two other Cascade Conference squads were included in the poll: No. 8 Eastern Oregon and No. 11 College of Idaho.

The Raiders have outperformed their preseason rankings four out of the last five seasons that they've cracked the top 25.