VOLLEYBALL: Raiders' historic run ends
SIOUX CITY, Iowa — Southern Oregon withstood several blows from Park (Mo.) and nearly took the second-ranked Pirates the distance, but the deepest run in team history came to an end in the quarterfinal round of the NAIA Championships on Friday night at the Tyson Events Center.
After watching the Raiders extend the match with a third-set win and facing set point twice in the fourth, the Pirates ultimately improved to 34-1 and advanced to Saturday’s semifinals with a 25-23, 25-10, 22-25, 26-24 decision.
The Raiders — one of the last eight teams standing for the first time and out of pool play for the second time in 10 tournament appearances — finished with their most wins (29-5) since 1993 and the highest win percentage (.853) in team history.
Following a 15-11 campaign in 2017, they came back to win Cascade Conference regular-season and tournament championships and kept their season alive earlier in the day with a 3-1 upset of No. 9 Rocky Mountain (Mont.) in the round of 16 after taking the top seed out of Pool G.
The match was the last in the careers of seniors Kiley Barcroft, Natalie James, Dani Johnson and Malie Rube. Barcroft, a captain in her fifth year in the program, leaves with 84 total victories.
Park, still perfect in the tournament after winning the American Midwest Conference title, attacked at a .317 average, the highest for a Raider opponent in 2018. It was led by Nada Meawad (15 kills), Alissa Flint (14) and Paula de Oliveira (14).
But the Raiders didn’t go quietly after the second-set blowout. Taylor Ristvedt took over with seven kills in the third frame, Nila Lukens added five and the lead was as large as 24-19 after an Emma Ryan ace.
Ristvedt, the CCC player of the year, finished with 20 kills, her third-highest total of the season. She put down six more in the fourth and made the score 22-18 with the last one. It was 24-22 after Malie Rube’s kill when the comeback began.
Back-to-back kills by Flint and De Oliveira tied the set, and back-to-back attacking errors ended it.
Lukens and Rube finished with 10 kills apiece, helping the Raiders hit .215. Coming into the match, Park opponents were hitting a combined .090.
All but one of SOU’s five losses this season went at least four sets.
Ristvedt finished the tournament with 68 kills in five matches — an average of 3.6 per set. Lukens wrapped up with 56, having delivered 18 in the win against Rocky.
Park will face Midland (Neb.) in the semifinals. Columbia (Mo.) will meet Viterbo (Wis.) in the other match.
SOU’s win over Rocky Mountain was among its grittiest, recording a 25-23, 19-25, 25-22, 25-17 decision.
Lukens delivered a career-high 18 kills on 41 attacks. Ristvedt had 13 kills and four blocks, and Rube came through with 12 kills.
Another key was the insertion of a seldom-used middle blocker, sophomore Taylor Callahan.
The Raiders had to rally back from 20-15 and 21-18 deficits in the first set, scoring seven of the last nine points and finishing it with a Lukens kill and a Sara Fanger ace.
The Bears (30-6), champions of the Frontier Conference, attacked at a .308 average in the opening frame and at .464 in a second-set rout when the decision was made to use Callahan’s defense. They went on to hit .189 in the third and .077 in the fourth; their top attackers, Daniella Russell and Hailey Copinga, combined for 16 kills on 24 swings with no errors through the first two sets, then 14 kills on 45 attacks with seven errors the rest of the way.
The momentum swung in the third set, when SOU scored the final six points after trailing 22-19. Lukens had three kills during the rally, and a combo block by Callahan and Ristvedt ended it.