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SOU Roundup: Raiders a top seed in NAIA Championships pool play

The NAIA Volleyball Championship pools were announced Sunday by the national office, and fifth-ranked Southern Oregon will have a top seed for the first time when it takes the floor next week in Sioux City, Iowa.

Thirty-two teams were left standing Saturday upon the completion of the Opening Round — which SOU earned the right to bypass by virtue of its ranking — and they were subsequently sorted into eight pools of four for round-robin play. In Pool E, the Raiders (29-3) will be joined by 12th-ranked Central Methodist (Mo.) (30-3), 23rd-ranked Bellevue (Neb.) (27-8) and Indiana University Kokomo (27-11).

SOU will start with IU Kokomo at 9 a.m. Pacific Time on Dec. 3, then play Bellevue at 8 a.m. on Dec. 4 and Central Methodist at 10 a.m. on Dec. 5.

The top two finishers in each pool will advance to single-elimination bracket play. The Round of 16 and quarterfinals are scheduled for Dec. 6, and the semifinals and championship match will be held on Dec. 7 at the Tyson Events Center.

The Raiders, who will be making their 11th national tournament appearance and 10th at the final site, were a No. 2 seed last year when they got out of pool play for the second time and advanced to their first-ever national quarterfinal match. They last played on Nov. 16 while sweeping seventh-ranked Eastern Oregon for the Cascade Conference Tournament title, and will bring a 14-match winning streak to the final site.

Central Methodist won the Heart of America Athletic Conference’s South Division title with a 16-1 record and defeated the North Division champ, 13th-ranked Grand View (Iowa), for the tournament championship. The Eagles, who rank third nationally in attacking average (.266), qualified for their first national tournament last year and were eliminated in pool play.

The Raiders have never played CMU, and they haven’t seen Bellevue outside of non-conference matches in 2004 and 2015. The Bruins tied for second place at 10-4 in the North Star Athletic Association behind sixth-ranked Viterbo (Wisc.) and had to defeat Lincoln (Ill.) in the Opening Round to advance to pool play for the eighth time in team history.

IU Kokomo will be making its second appearance in pool play — the first was in 2016, and the Cougars were knocked out in the Opening Round last season — after winning a four-set match at Trinity Christian (Ill.) on Saturday in the Opening Round. They went 13-3 to tie for second place in the River States Conference’s West Division, but won the conference tournament and are riding a six-match winning streak.

Women’s Wrestling

SPOKANE OPEN: At Spokane, Wash., Individual championship performances from Tara Othman (116 pounds), Anesia Ramirez (130) and Sienna Ramirez (143) resulted in a team title for Southern Oregon.

The Raiders topped the 12-team standings with 125 points to second-place Providence (Mont.)’s 111 , also getting runner-up efforts out of Macie Stewart (109) and Gladdys Palma (155). Julissa Taitano (136) placed third and five others took sixth: Marissa Kurtz (116), Raquel Amezquita (143), Olivia Pizano (155), Tristyn Borden (170) and Taea Regua (191).

The trip north started with Friday’s 22-20 dual win at Eastern Oregon, where Anesia Ramirez and Borden won by decision and the Raiders benefitted from three forfeits. Results were not immediately made available by the hosts.

In Spokane, Othman rolled with a pin and three shutout technical falls. In the 116-pound title match against Simon Fraser’s Jocyln Bhatha, Othman won 10-0 and upped her season record to 11-5.

Anesia Ramirez, now 10-4, scored three easy bonus-point victories in the 130-pound bracket. She finished with back-to-back technical falls, defeating Big Bend’s Mireya Sanchez 10-0 in the semifinals and Simpson (Calif.)’s Brittany Wynn 13-2 in the first-place match.

At 143, Sienna Ramirez continued her hot start and improved to 13-1 with a perfect four-match run that was bookended by pins. In the championship bout, she needed just 55 seconds to finish Simon Fraser’s Stephanie Mould.

Palma advanced to the 155 first-place match with two technical falls and a 4-0 win over Eastern Oregon’s Dempsi Talkington in the semifinals. She was defeated by Providence’s Tatum Sparks by first-round fall.

Stewart needed two wins to reach the 109 final, getting them by technical fall against Grays Harbor’s Cynthia Diaz and 8-4 decision against Providence’s Lana Hunt. Yurie Yoneoka of Providence pinned her within the first minute of the championship.

Taitano’s third-place match win was a 4-2 decision over Providence’s Jenna Awana.

Men’s Wrestling

SPOKANE OPEN: At Spokane, Wash., the Southern Oregon men’s wrestling team produced a pair of second-place finishers in 157-pounder JJ Talavera and 184-pounder Tanner Sallee to finish sixth of 17 in the team standings.

Talavera, the NAIA’s 16th-ranked wrestler in his class, won three tight decisions — 6-2 over Montana State-Northern’s Caden Hilliar, 6-4 over Providence’s Josh Johnson and 5-4 over Simon Fraser’s Taber Spray — to reach the bracket final, where an injury took him out in the third round against Eastern Oregon’s Ryan Ninman. The sophomore improved to 11-4 on the season.

Sallee went to 10-5 with a 3-1 outing that included two bonus-point victories. A 15-0 technical fall over Simon Fraser’s Conner Pattison put him in the first-place match against Eastern Oregon’s Marco Retano, who earned the title with a 6-5 win.

Matt Peterson added a third-place finish at 149 pounds. After he was defeated in the semifinals by decision, he stayed alive by pinning Warner Pacific’s Zachery Sias in the second round and won his third-place match 5-4 against MSU-Northern’s Lane Paulson.

Max Miller placed sixth at 157, going 4-2 with three bonus-point wins before opting out of the fifth-place match. Josh Hammers (197) and Ismael De La Torre Jr. (285) added three wins apiece in their brackets.

The Raiders are off until a Dec. 17 dual at San Francisco State.

Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune The SOU volleyball team celebrates after winning the match against EOU Saturday afternoon in Ashland.