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No. 11 Marian ends No. 5 SOU's title hopes

SIOUX CITY, Iowa — Arguably the hottest team still standing refused to cool down Friday night against Southern Oregon, as Marian (Ind.) ended the careers of some all-time Raider greats at the NAIA Championships by scores of 26-28, 25-21, 25-20 and 25-16.

In the Round of 16 at the Tyson Events Center, the fifth-ranked Raiders (31-5) weren’t sharp enough to stop the No. 11 Knights (35-2), winners of 24 of their last 25. SOU finished with four more kills but had 15 combined service and reception errors compared to just four for Marian, which also committed eight fewer attacking errors.

The Raiders stayed in the back-and-forth affair behind Taylor Ristvedt’s 18 kills, Makayla Hoyt’s 15, Maddie Pernich’s 12 and Elliott Cook’s 11. Hannah Bogatin (34 assists) and Tehani Faitau (24) were behind the .228 attack.

Three Raiders combined for 56 digs — Emma Ryan (29), Kadyn Jones (15) and Myla Norvell (12) — but their issues arose at the net, where they recorded their second-lowest block total of the season with four.

Sarah Spangler and Skyler Van Note had 15 kills each for Marian, which hit .269 (the second-best average for a Raider opponent in 2019) and added eight aces.

The Knights — the Crossroads League co-champions, who completed their perfect run through pool play by upsetting No. 6 Viterbo (Wis.) — advanced to play in Friday night’s quarterfinal round against No. 4 Missouri Baptist.

SOU was in bracket play for the third time in team history, earning its second straight appearance after advancing to last year’s quarterfinals.

The Raiders attacked at a scorching .390 clip in the first set, getting out to a 24-20 lead before the Knights scored five straight. They fought off one set point with a Ristvedt kill, and Hoyt’s kill followed by one of Marian’s 14 attacking errors gave them their lone win.

They surrendered a 16-14 edge in the second set on three straight attacking errors and a Knights ace. Tied 19-all, the Knights took over with four straight points — getting kills from three different weapons and a block.

The score was knotted at seven different points in the third frame, which the Knights claimed by ticking off a 7-1 run at 16-15.

Of the five seniors wearing Raider uniforms for the last time, four were in Ashland for the duration of their careers. Ristvedt finished second on SOU’s career kills list (1,375) and second on the single-season list (486); Ryan landed No. 5 on SOU’s digs lists for a career (1,295) and a season (584); Bogatin compiled 1,747 assists, with 674 in 2019; and Nila Lukens finished with 545 kills.

Along with second-year Raider Sara Fanger, they helped the team win back-to-back Cascade Conference regular-season and tournament championships. They were also the first Raiders to qualify for bracket play in consecutive seasons, and helped SOU to two straight 30-win campaigns for the first time since 1991-92.

Before Friday, the Raiders hadn’t dropped consecutive matches since 2017.