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Raiders sweep Simpson in long-awaited return

ASHLAND —The pent-up energy Southern Oregon carried around while waiting 20 months between matches was put to good use in Thursday night’s season-opening triumph at Lithia Motors Pavilion.

Behind 14 kills and three service aces from Hailey Van Well in her first collegiate outing, the 25th-ranked Raiders channeled it into a 25-17, 25-10, 25-16 defeat of Simpson (Calif.), which wrapped up in just over an hour.

Van Well, a sophomore outside hitter from Dallas, Ore., attacked at an even .500 clip on 22 attempts to accumulate the highest kill total for anyone making their Raider debut in four years. She was one of 10 individuals on the floor for the first time at SOU — a group that included Katie Vroman, who had six kills, along with Simone Gordon and Hannah Stadstad, who added five apiece.

The Raiders were also operating with three new setters: Gwen Sheldon (20 assists), Hannah Randall (7 assists, 3 aces) and Taylor Russell (4 assists). The trio of transfers directed SOU to a .372 team average, including a .737 clip in the second set.

Stellar Raider defense resulted in a .036 average for the Redhawks (0-1), who totaled 12 attacking errors compared to seven kills in the final frame along. Kadyn Jones and Karina Oliveira shored up the back row with nine kills apiece — Van Well contributed five — and didn’t allow a service ace to get through.

At the net, the Raiders registered six blocks to Simpson’s one. Sadie Byrd, Taylor Jackson and Stadstad were each in on three of them, and Gordon assisted two.

The Redhawks’ best moments occurred early in the first set, when they built a 7-3 lead. The Raiders quashed it with seven straight points, a run in which Shelby Young dropped back-to-back kills and Jackson and Stadstad teamed up for a couple blocks.

SOU scored seven unanswered in each of the next two sets too, one to end the second and another to take a commanding 17-6 lead in the third.

Kendall Welpott’s 13 kills led Simpson, but she needed 39 attacks to get them.

The Raiders will be off until the William Jessup Invitational, where they’ll play four matches on Aug. 27-28.