RAIDER ROUNDUP: Golden goal keeps SOU men unbeaten
BILLINGS, Mont. — The Southern Oregon men’s soccer team has first place all to itself after its third come-from-behind win in four Cascade Conference games.
The Raiders’ latest high-wire act was Friday afternoon’s 2-1 overtime win against Rocky Mountain (Mont.) at Wendy’s Field, which Luis Navarrete ended in the 95th minute by lacing a free kick that froze the Battlin’ Bears’ stoppers and kept them stunned in place as SOU’s bench poured onto the field in celebration.
It made the Raiders 8-0 overall and 4-0 in the CCC — the last unscathed record in the conference after Warner Pacific simultaneously went down 2-1 at Corban. Another win Saturday at Providence (Mont.) would almost certainly propel them into next week’s NAIA Top 25 coaches’ poll; they were the first team out of Wednesday’s latest rankings, the same day that the first NAIA Modified RPI of the year had them slotted at No. 20. RMC (4-2-2, 1-2-1), which was picked ahead of SOU at No. 2 in the CCC preseason poll, is winless in three of its last four outings.
As usual in recent weeks, SOU’s fortunes turned on a goal from Alan Gaytan, who scored for the seventh time in his last seven games.
RMC had taken the lead on a set piece in the 71st minute, when a 40-yard free kick found Quique Garcia wide of the right post and he headed it to Finn Lane for a strike in front of the goal.
The advantage lasted for less than eight minutes. Gaytan found himself with the ball in the box in the 79th, spun on his defender and had a left-footed shot deflected by keeper Ryan Cornwall but recovered it in space and shot again to level the score.
Navarrete’s third goal and first winner for the Raiders came after he was pulled down while streaking toward the box, drawing a yellow card on Zach Wall. His free kick was set up just wide of the right post and lined untouched just inside of it.
All four of the Raiders’ game-winning goals during CCC play have been tallied in the 74th minute or later. They’ve trailed three times, but never for longer than nine minutes.
SOU’s eight-game winning streak is tied for the longest in program history. The 2018 Raiders went on a similar run and ultimately won the CCC with an unbeaten 11-0-2 record.
SOUTHERN OREGON 1, ROCKY MOUNTAIN 0: At Billings, Mont., the reigning Cascade Conference Team of the Week isn’t letting go of that title without a fight, as Southern Oregon made more waves by taking down Rocky Mountain.
The Raiders (5-3-1, 3-1 CCC) won for the fourth time in five games and dealt the Battlin’ Bears (5-2-2, 2-1-1) their first conference loss. It was also SOU’s first win on their turf in four tries.
Junior defender Jordan Bell was the unlikely attacking hero with her first career goal in the 66th minute. She took an assist from Ruth Hegstad, who helped Bell find the back of the net with a well-placed corner kick.
Ashlynn Hernandez earned her third solo shutout with a season-high six saves. The Raiders have now turned in five clean sheets overall, including four on the road. RMC keeper Morgan Blankenship made six saves of her own to keep the score where it was. Two of them were on shots by Kaya Baird.
SOUTHERN OREGON 3, WARNER PACIFIC 1: At Portland, Southern Oregon got back to its winning ways, topping Warner Pacific 25-13, 25-22, 23-25, 25-15 in a CCC at C.E. Perry Gym.
Hailey Van Well downed 19 kills on 36 attempts, her highest total in seven matches, and Carol Melo totaled a season-high 10 blocks as the Raiders (8-7, 3-7 CCC) put an end to a seven-match losing streak and climbed back over the .500 mark.
Melo’s big night, which also included five kills on seven attempts, helped the Raiders to their highest block total in a three- or four-set match this year with 13. Hannah Stadstad assisted four to go along with seven kills.
SOU’s work at the net, paired with Kadyn Jones’ 17 digs and Karina Oliveira’s 12 in the back row, led to a lowly .120 attacking average for the Knights (1-12, 1-9). Their top hitter, Grace Buchanan, had 23 kills but needed 54 attempts to get there and was coerced into making nine errors along the way.
The Raiders attacked at a .321 clip, helping them side-out at a rate of 68 percent.