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League title up for grabs as Raiders host Coyotes

Highlighted by a matchup of Cascade Conference leaders, the SOU volleyball team will play its biggest weekend of year Friday and Saturday at McNeal Pavilion.

The 15th-ranked Raiders (14-2 overall, 8-1 Cascade Conference) host sixth-ranked College of Idaho (13-1, 9-0) Friday night and Eastern Oregon (8-6, 6-3) Saturday night. Both matches start at 7 p.m.

The matchup with the Coyotes Friday night is a rematch of an epic battle a few weeks ago in Caldwell, Idaho.

The Raiders won the first two sets and were serving for the match sweep at 24-23 before the Coyotes came roaring back and took the match in five sets.

The Coyotes have won 27 straight Cascade Conference matches, with their last setback coming last year at McNeal Pavilion when then No. 12 SOU defeated then No. 9 College of Idaho in four sets.

"The one thing with College of Idaho is that they know how to win," SOU head coach Josh Rohlfing said. "And you can't make up for that and they've been doing a lot of winning recently."

Southern Oregon enters this weekend with a 45-5 record at McNeal Pavilion since the beginning of the 2005 season, including six of seven at home this season. College of Idaho hasn't won at McNeal since 2006.

The two teams are pretty evenly matched when it comes to stats. The Raiders and the Coyotes are 1-2 in all but two Cascade Conference team stat categories.

SOU's Heather Porter and Leah Bergstrom go 1-2 in the conference in attack percentage. Porter sits at .359, while Bergstrom is at .319. Bergstrom also ranks fourth in kills at 3.03 per set. Megan Bartling leads the league in blocks with an average of 1.35 per set, while Porter is third at 1.10.

For the Yotes, Whitney Owen leads the conference in digs (5.84), Kristin Henning ranks second in blocks (1.27) and fourth in attack percentage at (.294), Madie Machurek ranks second in assists (7.51) and Kathryn Ely ranks fifth in kills (2.98).

"They are very difficult to prepare for because they have an evenly balanced front line," Rohlfing said. "And then they also have probably the best libero in the conference. You can't make many mistakes against them and expect to win."

Eastern Oregon continues to receive votes in the NAIA Top 25 poll and has won three of its last four going into this week's action. Senior Grace DeBoodt leads the conference in kills at 3.43 per set.