In again: Raiders selected to host NAIA playoff match
The Southern Oregon University volleyball team's season was on life support over the weekend after a loss to College of Idaho in the semifinal round of the Cascade Conference tournament.
On Monday, after some deliberating by top-25 voters, the NAIA office revealed that the Raiders are still alive and well and one of 36 teams left in the NAIA Championships field. They'll host La Sierra (Calif.) at Riehm Arena in an opening-round match at a time yet to be determined — either on Friday, Saturday or Sunday.
The official match time will be announced soon, and tickets will go on sale at souraiders.com/tickets immediately.
The Raiders (24-4 overall) went from 15th to 19th in Monday's final NAIA Top 25 and subsequently received the eighth and final at-large berth. Because nine of the top-15 teams were upset in their conference tournaments and therefore had to rely on at-large spots instead of automatics, the at-large cutoff was atypically high; last year, the final spot went to No. 26 Concordia.
The top-11 teams in the poll plus tournament host Briar Cliff (Iowa) got free passes to the final site in Sioux City, Iowa, and the other 12 final-site reservations are to be played out in opening-round matches on campus sites across the country this weekend.
La Sierra (18-9), a member of the California Pacific Conference from Riverside, Calif., advanced by virtue of winning its conference tourney. The Eagles' only previous appearance in the opening round was 2011, when they were swept by Vanguard. The trip to Ashland and meeting with SOU will be their first.
Last year, as the No. 17 team, SOU hosted College of the Ozarks (Mo.) in the opening round and moved on to Sioux City for the first time since 2011 with a sweep. The Raiders went on to go 1-2 at the Tyson Events Center and finished at No. 13.
If the Raiders can advance again, they'll begin pool play on Dec. 1.
Elsewhere in the CCC, Eastern Oregon got an opening-round bye at No. 11, and tourney champ College of Idaho moved up 10 spots to No. 15 and will host Xavier (La.).
Four Southern Oregon University volleyball players were recognized in All-Cascade Conference voting, the league office announced, after a second-place finish in CCC play.
Junior middle Emma Gasman, junior outside hitter Corynn Kopra and junior setter Lauren McGowne were voted to the All-CCC team, and senior hitter Tyana Andrews received honorable mention.
Regular-season champ Eastern Oregon was the only other team with three All-CCC representatives — setter Rachelle Chamberlain, outside Amanda Miller and middle Kassy Tuma — and there were also all underclassmen. EOU's Kaki Morehead was voted coach of the year, and College of Idaho middle Kylie Porter was the player of the year.
McGowne, a product of Coos Bay's Marshfield High, was SOU's only repeat on the team; she was All-CCC as a freshman in 2013 and honorable mention last season. This year, she ranks second in the entire NAIA in assists with 11.76 per set and has led the Raiders to a team attacking average of .265 — their highest since 1998. The third-year starter's 3,159 career assists now rank fifth in Raider history, and she's also average career-bests of 1.69 digs and 0.55 blocks per set.
Gasman, a 6-foot native of Clovis, Calif., has also elevated her game to become one of the most overpowering and well-rounded middles in the NAIA. She ranks first in the CCC and 15th in the NAIA in attacking average (.360), ninth in the CCC in blocks (0.94) and is averaging a career-high 2.62 kills. During one dominant five-match stretch in which she carried the Raiders for the better part of October, she had 55 kills on an exceptional average of .602. For her career she's a .311 hitter, the eighth-best clip in SOU history.
After redshirting 2014, Kopra has come on to produce at a position where the Raiders lost two All-CCC performers after last season. The former Greshman High Gopher, who spent two seasons at Western Oregon, is first on the team and sixth in the CCC at 3.27 kills per set on a .226 average. She's hit double figures in kills 18 times, including 12 or more in each of SOU's last six matches, and is also second on the team with 2.75 digs per set.
A year after serving mostly as a setter, Andrews again proved why she is considered one of the most versatile players coach Josh Rohlfing has ever coached by moving to and excelling on the outside. The product of Rochester, Wash., owns averages of 3.15 kills (.265) and 2.39 digs and has a team-high 26 service aces. She was one of just five players to receive honorable mention.
Only two of the 14 players voted All-CCC were seniors.