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Raiders open nationals with heartbreaking loss to No. 7 Midland

Seventh-ranked Midland scored the last three points to claim a back-and-forth fifth set and hand 19th-ranked Southern Oregon a painful loss in the first pool play match for both teams Tuesday at the NAIA National Volleyball Tournament in Sioux City, Iowa.

The Raiders took a 13-12 lead in the final set on a combination block by Nike Small and Laura Morse, but following a time-out the resilient Warriors tied the match then reclaimed the lead, 14-13, on back-to-back kills by Ashlee Harms. Then on match point, a double-hit error called on SOU’s Ashlyn Flynn secured for Midland a 21-25, 25-19, 22-25, 25-20, 15-13 victory at the Tyson Events Center.

With the loss, Southern Oregon (25-5) will probably need to win its final two pool play matches today against No. 6 Vanguard and Thursday against No. 22 Coastal Georgia to advance to the final 12-team bracket for the first time since 2011. In the only other Pool F match Tuesday, Vanguard beat Coastal Georgia in four sets.

Southern Oregon coach Josh Rohlfing said the Raiders can take solace in the way they battled one of the top teams in the nation and came within two points of victory.

“The number one thing I told them,” he said, “is, ‘Man, you guys just lost a five-setter and could have won, it could have gone either way.’ And I believe (Midland) is one of five teams that could win a national championship here – and I have to include us in that, if we play like we did today. I watched all the teams today and I felt like we can play with all of them.

“So that’s the galvanizing piece for us. We were right there, and now it’s about the mental aspect and the will. … because you gotta turn around and play again.”

The Raiders fought back in both the first and third sets to get into position to pull off the upset.

In the first, Midland (30-3) jumped out to leads of 10-2 and 16-8 before the Raiders used an 11-1 run to jump ahead 19-17. Corynn Kopra had three kills, and Small two to spearhead the rally. Morse had three kills in the last five points, including the set-capper.

Kopra was only getting started for the Raiders, as the junior outside hitter finished with a career-high 24 kills and 18 digs. Morse added 10 kills and nine digs for the Raiders, who hurt their chances with nine service errors.

“They’re such a good blocking team,” Rohlfing said of Midland. “They do such a nice job of keeping their blockers together, so going into the match I was concerned that we might not be able to pass well enough to keep in tempo. But (Kopra) just destroyed it.”

Harms led Midland with 24 kills, and Priscilla O’Dowd added 18 kills and two solo blocks.

In the third set, Southern Oregon trailed 17-13 and 19-15 before rallying again, tying the match at 22-all on an ace by setter Lauren McGowne. Midland went back ahead 22-21 on McGowne’s service error, but the Raiders won the last four points, tying the set on another blast by Kopra and clinching it three points later on a kill by Tyana Andrews.

McGowne led the Raiders with 52 assists and Andrews had six kills and 20 digs. Flynn had 25 digs.

Neither team had more than a two-point lead in the fifth. Midland led 7-5 and 8-6, but the Raiders came back to take leads of 11-10 and 13-12. After Midland knotted the score again, 13-13, on Harms’ putaway, the Warriors survived four Raider attacks, including a spike by Kopra, to win one of the longest rallies of the night and earn the first match point.

Moments later, Midland was celebrating following a violation that Rohlfing felt was questionable.

Still, he said, the Raiders played well enough to win on most nights.

“I’m just so impressed with the little adjustments that we made that turned out to be huge,” Rohlfing said. “And defensively, that was the biggest thing. Blocking and floor defense. We just played our tails off.”

Women's Basketball

At Redding, Calif., senior post Carly Meister had 21 points in her first game of the season as No. 15 Southern Oregon beat Simpson 89-68 in nonconference action Tuesday.

Meister, who missed SOU's first five games with an injury, hit 10 of 13 shots to help the Raiders improve to 6-0.

Southern Oregon, which opens Cascade Conference play Saturday against Corban, also received strong performances by Ashley Claussen (19 points) and Majerle Reeves (15 points).

The Raiders will play their home games this season at Ashland High's Mountain Avenue Gym while McNeal Pavilion undergoes a major renovation.