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Raiders get ticket straight to NAIA final site

As expected, the Southern Oregon University volleyball team will get to sit out the NAIA Opening Round and head straight to the 32-team national tournament final site in Sioux City, Iowa.

The NAIA office on Monday announced 44 national qualifiers and released the final Top 25 coaches’ poll, in which the Raiders moved up two spots to No. 5 — their highest post since September, and tied for the highest ranking in team history.

Twenty-four of those qualifiers will be involved in 12 NAIA Opening Round matches this weekend. The first 19 teams in the poll — along with Morningside (Iowa), which accepted a national host berth — earned the right to bypass the Opening Round and will be off until NAIA Championships pool play on Dec. 3 at the Tyson Events Center.

The last 32 teams standing will be sorted into eight pools of four, and for the first time the Raiders will have a top seed in one of those pools (to be announced next week) due to their ranking. The top-two finishers in each pool will advance to play in a 16-team, single-elimination bracket.

SOU got out of pool play last year for the second time in team history and made its first-ever quarterfinal appearance last year.

Like 2018, the Raiders (29-3 overall) will go into the national postseason on the heels of Cascade Conference regular-season and tournament championships. They swept Eastern Oregon in Saturday’s tournament title match, dropping the Mountaineers three spots to No. 7 in the poll.

EOU (29-3) and 14th-ranked Corban (20-9) will also go straight to the NAIA Championships finale site.

TRIO OF RAIDERS EARN CCC WEEKLY HONORS: Setter Hannah Bogatin, hitter Taylor Ristvedt and libero Emma Ryan were named Cascade Conference Red Lion Players of the Week on Monday after the senior trio was instrumental to Southern Oregon’s CCC Tournament sweeps over the weekend.

The fifth-ranked Raiders (29-3) won in straight sets in Friday’s semifinals against Northwest Christian and Saturday’s championship against Eastern Oregon to defend their tournament title. Bogatin helped direct a .409 attack the first night and a .264 the second with 7.2 assists per set, and in the title match she recorded a career-high nine digs.

Ristvedt collected her third straight weekly attacking award with 15 kills against NCU and 10 against EOU. The two-time CCC Player of the Year also had a career-high nine assisted blocks in the final, including six in the first set.

Ryan received the CCC’s defensive award after posting six digs per set in the tourney and 19 for the match against EOU, the second-highest total of her career in a three-setter. She helped the Raiders limit NCU to a .119 attacking average and EOU to .036, its lowest clip in a match since the 2010 season.

Andy Atkinson / Ashland TidingsThe Southern Oregon University volleyball team celebrates after winning the Cascade Conference Tournament title against Eastern Oregon Saturday afternoon.