LA GRANDE — Southern Oregon’s sweep streak ended on Friday night. More importantly, so did a long string of empty trips to Eastern Oregon’s Quinn Coliseum.
In their quest to return to the top of the Cascade Conference standings, the No. 13-ranked Raiders checked a critical item off their list with a 25-21, 25-27, 25-21, 11-25, 15-7 win against the No. 15 Mountaineers, their first in La Grande since 2010.
EOU (5-4, 0-1 CCC) had been 48-1 in home conference matches since 2013. The Raiders (9-0, 2-0) were swept in their last three visits and hadn’t defeated the Mountaineers anywhere since 2014, the year of the last title. Their prospects looked bleak following a fourth-set collapse, but after sending their first attack of the fifth into the net they reclaimed momentum with five straight points behind some slick serving from Myla Norvell that kept EOU out of system.
“We had to overcome a lot of doubt,” SOU head coach Josh Rohlfing said.
They also needed several hitters to come through against a Mountaineers defense that totaled 11 blocks. Junior outside hitter Nila Lukens stepped up with 13 kills, depositing six in the first set, and sophomore middle Elliott Cook delivered four in the third, needing just 19 swings to get to 11 on the night (.421). Makayla Hoyt and Taylor Ristvedt contributed 11 kills each, and Hoyt touched four of the team’s six blocks.
Junior libero Emma Ryan dazzled in the back row with 16 digs, including four in the tiebreaker frame, and some seamless passing. Norvell had 13 digs, Natalie James went for 28 assists and eight digs, and Sara Fanger added eight digs and three aces.
Together, they kept EOU to a .179 hitting average. Outside of their dominant fourth set, the Mountaineers hit just .121 and stalled their own attack with 12 service errors.
In the fifth set, EOU had only four kills compared to five errors. A Lukens kill and Malie Rube’s ace ended the match.
Hailee Ackerman had 12 kills and Taylor Tibbetts 10 to lead EOU.
The Raiders will be tested again at 6 p.m. Pacific Time on Saturday at No. 7 College of Idaho, which was a four-set winner over Oregon Tech in its CCC-opener on Friday. SOU last swept the trip in 2007.
Women’s College Soccer
THE MASTER’S 1, SOUTHERN OREGON 0: At Santa Clarita, Calif., Southern Oregon goalkeeper Kailey Lemon was solid in a busy debut, but her counterpart from No. 17-ranked The Master’s (Calif.) was rarely tested as the Raiders fell by a 1-0 score Friday afternoon in their first game of the season.
The Mustangs (2-2 overall) fired 12 shots on goal finally got one past Lemon, a junior transfer, in the 85th minute. Hailey Gomillion, a senior forward and honorable mention NAIA All-American last year, scored the winner, and Jasmine Logan and Kellian Ahearn were credited with assists.
SOU (0-1) was outshot by a 22-3 margin. Gabi Nevinger and Daisy Cervantes accounted for the Raiders’ two shots on goal.
The Raiders are winless in four all-time matchups against the Mustangs, who have been in the NAIA Top 25 for the last three of them.
The Raiders will head to Santa Barbara, Calif., to play a neutral-site game against Ottawa (Ariz.) at 1 p.m. Saturday, then play at another ranked opponent, No. 8 Westmont (Calif.), at 12 p.m. Monday.