Already a hundred lineup adjustments into the season, the Southern Oregon University volleyball team will finally play its first Cascade Conference home matches this weekend.
SOU head coach Josh Rohlfing was only half joking when he made that estimation. But, whatever the number of lineups, the Raiders (5-5 overall, 2-1 CCC) are feeling better about the product every week.
That's a good thing, because the two teams headed to Bob Riehm Arena will make a more confident entrance into the building than they have in a long time, if not ever. The 21st-ranked Concordia Cavaliers (10-2, 4-0) — who are in the NAIA Top 25 poll for the first time in 10 years — are set to visit Friday, and the Warner Pacific Knights (3-10, 1-3) — who last year in Ashland ended a 32-match losing streak against the Raiders with a sweep — will be in town Saturday.
Live video and stats will be available in the new SOU athletics portal for the matches, which are both scheduled for 7 p.m. starts.
The Raiders enter the week having won five of six after last Friday's thumping of Oregon Tech in Klamath Falls. The use of freshman Lauren McGowne as the team's primary setter was the latest adjustment, and it was a fruitful one: McGowne registered career highs of 28 assists, six digs and four kills while helping three other Raiders to at least eight kills each.
Those five wins have looked like this in terms of attacking average: .306, .387, .385, .295 and .261, giving the Raiders three of the 11 most efficient hitters in the conference in Tyana Andrews (.333), Liz Madden (.300) and Sam Boehnke (.240).
Four different Raiders have led the team in kills at some point, displaying the type of balance Rohlfing had in mind coming into the season. What he didn't anticipate were the lapses in consistency, but those looked closer to getting ironed out in the 25-17, 25-19, 25-21 win at OIT.
"I was really proud of the way we played and endured throughout the night," he said. "We had moments where over the last stretch of matches we might've struggled, but we pulled out of them quicker and had fewer long lapses."
That will be critical to their success against Concordia. The Cavaliers are winless in Ashland since 2002 and have lost 21 of the last 23 in the series, but they'll come in having taken 24 of their last 25 sets played and are fresh off a sweep of Northwest Christian, which swept SOU on Sept. 7.
Concordia senior Lindsay Mangan, the reigning CCC Offensive Player of the Week, is the consensus top setter in the conference. She had 38 assists against NCU, averages 11.9 per set — two better than the next-best average — and has led the Cavs to a league-best .292 attack.
"She makes them go, she's intelligent and she puts the ball in a great location," Rohlfing said of Mangan. "She makes it easy for them to always be in system."
She also has two of the top hitters in the conference on her side. A couple of sophomores, Jackie Stein and Brianna Hogan, average 3.83 and 3.42 kills per set to rank first and fourth, respectively, in the CCC. The Cavs top the CCC in blocks, too, and are second in service aces.
They pushed the Raiders to a fifth set in Ashland last year but couldn't break through.
That honor was left to Warner Pacific, although the Raiders got revenge with a sweep in the conference tournament.
The Knights trail the all-time series, 36-4, and have floundered through the first part of the season to Rohlfing's surprise.
"They got better last year and they're just tough to get a read on right now," he said. "Obviously they've given us a difficult time, though."
Julia Toscano, a junior hitter, leads the Knight at 3.35 kills per set, which is good for sixth in the league. Marchelle Bostic's 8.94 assists rank fourth.
SOU libero Renee Yombtob's 5.00 digs per set this season are fourth in the CCC, but her efforts to break SOU's career digs record are being challenged by the Raiders' proclivity to playing short matches. Nine of 10 matches have ended in three sets, providing fewer chances to pad her total.
Yomtob is six digs away from knocking Sabrina Garboden out of third place, but will need to average 25.8 per match to catch all-time leader Kristen Lilly by the end of the regular season.
The 23rd annual Lithia/Raider Club Golf Shootout set a another record this week by bringing in over $253,000 to the student-athletes of Southern Oregon University.
Held at Medford's Rogue Valley Country Club, the event featured dinner and team auction Monday night, followed by two sold out flights of golf Tuesday. The tournament feature 54 fivesomes that braved rainy conditions that caused the morning round to be shortened by three holes.
This year a record 13 national companies stepped up to the plate to served as Major Tournament Sponsors. Those companies included Lithia Auto Stores, US Bank, Cars.com, The Warranty Group, Enterprise, TD Auto Finance, ADP, Dealer.com, Autotrader.com, Chase, TrueCar, Exxon/Mobil 1, and Eleads. Each company paid $10,000 to sponsor the event.
This year's tournament beat last year's record of $223,000 and over the last four years has brought in almost $827,000 for scholarships and SOU Athletics.
Tom Walker, Craig Funsten, Ryan Beugli, Travis Christian and Mike Ritchey won the low net title for the second straight year.
Next year's golf tournament is set for Sept. 15-16 at the Rogue Valley Country Club.