The Southern Oregon University volleyball team's reward for surviving the toughest road trip in the Cascade Conference is the opportunity to pounce at home.
The Raiders (7-7 overall, 4-3 CCC) will stay at Bob Riehm Arena for their next five matches, four of them against sub-.500 squads, starting Friday and Saturday against Evergreen State (2-9, 1-5) and Northwest University (6-10, 2-4). Both matches start at 7 p.m., and the pay-per-view streams and free live stats will be available at the SOU Athletics Portal.
Friday is Rogue Federal Night, as anyone with a Rogue Federal Credit Union card will be admitted free. Two egregious streaks will be on the line: Evergreen has lost 43 straight sets against SOU dating back to 2005 while Northwest is 1-36 in the all-time series with a 19 straight losses.
The Raiders ended College of Idaho's 73-match CCC home winning streak last Friday with a five-set win. The following night they nearly pulled off another stunner at 11th-ranked Eastern Oregon, taking a 2-1 set lead before losing 15-13 in the fifth.
Head coach Josh Rohlfing thought their best work of the season was represented in those performances. Senior hitter Mona Goudarzian had a career weekened with 42 kills and 25 digs, junior hitter Paulla Pinheiro had the same with 37 kills and 27 digs, and freshman middle Emma Gasman stepped in with 22 kills and 15 assisted blocks.
"Volleyball is such a momentum sport, I know getting over the hump against two great teams like that in front of some incredible crowds and pushing that little extra bit goes a really long way in terms of confidence," he said. "We've discussed as a group being very deliberate with our progress and continuing to build on what we've done. We're at the point now where I think we're fighting for every single point."
The Raiders have won 23 of 24 matches all-time again Evergreen, their lone loss coming in 2003.
The Geoducks are struggling again but, of note, they have won a set apiece at College of Idaho and against Northwest Christian and even defeated Warner Pacific in four sets — their first CCC win since 2010. They also have one of the nation's most dangerous weapons in Victoria Love, a 6-foot-1 middle blocker who shattered the school record for kills last weekend with 37 kills on 81 swings against Corban. However, they still rank last in the CCC in hitting average (.074) and opponent hitting average (.248).
"It seems like, year to year, they continue to improve whether their record indicates it or not," Rohlfing said. "They have a really big front line that can do some damage at the net and those kind of teams can give us problems."
Northwest was swept in five straight matches before their sweep of Corban last Saturday. The Eagles rank near the bottom of the CCC in most statistical categories as a team but have several young players making their respective marks: Freshman Leia Ray is second in digs per set (5.78), sophomore Ashton Arburthnot is sixth in assists per set (8.42), senior Sarah Stoke is sixth in blocks per set (1.11) and freshman Hannah Hanson is eighth in hitting (.325).
The trip to Ashland will be the Eagles' second this season. They went 1-2 at the Paul Elliott Invitational in August but didn't play SOU.
"They're a young team but they're well-coached and have talent at every position," Rohlfing said. "On any given night, they can put it together and be one of the better teams around. Their inconsistency over the years has just been experience."
A lack of experience hasn't hindered SOU's freshmen, Gasman and Lauren McGowne (Coos Bay, Ore./Marshfield). With their most recent performances, Gasman moved into the league lead in hitting average (.423) and McGowne took over fourth place in assists (9.50). Gasman is also fourth in blocks (1.24) while senior Renee Yomtob (Boise, Idaho/Centennial) is third in digs (5.65).