When the Southern Oregon University men's basketball team takes the floor for the first time Saturday night, it'll do so toting the program's highest ranking since the 2005-06 season.
The Raiders started at No. 4 in the NAIA preseason poll, released Tuesday by the national office. Top-ranked Cardinal Stritch (Wis.), the defending national champion, received 13 of 14 first-place votes and SOU got the other.
Pacific Union (Calif.) will visit SOU at Bob Riehm Arena on Saturday for a season-opening 9 p.m. tilt.
The Raiders return 15 of 17 players and all five starters from last season when they went 25-10, setting a program record for wins, and advanced to the NAIA Sweet 16. They were picked on Oct. 14 to win the Cascade Conference.
Their No. 10 ranking in last year's postseason poll had been SOU's highest since it was third on Jan. 25, 2006. During that same season, the program attained its only No. 1 ranking.
The Raiders will also host Simpson (Calif.) at 7:30 p.m. on Monday. Season tickets are on sale now.
Warner Pacific and Oregon Tech represented the CCC in the poll, too, at Nos. 12 and 21.
At Corvallis, Crescent Valley ended Ashland's season with a five-set win in a Class 5A play-in match Tuesday.
The scores and statistical leaders were unavailable at press time.
The Southern Oregon women's soccer team made life a little tougher on itself going into the final weekend of Cascade Conference play when Oregon Tech stole a win Saturday from University Field.
The Raiders (8-4-3 overall, 4-2-1 CCC) can still capture the No. 2 seed for the six-team conference tournament, which would give them a first-round bye and a semifinal home date, but they'll likely need a road sweep and a little help from the No. 1 team in the country.
Standing in their way will be Evergreen (3-9-0, 2-5-0) on Thursday and Northwest (8-7-1, 4-2-1) on Saturday. Both matches start at 3 p.m. If the Raiders take those and Warner Pacific or top-ranked Concordia can defeat Corban, SOU and Corban would tie for second and SOU holds the head-to-head tiebreaker.
Northwest still has second-place aspirations of its own, though. That's where the Eagles finished last season and it's where they were picked again before the start of this one — directly ahead of SOU, which has only finished that high twice in program history.
The third- and fourth-place CCC teams will host first-round tournament games on Nov. 6. A single point for the Raiders would ensure them of at least their fourth straight postseason appearance.
They had a chance to lock it up against the Owls but Rebekah Nisbet's lone goal played spoiler. The Raiders' two shots on goal were less than they'd gotten off in 10 matches.
Interim head coach Jenni Rosenberg thought the opportunities around the net were there, just not the execution.
"We probably had 10 chances in front of the goal in the first half and just weren't close," she said. "We put ourselves in great position to score and we couldn't make anything happen, so that was a tough one for the girls to take."
In Evergreen, the Raiders are going to see a team that could help them get back on track. The Geoducks' 18 goals allowed are the second-most in the conference and their seven goals scored are the least. Rayna Murphy and Sophie Krauza have two goals and an assist apiece to lead the team in points.
SOU has won five straight against the Geoducks and leads the all-time series 10-3-3.