Just like last year, the Southern Oregon University men's soccer team will enter the final weekend of its third regular season still in the hunt for a Cascade Conference championship.
The Raiders (9-6-1- overall, 9-1 CCC) will need a little help and to take care of business on their end to have a shot. Standing in the way are the Providence Argos (6-7, 5-6), who will visit Raider Stadium at 4:30 p.m. Friday, and the Carroll Saints (7-7, 5-6), who will be in town at 5 p.m. Saturday for SOU's final home game. Both opponents are part of a three-way tie for the eighth and final playoff spot.
The CCC regular-season champion (or the winner of a tiebreaker if there are co-champions) gets an automatic spot in the NAIA national tournament. Sixth-ranked Rocky Mountain (10-1 CCC) currently holds the top spot, but if the Bears falter, SOU holds the tiebreaker over them. Eleventh-ranked Corban (9-1-1), meanwhile, is tied with SOU for second place, but owns a tiebreaker over the Raiders.
Playoff Picture: SOU has already assured itself no worse than the No. 3 seed in the eight-team CCC Tournament, which will be held Nov. 3, 4 and 6 in Springfield. The tournament champion will receive the CCC's second automatic bid to national tournament — unless the champion is the same as the regular-season winner, in which case the second bid will be awarded to the tournament runner-up. SOU had the No. 4 seed in last year's tourney and was eliminated in the first round by Carroll in penalty kicks.
• By blanking their last five opponents, the Raiders have taken over the NAIA lead with nine total shutouts. They didn't get their first one until conference play, giving up 11 goals in five non-conference games (all losses). In 11 CCC contests, they've allowed just three goals; no one else in the conference has conceded fewer than eight. In those shutouts, the Raiders have only let their opponents record a combined 16 shots on goal.
• For the second year in a row, an SOU keeper leads the CCC in save percentage: Wyatt Zabinksi's is .864, though in a testament to the defenders in front of him, he's made 19 saves in conference play and Jonathan Morales needed to make 50 for an .877 percentage in 2016.
• In last Saturday's 1-0 win at Oregon Tech, Zac Hansen became the 11th Raider to tally a goal and the seventh to score a game-winner this season. In total, the Raiders have scored 25 goals to opponents' 14 and amassed 103-55 advantage in shots on goal.
• Kelly Gieber's five conference assists rank third in the CCC. The sophomore is up to 10 assists in his career.
• In three years at Raider Stadium, SOU has outscored opponents 47-17 with a record of 13-5-2.