The pressure is on as the SOU women’s volleyball team enters the home stretch of conference play over the next 10 days, hosting Eastern Oregon University on Friday at 7pm followed by College of Idaho on Saturday at 5pm. After defeating the OIT Owls on Tuesday, only four games stand in their way of a conference championship. While Eastern Oregon currently holds the number one spot in the Cascade Collegiate Conference, the Raiders come in at a close second and are prepared to battle their way to a victory, “This week we know that we have to give 100 percent, 100 percent of the time, and never let up,” stated Lauren McGowne a junior setter for the raiders.
The last match up against these teams resulted in a 1-3 loss against C of I and a 0-3 loss against Eastern Oregon. “We just got outplayed,” said McGowne “and there’s nothing much you can do about that.” This time around they plan to focus more on their consistency throughout matches and limiting their amount of unforced errors. The team exhibited a highly effective offense this past Friday against Walla Walla with outside hitter Laura Morse racking up 12 kills and Tyana Andrews following close behind with 10 kills. This weekend there are high expectations for both offensive and defensive players to bring all they have to the table and defend their home court.
Although both opponents stand out as tough contenders for the Raiders, the fight doesn’t end with this weekend. The team still faces Northwest Christian and Corban University on November 6th and 7th to end conference play. “We want to play our best volleyball this weekend to make those final two matches mean something”, says head coach Josh Rohlfing.
What’s at stake is not only a conference title but also their standing in the national polls. The Raiders are currently ranked number 14 in the NAIA National rankings and hope to move up even higher after this weekend. By winning their conference they get an automatic play in for nationals, and if successful, a trip to Sioux City, Iowa for the NAIA National Tournament. Last season they tied first for conference with Eastern Oregon, won the Conference tournament title, and qualified for nationals by defeating College of the Ozarks of Point Lookout, Missouri. They finished the 2014 season ranked at 13.
Despite the loss of seven players from last season, including two all-conference outside hitters, an all-conference libero, and a starting middle blocker, the team has not let it affect their goal of another successful season. According to senior outside hitter Tyana Andrews, the team had an extremely productive off-season in which most of the current starters were able to step into leadership positions and fulfill their potential as athletes. “From December until the first day of season we all pushed ourselves in the weight room and on the court,” said Andrews. “We found our identity as a team and ran with it.”