SOU junior Dolores Christensen goes up for a serve Tuesday.

Inspired Raiders win thriller

ASHLAND — It could've been the rival match, the chance to knock off the conference's best team, or the biggest home crowd of the year that sparked inspired play by the Southern Oregon University volleyball team on Tuesday.

Mostly, though, it resembled just another night's work for all-Americans Lindsey Stone and Mia Wortel.

Stone racked up 57 assists and Wortel had 18 kills as the duo, along with a couple unlikely heroes, led the Raiders over Oregon Tech in a five-set thriller at McNeal Pavilion.

The teams traded set wins in the first four frames, 25-21, 20-25, 25-20, 23-25, but the Owls were Raider chum in a decisive fifth set that saw SOU take leads of 6-0 and 12-4 before winning, 15-8.

"That was fun," Raider coach Josh Rohlfing said. "That match was more of a chess match than we've been a part of all year, and that's what you want in these big games."

Coming into the match, the Owls were tied with College of Idaho for the best record in the Cascade Collegiate Conference at 14-2, but now find themselves in a second-place tie with SOU with three matches remaining. The Raiders (16-9, 14-3 CCC) hold the tiebreaker advantage over OIT after sweeping the season series.

The Raiders trailed in the first set, 12-8, but fought back to tie the score at 20 before taking five of the next six points on three Wortel kills.

"Getting that first one was huge," Rohlfing said. "I was a little apprehensive coming into the match because we looked so frenetic, but we settled in well."

Up two sets to one, the Raiders had a 16-8 edge in the fourth set before going inept around the floor.

The Owls took advantage of four Raider errors and Anna Leal pitched in a pair of kills as OIT got within two points at 16-14.

OIT's Krista Wooley tied the score at 21 with a service ace and a kill. At 23-23, Nicole Andrews added a block and then a kill to deliver the Owls to a fifth set with all the momentum in the gym.

"That fifth set is a sprint," Rohlfing explained. "Once you get there, whatever happened before doesn't matter and you have to put your head down and keep running."

With the stage set, Raider freshman Kalista Harrison delivered her biggest performance of the year. After Sarah Holgen began the set with a kill for SOU, Harrison had two consecutive blocks, teaming up with Wortel for one.

With the Raiders clinging to a 7-4 lead, Harrison struck for four of her eight kills — the other four coming in the previous set — before Stone ended the match, catching the Owls off guard as she tapped the ball over for a kill.

"I was really excited with the gym being so loud," Harrison said. "I just wanted to come out aggressive and kind of feed off it, and if you looked at our faces, none of us were going to lose that one."

Stone added nine digs and four kills, while Wortel, who entered the match with the NAIA's fourth-best attack percentage, hit at a .385 clip and had a match-high seven blocks.

"We came into this match with no doubts," Wortel added. "We knew how bad we needed this one and our determination really showed at the end."

Outside hitters Leanne Stennett and Holgen chipped in with 15 and 17 kills, respectively, and Holgen and libero Maggie Rivers paced the Raiders with 18 digs apiece.

Wooley had a match-high 21 kills on 34 attempts for the Owls, setter Lizzie Law had 56 assists and Krystie Vea had 24 digs.

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