ASHLAND — Southern Oregon University’s first victory at Lithia Motors Pavilion is in the books and the No. 13-ranked Raider volleyball team wasted little time, getting it in straight sets against Lewis-Clark State (Idaho) on Friday night.
In their fifth consecutive sweep to start the season, the Raiders used a well-rounded attack headed by Makayla Hoyt’s 11 kills and Natalie James’ 23 assists to ensure the Warriors (2-2) didn’t spoil the new arena’s grand-opening festivities. An announced crowd of 875 witnessed the 25-22, 25-23, 25-22 decision, which also served as the opening match of the three-day Raider Invitational.
The night was nearly three years in the making. The Raiders last played on campus on Nov. 21, 2015, in a national playoff match against La Sierra (Calif.), and had resided at Ashland High in the interim following the demolition of McNeal Hall.
SOU provided its crowd with several opportunities to test the acoustics — escaping an 18-all tie in the first set with a 7-4 run, scoring the final four points of the second and six of the last seven in the third.
“It was just a really surreal atmosphere for us,” SOU head coach Josh Rohlfing said. “There were a few times when the crowd made the hair on my neck stand up from the energy, and it’s been a while since I could say that. It was great to open this gym the right way, and really cool for this team that they’ll always be able to say they were the ones who did it.”
Hoyt, a sophomore middle, made history with the first kill in the new gym and wrapped up with a .500 attacking average on 16 swings. Taylor Ristvedt, the reigning Cascade Conference Attacker of the Week, had nine kills. Nila Lukens and Dani Johnson recorded eight apiece.
The Raiders hit .253 as a team and held the Warriors to .194. Elliott Cook was in on four of their six blocks and Emma Ryan had a match-high 12 digs.
SOU was also aided by the Warriors’ 12 service errors, the highest for an opponent in a three-set match in two years. Gionni Brown’s miscue ended the first set, while consecutive kills by Hoyt, Johnson and Ristvedt capped the Raiders’ comeback efforts in the second.
Rachel Gregg’s 12 kills led the Warriors, but she took 34 swings and committed nine of the team’s 17 errors. Hoyt, Ristvedt and Maddie Pernich helped on the block with two apiece.
SOU returns to action at 3 p.m. today against William Jessup. The first match of the day is at 9 a.m., pitting Northwest Christian against Simpson.
MENLO 1, SOUTHERN OREGON 0: At Atherton, Calif., Noa Kerr accounted for the lone goal in the 13th minute for Menlo as Southern Oregon struggled to generate offense in a season-opeing nonconference loss at Wunderlich Field.
On his goal, Kerr received a cross to the far post from Angelo Willi, who was credited with an assist of Kerr’s converted header as the Oaks improved to 2-0.
Southern Oregon (0-1) finished with deficits of 14-10 in shots and 9-5 in shots on goal.
Junior keeper Wyatt Zabinksi made eight saves to keep the Raiders in it. Freshman Zak Woolley had the Raiders’ last chance, a header that went for Andres Zimmermann’s fifth save in the 87th minute.