Story by Southern Oregon University Sports Information Director Josh McDermott.
SIOUX CITY, IOWA -- Any concerns about Southern Oregon's rust levels were put to rest within minutes of the 10th-ranked Raiders' sweep of No. 24 Jamestown (N.D.) on Tuesday afternoon at the Tyson Events Center.
In their first match of the NAIA Volleyball Championships - and their first competition in 2 weeks - the Raiders (27-3) pummeled the Jimmies (22-9) by scores of 25-15, 25-18 and 25-23 for the Pool G victory, attacking .609 with 16 kills and two errors in the first set and never looking back.
In the eight previous seasons the Raiders advanced to national pool play, they'd opened with wins just twice. Another win Wednesday, at 2 p.m. Pacific Standard Time against Saint Xavier (Ill.), coupled with a Viterbo (Wis.) defeat of Jamestown would clinch SOU's spot in the 16-team elimination bracket for the second time in team history.
The Raiders, who entered the tournament with the fifth-most efficient attack in the NAIA, had no letdowns from their usual cast in hitting .366 overall - their highest average in a month and 16th outing over .300 of the season. Junior right-side hitter Taylor Ristvedt had 13 kills on 27 swings, and sophomore middles Elliott Cook and Makayla Hoyt had eight kills and five blocks each as SOU out-blocked (11-7) the ninth-best team in that category nationally.
"We played with the same intensity that we had 17 days ago [in the Cascade Conference Tournament] and played with a balance of urgency and poise," SOU head coach Josh Rohlfing said. "Our defense set the tone and our offense followed suit."
Natalie James totaled 22 assists and 10 digs, Emma Ryan had 13 digs and Maddie Pernich converted four kills on five swings. SOU's outside hitters, Nila Lukens and Malie Rube, combined for 11 kills compared to four errors.
SOU stormed out to a 10-2 lead in the lopsided opening set behind five Ristvedt kills. In the second, they extended an 11-9 lead with consecutive kills from Cook, Ristvedt and Rube, then scored the final three points with a combo-block by Cook and Ristvedt to end it.
The third set, which saw the Raiders open up a 21-13 advantage, looked like more of the same until the Jimmies closed it to 24-23. Ristvedt stopped the rally by lobbing her fifth kill of the set over Jamestown's block.
Ristvedt, the Cascade Conference Player of the Year, finished with a .444 attacking clip, marking the 12th time this season she's posted double-digit kills with a .400-plus average.
Kennedy Conzeumius, Jamestown's top attacker on the season, was stymied with five kills and six errors. Isabel Wedell had a team-high 11 kills, helping raise the Jimmies' average to .168.
In Tuesday's other Pool G matchup, Viterbo, ranked seventh, topped Saint Xavier in four sets.
The top-two teams in each pool will advance to the single-elimination bracket. The first round and quarterfinals will be held Friday, followed by the semifinals and championship Saturday.
SOU's final Pool G match will be at 2 p.m. Thursday against Viterbo.