Raiders block out Owls

It was supposed to be a high-flying, arm-bruising, ball-flattening slugfest between two of the Cascade Conference's most proficient, powerful offensive machines.

Southern Oregon made sure it never came to that.

The Raiders blocked Oregon Tech's attack into submission while keeping its own humming just fine in a straight-game blowout Tuesday night at McNeal Pavilion. Mia Wortel and Shanna Claflin combined for 15 block assists and Wortel also had a match-high 14 kills, as the Raiders kept their stranglehold on second place in the CCC standings with a 30-27, 30-24, 30-23 rout.

"I think we were just ready," said Wortel, who helped hold Tech to 30 kills and 28 hitting errors on 115 attacks. "We're finally playing as a team now."

Southern's seventh straight victory improved the Raiders to 12-4 overall and 6-1 in the Cascade Conference, while the Owls, who entered the match on a five-match winning streak, fell to 12-8 overall and 4-3 in league play. No. 11-ranked Albertson, idle Tuesday, leads the conference at 6-0.

With a student-dominated crowd of 215 probably expecting another SOU-OIT barn-burner, the first match of the season between the regional rivals looked like it would live up to those expectations early.

Midway through the opening game, a Jackie Kosinski kill sparked a six-point run that gave the Owls a 20-14 lead. But SOU scored the next five points and four of the game's last five to reclaim the early momentum.

Tech nearly tied the match at 28-all when a bad pass floated toward the net on SOU's side, but Raider setter Lindsey Stone made a diving save that turned into a winner after barely clearing the net and landing in front of the stunned Owls. Stone, the reigning Region I setter of the week, led the Raiders with 40 assists and was second on the team with eight digs.

Moments later Claflin's block of a Mikayla Morgan spike sealed the opening game for SOU. The play summed up the rest of the match, too. Tech entered McNeal with the league's third-highest team hitting percentage, equipped with the league's third-leading killer, but against the Raiders they hit just .017 and top hitter Michelle Klaja finished with six kills and six hitting errors in 25 attempts.

"OIT just pounds," SOU head coach Josh Rohlfing said, "and once we adjusted our block and got some things taken care of, that went away. They started tipping and we were able to pick those up. I was really proud of the way we played and the adjustments that we made throughout the match."

Game 2 wasn't as close. SOU used a 9-2 run capped by a Claflin ace to take a comfortable 20-13 lead. Tech fought back to within 22-20, but a Wortel kill started SOU on a five-point rally, burying the Owls.

The Raiders led Game — from beginning to end after scoring seven of the first eight points. A late OIT rally whittled SOU's lead to 25-23, but the hard hitting of Richelle Millsap and a string of Owl mistakes helped the Raiders pull away. Millsap, who entered the match as the league's most efficient hitter (.369), finished with 12 kills on 25 swings.

The Raiders also got a team-high nine digs out of Emily Stone, the Region I libero of the week, and seven kills each out of Claflin and Jaclyn Hamilton-Smith. As a team, SOU pounded 47 kills on 129 attacks.

"Our goal for tonight was just to come together after every play, good or bad," Lindsey Stone said. "If we got some big kills, we'd come together, if we got a point we'd come together, and that powered us. I think our unity powered us tonight."

The .205 attack percentage over the last two games didn't hurt, either.

"SOU is a great swinging team and I think that's what kept us on the defensive," Oregon Tech coach Angela Stewart said. "They swing hard for kills every time. We did out-block them, though, so I was really proud of the girls for really battling with a team as good as SOU. We will be excited to see them again at our place."

Sports editor can be reached at 482-3456 x 224 or joe.

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