SOU continues 14-game victory streak

The Southern Oregon University volleyball team has come a long way since their Sept. 7 loss to the College of Idaho 'Yotes. The 0-3 loss in Caldwell, Idaho, was the Raiders last, and their 3-1 (30-27,13-30, 30-24, 30-20) upset over the 'Yotes Saturday night at McNeal Pavilion puts them on a 14 match winning streak.

Ask the players and they'll tell you the difference between now and then is team chemistry and getting familiar with each other on the court. Generally, team chemistry is something that can only be learned on the court, after actually playing together. For sisters Emily and Lindsey Stone, its something they helped bring to the table.

"We have this great relationship," Lindsey said. "We seem connected no matter what happens. I am absolutely more comfortable when she's on the court with me."

The feeling is mutual.

"For Lindsey and I, playing together is the biggest blessing," Emily said. "We get along well, and it's a treat playing with her."

The sisters, who still live together, grew up in Ashland and had stellar high-school careers at AHS. Emily, the oldest, earned first team SOC status as a senior in 2003, while Lindsey collected SOC and Oregon 4A player of the year honors en route to leading the Grizzlies to the 2005 state championship.

Both siblings say they began playing together around age seven or eight. What started as bopping a ball back-and-forth whenever they got a chance developed into a lifelong passion highlighted with success.

While both had success and passion for the game, their transition from AHS to SOU, almost never happened.

"I had no intent after high school of playing volleyball," says Emily, recalling her decision to take a year off. "I took a year off from school and from volleyball, but I eventually talked to (former-SOU couch Paul Elliott) and realized I had this passion to play and to go back to school." SOU was the perfect fit for Emily, putting her close to home and creating access to a liberal arts education.

Lindsey almost didn't make it to SOU also. Given a scholarship to play volleyball at the University of Oregon, the younger Stone lived in Eugene for a year before she almost decided her career might be over.

"I wasn't sure I wanted to play volleyball anymore," said Lindsey. "But I got the opportunity to be a counselor at a volleyball camp and I got to play and coach with other kids. I rediscovered this passion for the game."

This rediscovered passion in both the Stone sisters can be attributed to the coaching staff and community network that has virtually watched these two grow up before their eyes.

"Its wonderful having my career come full circle," says Lindsey about playing volleyball in front of the home crowd. "It's great to have the people that love us here, knowing the community was here and they support us"

Emily agrees. "There's this neat, small-town magic. The community members, fans and family are all part of this small town, and it feels good to play in for these fans. I like playing in front of the same people."

The Stone sisters' comfort and familiarity with the home town crowd has helped elevate their performance as well as that of their team. Right now, SOU ranks first in the Cascade Conference in hitting percentage (.247), assists average (13.55/game) and kill average (15.01/game). Lindsey is averaging a league-leading 12.01 assists while Emily is top-10 in digs, averaging 4.41.

The Raiders, now tied atop the CCC standings with C of I, control their own destiny as they head towards the post season. Four of their remaining six opponents have sub-.500 records, and a regular-season ending home stand awaits to wrap up CCC action. Just how far this team goes, will be determined more-likely-than-not, by team chemistry.

"I have so much confidence in this team and these girls," Emily said. "If you look at us from where we started to where we are now, we area totally different team. We realize its going to be tough, but if we show up confident and mentally tough we can win any game. I'm very proud of these girls and this team."

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