SOU, sans Rohlfing, drops pool play opener to Embry-Riddle

Abby Hall feasted on Southern Oregon's defense once again, pounding a match-high 19 kills to lead Embry-Riddle to a three-game sweep of SOU in the first NAIA National Championships pool play match for both teams Tuesday night at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa.

Hall blistered the Raiders with 41 swings, including the game-winning spikes in both Game 2 and Game 3, and also added nine digs as the 12th-ranked Eagles earned their second win of the season over the 14th-ranked Raiders, 26-24, 25-22, 25-23. The victory came three months after the 6-foot, junior outside hitter smashed 21 kills in an early-season four-game win in Ashland.

Southern Oregon played without head coach Josh Rohlfing, who remained home for medical reasons. Rohlfing followed the match via the tournament's live stats service and said there's an outside shot that he'll be able to rejoin the team.

While the setback doesn't eliminate Southern Oregon (22-4) from championship contention, it does make the Raiders' road to the final 12-team single-elimination bracket considerably tougher. Now, the Raiders need an upset win over No. 1-ranked and undefeated Lee tonight followed by a win over tourney host Briar Cliff on Thursday in order to keep its championship hopes alive.

"Basically, the girls already know that this is a tough loss and that this is probably the highest competition that we've played against since the beginning of the year, and now we know what to expect," said SOU assistant coach Jessica Walters, who has taken over head coaching duties.

In the other Pool A match Tuesday, Lee swept Briar Cliff, 25-22, 27-25, 25-20.

Sarah Holgen had 16 kills, Leanne Stennett had seven kills and 18 digs and Lindsey Stone finished with 41 assists to lead the Raiders against Embry-Riddle (31-2), which became the first team to take a game off SOU since Oct. 9 and the first team to beat SOU since Oct. 8.

The Raiders built leads of 13-9 and 21-18 in the first game before the Eagles fought back to go up 22-21 on a kill by Emily Jacobson. The two teams battled to ties at 23-all and 24-all before the Eagles clinched it with back-to-back kills by Taylor Martin and Gloria Kemp.

In Game 2, the Raiders led 19-16 and 21-20, but again could not put the Eagles away. The Eagles scored four straight points to take a 24-21 lead and clinched a two-games-to-none lead on a spike by Hall, whose kill started the 4-0 rally.

Embry-Riddle led most of the way in the third game, but the Raiders worked their way out of a 16-13 hole, tying the match at 22-all on a kill by Holgen.

Hall answered with a spike to give the Eagles the lead for good, and two points later came through with another to finish the match.

"They're just a very aggressive team — very aggressive and very relentless," Walters said. "They didn't let up one minute of the match.

"It was a battle both ways, and a lot of those rallies went for a long time and could have gone one way or the other."

Walters said Rohlfing's absence should not be used as an excuse.

"The girls have been extremely strong throughout the whole thing and are taking it well," she said. "It really shows the strength and the courage of the team to go out and battle like we did.

"Josh has given the girls all the tools that they need to accomplish their goals, and the girls have just been awesome. I have seen no negative effects."

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