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SOU leads NAIA Directors' Cup after fall season

By any measure, Southern Oregon University fall sports teams had a season to remember. By the measure of NAIA Championship performances, they had the best in the country.

SOU was No. 1 in the final Learfield Directors’ Cup standings of the fall, which were released Thursday by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics. The Directors’ Cup, which was introduced to the NAIA in 1995-96, awards points based on an institution’s finish at the NAIA Championships.

The Raiders totaled 286 points, 28 more than second-place Rocky Mountain (Mont.). Their men’s and women’s cross country teams — which both took fourth place and captured the program’s second-ever combined national title — contributed 80 apiece. The Raider volleyball team scored 73 for making its first appearance in the national quarterfinal round. And the men’s soccer team added 53 by advancing to the NAIA final site for the first time among the final 16 teams.

SOU was in first place after the fall season once previously — in 2014-15, when it ultimately wrapped up at sixth place in the standings for the best finish ever by a Cascade Conference school. The department has posted its top four finishes over the last four years and was 13th after the 2017-18 season to lead all CCC and Frontier Conference institutions.

College of Idaho is second among CCC schools in the latest standings in ninth place with 202 points, while Eastern Oregon is 15th (172) and Oregon Tech 24th (149).

The next set of standings will be released after the winter season, during which SOU’s basketball, indoor track and field and men’s wrestling teams will be eligible to score.

SOU also tops the Cascade Conference All-Sports standings with 124.2 points; Eastern Oregon is second with 107.2. The Raiders have claimed the CCC All-Sports Trophy three years in a row.

Softball

RAIDERS PICKED TO WIN ANOTHER CCC TITLE: The follow-up act to the best season in Southern Oregon University softball history is expected to result in another Cascade Conference championship, the CCC’s coaches decided in the preseason poll this week.

SOU collected eight of 10 first-place votes, while Oregon Tech and Corban — picked second and third in the poll, respectively — garnered one apiece.

Last spring the Raiders set a new team record for wins for the second year in a row by going 51-15. They were third in the final NAIA coaches’ poll after coming up just one win short of playing in the national championship game.

They also won the CCC regular-season title with a 22-5 record, edging out both Corban and OIT by one game, and earned their second straight CCC Tournament crown.

This year they’ll be tasked with replacing the NAIA Player of the Year, catcher Harlee Donovan, and the most decorated player the program has ever produced, All-American shortstop Kelsey Randall. They’ll do so behind junior ace Gabby Sandoval, who went 27-6 with a 2.06 ERA last season, and three sophomores who earned All-CCC recognition: outfielder Olivia Mackey, middle-infielder Hannah Shimek and first baseman Tayler Walker. The trio combined to hit .354 with 44 extra-base hits as freshmen.

The Raiders will open CCC play at home March 1-2 against Eastern Oregon. A complete schedule will be released soon.

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