Within a Cascade Conference that last year proved to be among the deepest volleyball circuits in the NAIA, Southern Oregon University’s expectation to climb back up the standings was backed up by a coaches’ preseason poll released Thursday.
The College of Idaho was tabbed the CCC favorite, garnering eight of 11 first-place votes, while SOU and Eastern Oregon matched voter points in the No. 2 spot. Defending regular-season champion Corban was picked fourth, Northwest (Wash.) fifth and Oregon Tech sixth.
In 2017 the CCC produced two national quarterfinal qualifiers, C of I and Corban; another among the NAIA’s final 16 teams, EOU; and a fourth team that advanced to the final 32-team site, Northwest.
The Raiders, while operating without a senior on the roster, finished fifth in the CCC for the second year in a row, going 12-8 in conference play and 15-11 overall. They opened practice in preparation for 2018 with 13 returning players, including all but one starter.
They’ll open the new season next Wednesday and Thursday with four matches at the William Jessup Invitational in Rocklin, Calif., seeking their sixth national tournament appearance since head coach Josh Rohlfing took over in 2007.
They’ll also open the brand-new Lithia Motors Pavilion against Lewis-Clark State on Aug. 24 at 7 p.m. — their first home match outside of Ashland High’s Mountain Avenue Gym since 2015.