Though the Cascade Conference’s No. 1 seed is no longer on the table, the Southern Oregon University women’s soccer team still has a lot to play for as it finishes the regular season this weekend in Montana.
Eastern Oregon (13-1-2 overall, 9-1-2 CCC) wrapped up last weekend and clinched at least a share of the title by winning its fifth consecutive game. The Raiders (9-2-3, 7-1-2) can become co-champions by winning both of their remaining matches, 2:30 p.m. Pacific Time today at Providence (7-8-0, 4-6-0) and 12:30 p.m. Pacific Time on Sunday at Carroll (8-6-2, 7-1-2). Due to head-to-head tiebreakers, the top seed — and with it, an automatic bid to the NAIA Tournament — can only belong to EOU or Carroll.
Because the title chase has been one of the most competitive in recent memory, the Raiders can still settle anywhere from the second to the sixth seed. A co-title would be their second in three seasons after 16 years without one.
If the Raiders are to advance to the 31-team NAIA Tournament for the first time, they’ll have to qualify through the CCC Tournament. It’ll be held Nov. 7-10 in Springfield and an automatic bid will be awarded to its champion. However, if the top seed repeats as champion, the bid will go to the other tournament finalist. That’s where the importance of the No. 2 seed is underscored; whoever earns it can avoid the top seed until the championship match, meaning it may only be necessary to win two games instead of three to reach the national tourney.
CCC Tournament matchups and game times will be released on Sunday.
SOU’s seven-game unbeaten streak is tied for the longest in team history.
Kiani Pandoliano’s golden goal last Saturday against Oregon Tech — which allowed the Raiders to jump the Owls in the standings — marked the fourth time in CCC play that SOU has scored the game-winning or game-tying goal in the 78th minute or later.
Three different Raiders have recorded at least five goals for the first time since the 2004 season. Misty Martinez has seven, Pandoliano six and Mia Volpatti five. Makena Totushek is one away from joining them.
The Raiders have allowed fewer goals in conference play (5) than any team in the CCC. A year ago, they ranked seventh in goals allowed (13).
Volpatti’s assist total of five in conference matches is the sixth-highest in the CCC. Her total of seven on the season is the fourth-highest in team history and the most for a Raider since 2004. The junior also scored her 10th career goal against Oregon Tech.
Keeper Kailey Lemon is making a case for CCC Defensive Player of the Year, sporting the circuit’s best goals-against average (0.46) and second-best save percentage (.879).
The Argos are still fighting for a playoff spot, entering the weekend tied with Corban for eighth place. They’ve lost five in a row but are 3-1 in CCC home games, including a 2-1 win over EOU.
Eme McLaughlin is one of the top threats in the CCC with 15 goals and 11 in conference play. In total, the Argos have outscored CCC opponents 21-15.
The Raiders are 4-0 all-time against the Argos and 3-0 in conference affairs. They scored a 2-1 overtime win last year on a Daisy Cervantes goal in the 119th minute.
The Saints, who won the 2015 title and shared it the next year with SOU, are enjoying a bounce-back season after going 3-6-1 last year. They dropped a key game last week at Northwest (Wash.) that ended an eight-game unbeaten streak.
They’ve outscored CCC foes 27-11 behind Payton Netz (7 goals, 2 assists) and Lizzie Sheldon (6 goals).
SOU scored its first win against Carroll last year, 2-0, after going 0-6-1 in the first seven matchups.