The Eastern Oregon University volleyball team will head into the NAIA national tournament with a bitter taste in its mouth.
The No. 4 Mountaineers coasted to a sweep of No. 13 Corban in the Cascade Collegiate Conference tournament semifinals Friday, 25-22, 25-16, 25-20, but then were swept by No. 7 Southern Oregon in the championship match Saturday, 25-12, 25-22, 25-18. The CCC tourney took place in Ashland.
“SOU played really well. While we did some great things we just didn’t put a complete game together, and against a team like that, you can’t afford it and it cost us,” head coach Kaki McLean-Morehead said.
The title match against the Raiders was a stark contrast from the first two regular-season matchups, which saw the teams battle for five sets and the road team come away with the win both times.
SOU used two big first-set runs — one of 5-0 and one later of 7-0 — to help build a 21-9 lead in a set the Raiders never trailed. The SOU defense came up big during the second run, as the combination of Taylor Ristvedt and Makayla Hoyt had four blocks, including three in a row for the 12-point lead.
Eastern built a 10-5 lead in the second set on a Jessie White ace, withstood a Raider rally to go ahead 15-13 on a Jet Taylor kill, and battled to a 19-19 tie on a kill by Taylor Tibbetts. Southern scored the next five points to take a 24-19 lead on a Sara Fanger ace. EOU pulled within two after a pair of Cambree Scott kills and an SOU error, but Southern's Maddie Pernich ended the set with a kill.
An 8-1 run put SOU in control in the third set, as another block, this one from Ristvedt and Elliott Cook, put the Raiders in front 16-8. Eastern pulled as close at five on several occasions late, the last at 22-17 on another kill by Scott, but Southern ended the match with three kills by Ristvedt, who had 10 on the night to go with nine block assists.
Scott led the Mountaineers with nine kills, and Taylor had six, but EOU, which entered as one of the top blocking teams in the country, had just three on the night. Madison Pilon had 25 assists, and Kiley McMurtrey and Aspen Christiansen had 16 and 11 digs, respectively, to lead the back row.
On Friday, Eastern ran away from Corban for a sweep behind a defense that had 11 blocks and held the Warriors to a minus-.041 attack percentage.
“We played really well on Friday, controlled the things we needed to and played our game,” McLean-Morehead said.
Four straight points gave Eastern the lead for good in the opening set at 10-7, and the lead reached six at 24-18 after a Taylor kill and a Corban attack error. A block by Tibbetts and Taylor later ended the set.
A 10-1 run in the second set gave EOU command. Eastern’s lead reached nine on several occasions before a block by Tibbetts gave the Mountaineers their largest lead of the set at 24-14. Breanna Shaffer ended the set with a kill.
A 7-1 run in the third gave EOU a 16-9 lead on a kill by Megan Bunn. Corban got within 23-20 on an Kealani Ontai ace, but back-to-back kills by Taylor ended the match.
Bunn finished with a match-best 11 kills, while Scott had eight and Taylor had seven. Scott also had six block assists. Both Bunn and Tibbetts had five blocks, with Tibbetts posting two solos. Pilon had 36 assists, and McMurtrey and Christiansen again were strong in the back row with 20 and 10 digs respectively.
The Mountaineers (29-3 overall) wait to see what their seed to the NAIA national tournament will be when its announced today.