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Raider Volleyball learning about itself headed into 2021

For the first time since 2019, the Lithia Motors Pavilion will turn the lights on for a volleyball match on Thursday. When Southern Oregon hosts Simpson, the Raiders will look a lot different than they did nearly two years ago.

Posted: Aug 14, 2021 1:52 PM
Updated: Aug 15, 2021 9:57 PM

ASHLAND, Ore. --- For the first time since 2019, the Lithia Motors Pavilion will turn the lights on for a volleyball match on Thursday. When Southern Oregon hosts Simpson, the Raiders will look a lot different than they did nearly two years ago. 

In November of 2019, Southern Oregon won its second consecutive Cascade Conference title behind a roster filled with some iconic players in SOU history. Most of those players, like Taylor Ristvedt, have moved on. 

The Raiders only return five players from the 2019 roster, and few of those had meaningful playing time. 

"This is the longest time of my entire coaching career of almost 30 years where I have gone a year and a half without legit competition you know? So, we are fired up. We are ready to go," said head coach Josh Rohlfing. 

The Raiders did not just miss the pandemic portion of volleyball's absence. It also did not participate in the CCC's spring season. The SOU players sat and watched with little to say about which team was the best in the conference. 

So many fresh faces leave the question, who are the Raiders now? 

The answer to that question has yet to be answered. Despite the unknown, the NAIA preseason poll ranks Southern Oregon as the No. 25 team in the nation. A rank that Josh Rohlfing believes is a sign of respect from the nation. After all, this is the 5th time in the last six years that SOU has been a preseason top-25. 

"It's a lot about what the program has done over the years and what those people that were here before us, before this group, has done," said Rohlfing. "I think it is just a nod to respect. We appreciate it and all. But we don't know who we are, so I don't know how they know who we are. So, we will find out soon."

Two players that spent time with the 2019 roster are outside hitter Katie Vroman and middle blocker Chanel Groom. 

Vroman missed the entirety of the 2019 season after suffering a torn ACL before the season began. However, she rarely missed a practice. While she was not playing, she was observing a conference championship squad. Now, Vroman is suddenly a team veteran to a slew of new faces. 

"It has been an adjustment. But honestly, everyone that is here should be here," said Vroman. "And we all just, we get along so well. It's a new team but that means new opportunities and new people. "

Groom is taking a positive approach to what the Raiders are about to embark on. Many times, with so many new faces, there are growing pains to overcome. However, Groom does not think it will be a frustrating feeling. 

"I would say we have a lot of growing to do and we will just do it together as a group. We will get there."

Southern Oregon will start that journey of growth on Thursday when it hosts Simpson. The first serve is set for 6:00 p.m. at the Lithia Motors Pavilion in Ashland. 

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