WINCHESTER — The Umpqua Community College volleyball team opened up Southern Region play against Clark Friday night at home.

The Riverhawks fell 25-20, 25-21, 25-13 to the Penguins after leading the first two sets late into each game.

“We knew that Clark is one of the better teams we’ll face, we have a lot to work on,” UCC coach Lacy Pinard said. “Tonight, our defense came out and took care of the backcourt. Offensively, we need to have hitters working on putting away balls a little more.”

The Riverhawks (7-11, 0-1 South) led 8-3 in the opening set. But the Penguins would continue to battle and capitalized on unforced errors. UCC led 19-15 before Clark scored four straight points and eventually went on a 10-1 run to take the set.

The Riverhawks led 14-8 in the second game. But Clark would respond once again, take advantage of mistakes by the home team to tie the game at 16-16. The Penguins continued on to win the second set.

The Penguins jumped on top in the third set, taking a 12-6 lead. They would run away with the set to seal the victory.

Umpqua was led by Kyrie Keffer, who had 16 digs against Clark and helped hold the back line together as the libero.

“We could play a lot better, I think a lot of people were nervous because it’s our first home match and we have a lot of freshmen,” Keffer said. “I don’t think we lived up to our potential because in practice we’re a lot better. It was disappointing, but I think tomorrow we’ll come out and play a lot stronger and learn from this.”

Madison Becker had 11 digs and 13 assists and Felicia Sparks had eight digs for the Riverhawks.

“Kyrie took care of business in the back row. She’s really evolved back there on building her confidence and taking care of her team on the back line,” Pinard said. “Our digs were great, we were passing quite a few threes, sets were there, so offense has to step up.”

The Riverhawks open up conference play with four straight home matches, their longest home stretch of the season. After next weekend, they will only play three more at home. With an assortment of tournaments and other nonconference contests, they will be on the road the majority of October.

“We started out the first two sets off really strong,” Pinard said. “We need to work on finishing our game. Confidence on the service line. Normally we’re a good service line team, but today wasn’t cutting it. So against Mt. Hood we need take care of business on that back line.”

Clark was led by Olivia Jacoshenk with 16 assists, 12 kills and 12 digs, while Allyson Crisp added 16 digs.

Keffer was named Southern Region Defensive Player of the Week for the week of Sept. 4-10. She totaled 65 digs in six matches to help the Riverhawks take second place in the Clackamas Tournament last weekend.

“It actually was a goal of mine to get that, before I even became the libero,” Keffer said. “I was really excited and called my parents. It was really good, but I didn’t want it to get to my head so I just kept playing and doing good.”

Umpqua hosts Mt. Hood at 1 p.m. Saturday.

Part-time sports reporter Josh Gaunt can be reached at 541-957-4220 or via email at jgaunt@nrtoday.com.

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