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Bulldogs' team chemistry a work in progress after 3-0 home loss to Ridgeview last Wednesday.

WILL DENNER/MADRAS PIONEER - Maddie Miller helped Culver hang even with Ridgeview at the start of the third set last Wednesday with two kills, but Ridgeview ultimately won the set 25-17 to complete the straight set win.
If the result of Culver's home opener last Wednesday, a 3-0 defeat at the hands of 5A Ridgeview, was surprising to some, Bulldogs' head coach Randi Viggiano could sense something was off the day before.

"(We are) still kind of figuring out team chemistry," Viggiano said after the game. "We need to have better practices in our gym. (Tuesday's) practice is a direct reflection of how we played tonight, and that's what we talked about out there. I don't care that we lost, I don't care that, at the end of the day, Ridgeview won — it's how."

The prior day's practice and result of Wednesday's game indicated that a young Bulldog team will need time to build into a cohesive unit.

Culver's play at times appeared tentative, which Viggiano could see when girls hesitated to claim balls that passed over the net and didn't execute.

Ridgeview got on a roll early, and was able to stave off Culver rallies throughout.

The Ravens never trailed in the first two sets, which were won 25-12 and 25-13, respectively.

The third set was more evenly matched, as Culver scored the first point and later tied the count at 3-3 after junior Maddie Miller accounted for two early kills. From there, however, Culver could only get within two points, at 8-6, thanks to a Catylynn Duff ace. Ridgeview went on to claim the decisive set 25-17.

The result was Culver's first straight sets loss at home since the 2014 season. That statistic reflects the combined inexperience of the Bulldogs, who also played the game without junior outside hitter Irma Retano. The good news: Retano returned to the team for Tuesday's game against Grant Union after being on vacation for the prior two weeks.

Viggiano said the team has missed Retano's confidence, a strong level of play and energy in the gym.

"At practice, she's one of, if not the, loudest players in the gym," Viggiano said. "She brings that energy and obviously lots of skill. We're excited to get her back. But again, that has nothing to do with why we lost tonight. That should've been taken care of in our gym."

To Ridgeview's credit, few points came easy for the Bulldogs, who faced a Ravens team that played a relatively error-free game.

Rylee Troutman led Ridgeview with 12 kills, eight digs and three aces, while Josye Miller added seven aces and six kills, and Josilyn Remick totaled 10 assists and five digs.

"They were going to make us earn each point, and good teams should," Viggiano said.

While the loss was a tough one, it will ultimately have little to do with where Culver ends the season. Shortly after the game had finished, Viggiano and her players were already looking ahead to pivotal matchup on the road Tuesday against Grant Union, a team that finished third at the 2016 2A Volleyball Championship and has appeared in three consecutive state tournaments overall.

The Bulldogs went on to beat Grant Union in dramatic fashion, with the two teams playing to a 2-2 tie through four sets. Culver took the decisive fifth set 16-14, as Duff sent across the winning kill. The win moved Culver up to the No. 1-ranked team in 2A.

Up next for Culver is a home match with nearby Madras on Thursday at 5:30 p.m.

Contact Will Denner at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Follow him on Twitter
@MadrasSports, @WillCDenner

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