Embracing the end season challenges
To get ready for the postseason, the Culver Lady Dawgs traveled to North Marion for a tournament on Saturday, Oct. 6. The team played three 4A schools — two in pool play and one in bracket play.
In pool play, Culver beat Phoenix 26-24, 25-6, 25-10. They moved on to the Tri-Valley conference leaders, North Marion. The Lady Dawgs lost the first set 25-23, but won the next two sets 27-25, 25-17.
The Lady Dawgs faced the Cheesemakers in bracket play and lost 2-0 to the No. 5 ranked Tillamook team, 25-16, 25-23. Culver chose the tournament because, win or lose, their ranking would not change. Teams that are two classifications above or below each other cannot change in the rankings no matter the outcome.
"The whole reason for going there was to push ourselves and play some better teams," head coach Gabrielle Alley said. "We played Phoenix a little slow, which may have something to do with us getting on the bus at 4:15 in the morning. After that, we realized we belonged and stepped up our game."
"North Marion had early control on the first set," she said. "We kept pushing, realized we could hang with this team and fought back. We ended up winning the next two sets."
"Tillamook is a very good team and we played well, but they came out with the win," Alley said. "Tillamook would end up winning the whole tournament. I was really happy, specifically in the North Marion game. We played some of the best ball we played all year, which was really excited to see. It showed us what we are capable of against high level teams, without the pressure of knowing they have to win."
In the Tillamook game, Irma Retano led the team with seven kills and Madison Miller had eight. Bridget Lopez and Retano both had eight digs for the Lady Dawgs.
Home tournament win
The Culver Lady Dawgs volleyball program won two games in a tournament they hosted Oct. 4. The Lady Dawgs beat the Delphian Dragons 3-0 in their first game and beat Chemawa 3-0 in their next game.
In the Delphian game, Culver was down 8-5 before Avery Oppenlander served three aces in a row, giving the Lady Dawgs a 9-8 lead and forcing Delphian to take a timeout.
Lucy Louden blocked a hit and later tipped the ball over the net for Culver, giving them a 12-9 lead. The Lady Dawgs had a 19-13 lead when Irma Retano had a kill and Claire Bender had two aces to help Culver take a 22-13 lead. A Louden kill finished the first set and Culver won 25-16.
The second set was a back-and-forth battle. The Dragons and the Lady Dawgs changed leads several time and had several long close rallies. Culver had a small, 7-5 lead before a Lopez ace extended the lead to 8-5. The Lady Dawgs saw a 12-9 lead vanish when the Dragons tied the set at 12-12.
A hard fought rally was ended by a Retano kill to break the tie and Culver went on a 5-1 run. Another Retano kill and an Oppenlander ace gave the Lady Dawgs a 17-13 lead and Delphian called a timeout to regroup.
The Dragons had no quit and tied the set at 18-18, forcing Culver to take a time-out of their own. The Lady Dawgs were down 20-18 before going on a 4-0 run and taking a 22-20 lead, but the Dragons tied the game again at 22-22.
The score was kept equal for a long time, tied at 23-23, 24-24. Culver was down 24-25 before Madison Miller hit a big spike, tying the game again 25-25. A monster kill by Retano tied the game 26-26 and Culver took a 27-26 lead before the Dragons tied the game 27-27.
Culver fought for a 29-28 lead and the set was finally ended by a Louden tip giving the Lady Dawgs a 30-28 win for the set.
"In the second set, we were still fighting and didn't give up and won that set," Alley said. "That was the first time we really had that (a very close set). We had to battle for every point and I think that it was intense; we were flying around, calling things and it was good volleyball."
"I think getting to the end of the season we need to make sure that every point matters in every single game and that was not happening," Alley said. "We were letting them get points that they should not have been getting and we knew that, but just weren't really able to turn it around."
The third set looked like it was going to be another war. The Lady Dawgs were down 10-12 before going on a 15-2 run. First, a Bender kill tied the game at 12-12 and later, a Miller spike gave them a 15-13 lead. Bender served an ace and Delphian called a timeout, down 16-13.
Bender went on a serving tear, serving three aces in a row and the Lady Dawgs advanced their lead to 20-13, forcing another Delphian time-out. A kill by Miller and another Bender ace gave Culver a 24-13 lead. A kill by Retano gave the Lady Dawgs a 25-14 win and they beat the Dragons 3-0 in their first game.
"Claire is one of those players and she always steps up and plays, but just isn't that type of flashy player," said Alley. "She doesn't have a jump serve or isn't going to crush it at the 10-foot line, but she is going to be consistent, and has a nice serve. On defense, she is always covering, gets good touches and I think she gets overshadowed by some of her teammates."
"I am very, very happy to have Claire, especially because she is only a sophomore," Alley said. "I am really excited to see how she grows. She plays way older than a sophomore."
The Lady Dawgs ran through Chemawa, winning three sets 25-8, 25-11, 25-8 and were 2-0 in their home tournament.
On Oct. 2, the Lady Dawgs lost their third game of the year. Culver lost to the No. 1 ranked Kennedy (19-1) team 3-0. Culver lost 25-19, 25-23, 25-13, but have a rematch at home Oct. 10, at 6 p.m.
"Kennedy is a solid team and we are excited to play them again on Wednesday," Alley said. "I was a little disappointed; I thought we were very capable of taking a set from them, but we didn't. The second set we lost 25-23 and missed our last two serves. In those intense moments, we were not able to pull it out at the end."
"The difference in the Kennedy game was we were neck and neck, trading points and they would get one long run," she said. The rest of the set we were playing catch up and by that time it was 25."
"They are a good team and they are our only game next week," said Alley. "We do not have any tournaments or anything, so we will definitely be focused and ready to play them."
The Culver volleyball program will be having a "Dig Pink" night in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month at the game. All the admission money will go to an organization that supports breast cancer patients. The program is asking fans to wear the color pink to support breast cancer awareness.