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Claire Bender earns first team, Lucy Louden second team, Culver Lady Dawgs miss playoffs by one spot.

STEELE HAUGEN - Junior Claire Bender earns first team all-league honors for the Culver Lady Dawgs volleyball team.The Culver volleyball season has come to an end. The Lady Dawgs were one ranking away from reaching the state playoffs.

They finished the season with a 14-11 overall record and an 11-5 league record, finishing fourth in the Tri-River Conference behind Kennedy, Delphian and Colton. They lost a league playoff game to Colton 3-1 Oct. 26.

Four Culver volleyball players earned league honors this year. Claire Bender earned first-team honors, Lucy Louden, second-team and both Janae Rhen and Anyla Rico earned honorable mention honors.

Bender, a junior for the Lady Dawgs, played outside hitter for Culver.

"Claire was the only person who earned first-team honors that wasn't a Kennedy Trojan or Delphian Dragon," head volleyball coach Gabrielle Alley said. "So I think that was a great honor for her. It was well-deserved. Claire had to step up as a leader, maybe a little sooner than she wanted to, but she was by far our most consistent serve-receive passer. We switched out our rotations so she could get more hits in the front row and to make sure she was passing as much as she could. I am glad she was able to get that honor."

Louden, a sophomore for the Lady Dawgs, also played outside hitter for Culver.

"I also think she was well-placed there," Alley said. "She played all the way around and was also one of our main serve-receive passers. She continued to work into becoming one of our go-to hitters at the end of the season. She battled through some injuries but was always there working hard. She is one of those good kids who always does the right thing and has the skill there, too."

STEELE HAUGEN - Junior Lucy Louden earns first team all-league honors for the Culver Lady Dawgs volleyball team.Rhen, a senior, played outside hitter and setter for Culver, while Rico played middle blocker.

"Janae was just one spot away from being on the third team, which I thought would have been a better spot for her," said Alley. "Janae was that player that started the season not sure where she was going to fit in. She was outside hitter, but I asked if she wanted to set, so she became a setter too, which is hard to do as a senior. It is hard to learn a new position, and she rolled with it and did what I asked."

"Anyla is a competitor," she said. "This was her first year on varsity, and I think that it is awesome she was able to make honorable mention as a first-year varsity player. She worked really hard and (is) always competing, whether it is peppering drills in practice or clutch moments in big games. You always know she wants it and is putting in the work to get there, too."

Only one senior ended the season with the Lady Dawgs, which means the Culver volleyball squad will be returning a ton of talent and experience next season.

"I think throughout the season, the word 'building year' was thrown around, not by me, but other people, and I did not want to accept that." Alley said. "I think that we had the talent on the team this year. We missed state playoffs by one spot. One spot, so I think we are going to be a force to be reckoned with next year because we only lose one person. I think the younger players will get in and do some offseason work."

"I am really excited about where Kayden (Leeann) started the season and the player she turned into at the end of the season," Alley said. "She always wanted to get better, and I think that is only going to continue. She is not anywhere near her potential yet. She was voted most improved by her teammates this year."

"Emma Richards was a big player for us," Alley said. "She improved as well, and I am looking forward to what she can do for us as well. Halli Soderstrom stepped in as a libero, and I think she did really well for never playing that position. I am excited to see what next year brings."

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