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Bulldogs are sitting in third place in the Tri-River, with a friendly slate remaining

PMG PHOTO: TANNER RUSS - Emma Richards and the Culver volleyball team are still in the hunt for the 2A state playoffs despite their recent skid.Culver volleyball is hitting a bit of a rough patch as the end of the season nears, losing three straight league matches after starting out 5-0 in Tri-River play.

After suffering losses to the league's top two teams, Salem Academy and Sheridan, the Bulldogs were also unable to take a set on the road against Gervais. Though Culver opened their season with a victory over the Cougars, Gervais held court with a 25-14, 25-22, 25-22 win in their own gym.

Suddenly, the Bulldogs find themselves at 7-8 overall and 5-3 in Tri-River play. That mark puts them in third place in the TRC, with Salem Academy (10-0) and Sheridan (8-1) sitting comfortably atop the standings.

Gervais, meanwhile, is catching up quickly after a slow start to the season. The Cougars are just one game back from Culver in fourth place in the league.

All of that sets the table for a frantic finish in the Tri-River. Per OSAA rules, the top two teams from each 2A league will make the state playoffs. At this point, those two spots seem fairly locked up by Salem Academy and Sheridan.

Hope is not lost, though, as the playoffs also award four at-large berths to the highest-ranking teams that do not finish in their league's top two.

As it stands, however, those four spots are being spoken for by teams from outside of the Tri-River. Per the OSAA rankings update on Monday evening, the four at-large berths would be given to Reedsport, Vernonia, Union and Weston-McEwen. The lowest-ranking team in at-large position, Weston-McEwen, is currently ranked No. 14, while Culver is No. 21.

Even still, the Bulldogs have a great chance to shoot up the OSAA rankings with four matches left on the schedule. Culver has already faced three of the teams on their remaining docket, and they did not lose a single set to any of the three. The team will also face Western Christian for the first time.

Making the playoff push even more frenetic is the fact that Culver will be playing four league matches in six days. Their homestretch starts on Thursday, when they host Kennedy at 5 p.m. The Bulldogs will go again the next day, hosting Western Christian at 3:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 15.

After a weekend break, the team is right back in action on Monday night in their home finale against Santiam. Then, the season wraps up with a road trip to Colton.

If Culver regains its earlier form, it just might be able to ride a wave of momentum all the way into the state playoffs.


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