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Bulldogs' depth up front, strong floor play and key serving lead to straight-set win; face Salem Academy in semifinals

TONY AHERN  - Kayden Leeann, 12, is all smiles after a kill against Oakland Friday. Behind Leeann are Teal Nelson, middle, and Hensley Wachter, and all three had effective games at the net against Oakland. The Dawgs won in straight sets to earn a shot against No. 1-ranked Salem Academy in the seminfinals. The Culver Bulldogs beat the Oakland Oakers in straight sets Friday in the 2A State Volleyball Tournament played at Ridgeview High School in Redmond.

Culver won a tight 25-23 first set then took set two 25-18 before taking the clincher 25-21.

With the win, Culver earned its fourth shot at beating top-ranked and Tri-River Conference rival Salem Academy. They will play at 8:30 Friday evening with the winner advancing to the title match against the winner of the Gaston-Monroe game. The title game is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. Saturday. The teams losing the semifinal games will play for third place at 2:15 p.m. Saturday.

In the quarterfinal, Culver needed a late run to win the first set. They trailed the Oakers 24-19, a point away from losing the set. Following a timeout by coach Alex Carlson, the Dawgs reeled off six consecutive points, keyed by Brooke Bush's serving and finished off with a Hensley Wachter scoring shot followed by a put-away shot by Teal Nelson to win the set for Culver.

Wachter and fellow senior Kayden Leeann had strong games at the net for the Bulldogs while senior setter Bush was outstanding setting for and steadying the Dawgs throughout the match.

The second set started out tight, too. With the score 8-7 Oakland, Culver turned the tide. Nelson made a nice tip shot to tie it at 8-8, then Madison Constantine served an ace to give Culver the lead. Sophomore Sydnee Bush made two tough saves on the following point, which Culver also won to go up 10-8. Constantine served another ace. Following a Leeann kill, the Dawg led 14-8 and Oakland called a timeout. However, the Oakers couldn't catch Culver the rest of the way. A Wachter kill and a Oakland service error capped set two at 25-18.

Early on, set three looked more like set one, more back and forth. Oakland's Tia Picknell made several scoring shots as the Oakers fought to stay alive. But back-to-back Leeann blocks made it 17-14 Culver. Two Constantine kills made it 20-14. Oakland rallied back to within 21-18, but never got closer than three points before Culver finished off the set at 25-21.

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