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The Bulldogs fall to eventual champ Salem Academy but come back the next day to top Gaston for third place

TONY AHERN   - Culver beat Gaston 25-23,. 25-17, 18-25 and 25-23 to take third place in the 2A State Volleyball Tournament Saturday. Holding the trophy are all-tournament first team member Hensley Wachter, 10, and second teamer Brooke Bush, 7, and they're joined by teammate and fellow senior Gracie Mendoza.Grit and clutch play carried the Culver Bulldogs to a third-place finish in the 2A State Volleyball Tournament, held at Ridgeview High School in Redmond Nov. 4-5.

After falling to the eventual champion Salem Academy in the rugged semifinal Friday night, Culver came back to beat Gaston in the third place game 25-23, 25-17, 18-25, 25-23.

The Bulldogs' senior Hensley Wachter earned first team all-tournament. Fellow seniors Kayden Leeann and Brooke Bush made second team all-tournament. All three were huge for the Bulldogs over the three games, but coach Alex Carlson got key contributions from the entire team.

Salem Academy, led by their outstanding force at the net, Aly Herber, beat second-seeded Monroe and their leader, Bella Gamache, in a thrilling championship match, 25-15, 25-20, 19-25, 22-25, and 15-11.

Claiming third

After the disappointment of losing the semifinals to Salem Academy Friday night — losing for the fourth straight time to the Crusaders — the Dawgs were back on the court in the third-place game against Gaston early afternoon Saturday. Like Culver, Gaston had lost in three-straight sets in their semifinal game.

Culver got out strong. A Teal Nelson kill followed by a Wachter kill made it 5-0. Good starts with Bush at the service line were a common theme for Culver. But following a timeout, Gaston, the champions from the Northwest League, rallied back to the point of taking a 7-6 lead. The two squads would go back and forth from there, with neither team getting more than a three-point lead until Culver would forge a 21-17 advantage and prompt a timeout from the Greyhounds.

Gaston emerged from the timeout with four straight points, including an ace serve, tying it at 21-all and made Culver take a timeout of their own. Gaston would push their lead to 23-21 until Culver would go on a key late run. A Madi Constantine ace, some excellent sets and two Leeann kills closed the game for Culver at 25-23.

Leeann and Nelson keyed a good start to the second set with effective play at the net. Culver led 10-4, then 14-7 then 18-8 after a Wachter kill. Gaston made it 20-12 and prompted a Culver timeout. The teams traded points the rest of the way until Leeann smashed a kill off a Bush set for the set victory.

Of its 10 sets in the tournament, Culver's worse was likely the third set against Gaston. Ahead 2-0 and in control of the match, not much went right for Culver in set three. Poor hits, service errors, Culver was generally off in set three. Gaston built a 24-14 lead, saw Culver rally with four late, but the Greyhounds were able to close out the set 25-18.

The fourth set was tight early and when Culver made it 10-7, Gaston called timeout. The back-and-fourth continued until a Nelson kill made it 15-10. The five-point lead by Culver would be the largest for either team the rest of the way. Culver was up 18-13 when the Greyhounds called yet another timeout.

Like tired boxers, both teams were having to search for energy. Culver had a stretch where they had trouble getting it over the net. Two service errors and some mishits had the score just 19-18 when Carlson called a timeout for Culver.

A Leeann kill stopped the bleeding and made it 20-18, but another serve into the net made it a one-point game again.

A Wachter kill made it 23-21 but the Greyhounds tied it at 23. Both teams needed a hero at that point — Culver's stepped up: Hensley Wachter. She smacked a kill to make it 24-23 then went to the service line and served an ace. Third place was Culver's.

Semifinals against Salem Academy

Herber was the difference for the Crusaders against Culver in the semifinals Friday. In game one, Herber's kills keyed a 11-3 lead for Salem Academy.

Culver stormed right back, though. After Shanti Rosales served two aces and Wachter smacked a kill, Culver was back in it and trailing by just two, 12-10.

The Crusaders called a timeout and regained some control. and following another Herber kill, it was 18-11. But Culver, determined to beat the Crusaders after losing three times prior, didn't fold. After Wachter blocked Herber at the net, the Dawgs had scratched back to be at 18-16. But a Herber block point and kill stretched the lead to 20-16 and the Dawgs called another timeout.

Leeann then had a big stretch. Three kills from the 6-1 senior kept Culver on the Crusaders' heels, making it 21-20, then 22-21 then 23-22. But the Crusaders made the plays with the game on the line and scored the last two points, winning the key first set.

Culver had another bad start in the second set, and with Herber exercising her will at the net, the Crusaders jumped to a 8-0 lead. But again, Culver scratched their way back into it. A Constantine kill made it 10-4, a Leeann block 10-5, then a Bush tip made it 11-7 and the loud Culver fans were fully re-energized.

A Nelson tip shot and a service ace had the Bulldogs at 13-11 and prompted a Crusaders' timeout, which steadied them. They responded by building the lead back to 19-12.

At that point, the strong Culver defense was on display as they saved two monster Herber kills shots, kept the point alive and eventually took it, making it 19-13. The Dawgs would then take five straight points with a Wachter kill capping the rally.

But Salem Academy wouldn't let Culver over the top. A Herber kill made it 20-18 and their freshman Emma Brewer made two great scoring shots to put them up 22-18. Culver got to within 23-20 but a service error and another kill by Brewer capped the set win for Salem Academy.

The third set was the even more grueling for the Dawgs. They came out on fire with Bush serving. notching a 6-0 lead. After losing a point, they got the serve right back and two Wachter kills keyed another run to make it 9-1 and the Culver faithful were rocking the gym.

But Salem Academy wasn't the top seed for nothing. They made just enough plays to stay in the game and wait for their run. It came after a couple of good net plays by Nelson and Wachter gave Culver a 16-10 lead. Salem Academy, with Herber and Brewer shining, scored nine of the next 11 points to take a 19-18 lead. With the Crusaders leading 24-22, Wachter got a kill through Herber to make it a one-point game, but a Herber kill closed out the 25-23 win for the Crusaders and sent them to the title game.

One of Herber's kills during the match inadvertently hit Shanti Rosales in the face. The shot knocked Rosales' glasses off and would cause her to miss the third-place game due to concussion protocol.

Opening over Oakland

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

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 Carlson, the Dawgs reeled off six consecutive points, keyed by Bush's serving and finished off with a Wachter scoring shot followed by a put-away shot by Nelson to win the set for Culver.

Wachter and fellow senior Leeann had strong games at the net for the Bulldogs against Oakland 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 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 Dawgs 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, an all-tournament first team selection, 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.

The 2A Volleyball State Tournament

All-Tournament Team

First Team

Bella Gamache, 12, Monroe (unanimous)

Aly Herber, 12, Salem Academy (unanimous)

Lexi Fern, 11, Gaston

Tia Picknell, 12, Oakland

Hallee Hughes, 12, Willamina

Hensley Wachter, 12 Culver

Second Team

Emma Brewer, 9, Salem Academy

Sarah Thompson, 12, Monroe

Zuri Reeser, 12, Stanfield

Brooke Bush, 12, Culver

Kayden Leeann, 12, Culver

Sadie Snyder, 11, Oakridge

Sportsmanship Trophy: Culver

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