By Brian Liebenstein
>Goicoa named 2nd team all-tourney
A loss in a Saturday match couldn't curb the satisfaction Culver High volleyball coach Dave Hassler was feeling.
That was because the less stylish close than hoped for was part of a storybook finish to its season fashioned by Culver at the Oregon 2A U.S. Bank - Oregon School Activities Association state tournament.
Santiam Christian's 15-7, 15-9 win in the fourth-place match did not diminish the satisfaction Hassler had. Earning the seventh-place trophy at the three-day tournament was quite an accomplishment itself, in the coach's eyes.
"I can't say how proud of these girls I am. I could say it about a dozen more times," Hassler said.
He recalled one of the first things he talked about with the team being turned into a prophecy by the girls. "We told the girls that if they worked hard they had the potential to be playing on the last day of the season," said Hassler. "What more can I say than 'mission accomplished.'"
But reaching the fourth-place match was looking rather like mission improbable for the Bulldogs in the middle of Friday afternoon.
That was because -- despite beating Warrenton 15- Thursday night match as part of the opening round and then owning a lead against a Monroe team which went on to finish second in the tournament -- Culver landed in the same part of the bracket as defending champion Amity.
"Friday night was huge. We beat the two-time defending state champions," Hassler said in reviewing the match in which Culver eliminated Amity. After a 15-12 win and 4-15 loss, Culver won its third game against Amity 15-7.
Its season-closing match against Santiam Christian was not one of Culver's better matches, Hassler said.
Yet, Culver started strongly against Santiam Christian. It ran to a 5-0 lead which prompted a time out by Santiam Christian coach Kim McLain who said her team stuck with the same rotation it used throughout the match.
While picking up one point on its serve, Santiam Christian fell behind 6-1 when senior Tara Stirewalt served up an ace. But the Eagles got back the next Stirewalt serve and earned a side out by ending the rally on a kill. While getting back the serve four or five more times in the game, Culver never added another point.
Ashleigh Young, a 6-1 senior who was complemented by 6-1 sophomore Alesha Deesing among Santiam Christian's hitters and blockers, thundered a shot through a lane in the Culver defense which appeared to accelerate the Eagles' comeback.
While Culver still led 7-4 at the time of Youngs' blast, a series of more hits and blocks pulled Santiam Christian into a 7-7 tie and then a 9-7 lead in mere minutes on Saturday.
Its serving percentage and passing, as well as its hitting and blocking, on Saturday failed to rival the Friday night performance for Culver, Hassler said.
Culver took a time out after Santiam Christian soared into a 9-7 lead but it couldn't curb the Eagles' momentum. By the final couple points Hassler was putting in substitutes to try to interrupt the Santiam Christian momentum somehow.
The Eagles continued their momentum in the second game of their sweep of the Bulldogs by taking 2-0 and 5-1 leads. A couple of long hits on Culver attacks and a call against one of the Bulldogs on a serve by Young boosted the Eagles' lead to 8-2 before Amanda Allen hit a shot from one side of the court to the other which brought Culver back to within five.
Eventually, Culver trimmed the Santiam Christian advantage in the second game to 8-10, despite a time out being called when Culver made it 6-10.
Elizabeth Tarver, Kim Bruner and Holly Woods each made strong contributions as seniors for Santiam Christian but Young was the one Eagle earning all-tournament mention.
Lanisha Goicoa, tallest of Culver's hitters at 5-11, earned a second-team all-tournament accolade.
Hassler compared Santiam Christian to a sleeping giant after the Saturday match at Western Oregon University in Monmouth, where the entire tournament took place. Coincidentally, Santiam Christian was the second seed from the West Valley league, which was won by Amity.
Having Young and Deesing's 6-1 heights added to by sophomore Laura Hathaway at 6-0, freshman Addi Radke at 5-11 and Woods at 5-10 provided ammunition for the "giant" label Hassler pinned on the Eagles.
Culver's struggles Saturday virtually reversed the showing it turned in during its late Friday match against Amity, said Hassler.
Not only did Goicoa have 10 kills against Amity, but Amanda Allen turned in seven. There were solid defensive games turned in by many Bulldogs too. Kristy Allen added nine digs to the 13 by Goicoa and 11 for Amanda Allen. Kirsty Allen also tallied six aces among 15 serves which she got into play while making only two mistakes.
Marissa Hagman was also complimented by Hassler for her contributions to the Bulldogs' seventh-place finish. She made six assists against Santiam Christian and even more in the three earlier matches.
A couple of blocks by Amanda Allen also helped against Amity, Hassler noted.
Getting swept by a Monroe team which was the top seed from the Trico league wound up not demoralizing Culver. There were even chances at victory for the Bulldogs in that match, noted Hassler.
Just getting to play on the final day, by virtue of beating Amity, was a positive for Culver, Hassler noted. The school had not appeared in a state volleyball tournament since 1985.
With five of the six starters placed on the court by Hassler in the majority of its matches this season, Culver creates a challenge for the rest of the Columbia Basin Conference when it comes to preventing a title defense by the Bulldogs.