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Lady 'Dogs strained at state volleyball tournament

by: Photo By Christina M. Crockett - Culver senior Katelyn Alley goes for a kill during last Friday's Class 2A state volleyball tournament. The Lady Bulldogs lost consecutive games and were eliminated from advancing in the postseason.

The Lady Bulldogs struggled at the Class 2A state volleyball tournament in Forest Grove last Friday, as they dropped straight games against Myrtle Point, Cascade Christian and Union.
   Entering the state playoffs as the No. 2 team from the Columbia Basin Conference, Culver had a hard time staying focused, which according to head coach Wendy Thompson, was likely attributed to nerves.
   "We didn't play well and we are capable of playing so much better than that. Some of our girls seemed tentative and mentally we couldn't handle it," said Thompson. "We were shanking passes and I think it was the nerves, the idea that we were at state. I think the pressure of the state tournament got to the girls. Had we been playing our best game, we would have been a lot further in the tournament. I guess it was a case of wanting it too bad."
   The Bulldogs' closest game was against Myrtle Point, their first match of the day. While the Bobcats took an early 10-5 lead, Culver answered back by scoring to within one, to then steal the lead, 19-16. The Lady Bulldogs extended that lead to 24-19 before Myrtle Point rallied back and tied the game, 24-24. The Bobcats increased the intensity to score two more for a final 26-24 score in game one.
   "We came close to beating Myrtle Point and we weren't even playing our best game," said Coach Thompson.
   In game two against Myrtle Point, the Bobcats jumped to a fast 3-0 lead, but the Bulldogs answered back by tying six times throughout the game. After the two teams went back and forth in stealing the lead, the 'Cats overthrew Culver by taking an eight-point lead for a final score of 25-17.
   Against Myrtle Point, senior McWilliams led with five kills, three serves and three blocks, while junior Kyni Wofford had four kills and seven blocks. Senior middle blocker Katelyn Alley added three kills and eight blocks, while teammates Roni Montes and Kelsea Lang each had one service ace.
   According to Coach Thompson, the team's statistics showed a dramatic decline during the state tournament.
   "Just in service aces, in combining all games, we had six. That's how many we usually have in a single match," said Thompson. "I think part of it was coaching errors. We had some girls make more than few mistakes and I thought they would come out of it, but they didn't. I should have made more substitutions because I had a capable bench."
   In the second game against Cascade Christian, the Challengers took a fast lead on Culver and kept pulling away. As Cascade Christian extended the lead, they came out with a 25-14 victory over the Lady Bulldogs in game one. In game two, Culver attempted a comeback when they lit up the boards first, but the Challengers answered back by tying 2-2. After the Bulldogs tied 6-6, Cascade Christian rallied to pull away again and extend the lead and come out with a 25-16 win in game two.
   McWilliams nailed seven kills, while Alley had one and added four blocks. Lang contributed three kills, while Wofford added one and recorded two blocks. Sara Gangstead also had two blocks against Cascade Christian.
   Emphasizing the Bulldogs struggle, Coach Thompson noted that while Cascade Christian was picked in a coaches poll as the No. 1 team to win the state tournament, the Challengers didn't make it out of pool play.
   "Cascade Christian beat us the worst and they were picked as the No. 1 team to win state. I found it ironic since they didn't make it out of our pool play either," said Thompson.
   The Bulldogs went on to tie numerous times against Union in their third and final game of the evening, but couldn't hold up against the Bobcats, as Union stole the final lead after a 16-16 tie. In a quick game, Union defeated Culver, 25-21. In the second match against Union, the Bobcats dominated again and came out with a 25-14 win.
   McWilliams had one ace and five kills. Alley also contributed five kills and four blocks against Union, while Lang had two kills and Wofford had three. Wofford also added one block.
   Despite the loss, Coach Thompson praised the efforts of bench player Megan Marino, a junior, who Thompson said played well off the bench and made crucial passes throughout the tournament.
   "She didn't feel the pressure and she did a great job, I thought," noted Thompson.
   Thompson also praised junior Wofford, noting the middle blocker made the least amount of mistakes and hit and blocked the ball efficiently.
   The Culver volleyball team finished the year with a 9-3 CBC, 17-4 overall record.
   While Cascade Christian didn't advance out of pool play either, Myrtle Point made the semifinals but slipped to Regis. The Union Bobcats faced Weston McEwen in the championship game, but slipped to the Tigerscots and placed second in the tournament, while Weston McEwen, a Columbia Basin Conference team, was crowned the Class 2A volleyball champs.