Culver hands Kennedy first TRC loss

by: Billy Gates/The Pioneer - The Culver volleyball team celebrates after a point during the Bulldogs’ 3-0 win against league-leading Kennedy on Wednesday night in Culver. With the win, Culver moved into a tie for first place with the Trojans in the Tri-River Conference at 10-1.

Championship caliber volleyball team know how to win matches, no matter what level.
   Whether they are operating at a high level execution wise, making every perfect play, or by simply out-working their opponent to the point of frustration, a team can achieve the same thing - success.
   For Culver, they were able to do all of that Wednesday in a straight-set victory against the Kennedy Trojans and hand the league rivals their first Tri-River Conference loss of the season.
   Set scores in the wild 3-set match were 25-23, 26-24, 25-23, and it was Culver's 10th straight win.
   The last time the Bulldogs lost? Sept. 18 to Kennedy in Mt. Angel.
   Culver was trailing in both the second and third sets, at times by as much as eight points, but whether it was a crazy amount of confidence in her team or just a funny feeling, Culver head coach Randi Viggiano knew her team wouldn't end those sets behind.
   "I just felt we would be able to come back and win," Viggiano said. "For our girls to come in here and simply refuse to lose, it says a lot our them. This was a huge win."
   Junior outside hitter Gabrielle Alley had seven kills and seven digs to help pace the Bulldogs, and she said the team's intensity is just at such a high level that few things can get in the way of the team performing well.
   "We never give up," she said. "No matter what the score is, even if we are losing by 10, after we score a point we come into the middle and cheer like we are winning by 10."
   The second set of the match, Kennedy was on track to win with three set points, but the Bulldogs fought as hard as they have all season to come back and snag the set.
   Freshman Lynze Schonneker served three consecutive points to bring Culver back within two, and when Kennedy tried to call a timeout to stop the rally, it just kept going.
   Senior middle blocker Cassie Fulton crushed a kill off an over pass by Kennedy to pull the Bulldogs within a point, then had a big solo block to tie the match.
   Sophomore outside hitter Shealene Little smashed one of her 19 kills from the left pin, then Kennedy recorded an attacking error to end the set and help complete what seemed to be an improbable comeback by the Bulldogs.
   But, they weren't done.
   Leading 11-8 in what ended up being the final set, Culver surrendered the lead during Kennedy's 9-0 run behind great service and timely hitting, even though most of the points were scored out of system (not in pass, set, attack order).
   Alley crushed a kill to stop the Trojan flurry, then the Bulldogs started going to work on cutting down the lead.
   Fulton scored back-to-back kills, then Schonneker scored another point on a great serve to cut the deficit to 18-16.
   The combination of Kennedy hitting errors and the Bulldogs' adjustments eventually gave the home team the lead, after Alley's serve caused a bad pass, 20-19.
   Little smacked four more kills to end the set, and the match, and sent the Culver gym into a frenzy.
   Senior setter Jahnie Cleveland, who ended the match with 23 assists, said it was all about working hard.
   "The whole team came together tonight," she said. "We talked about just hustling and playing our hardest."
   The state tournament has been moved from Pacific University in Forest Grove to, essentially, Culver's backyard at Ridgeview High School in Redmond, it makes the team want to get there that much more, Cleveland said.
   "We want it bad," she said.
   Culver ended the Tri-River Conference season with a double dual in Halsey on Tuesday against Central Linn and Waldport, but those results weren't available by the Pioneer's press deadline.
   Culver will play in the. Corbett Tournament on Saturday, then await its playoff draw.
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