Culver to take on TRC foe Kennedy in opener

by: Billy Gates/The Pioneer - Culver’s Gabrielle Alley watches her attack sail by a pair of Portland Christian blockers during the Bulldogs’ four-set win against the Royals in the Class 2A OSAA first round playoffs Saturday in Culver. Alley had a team-high 19 kills.

After Portland Christian's Stacy Kozlowski knocked down a service ace to tie the fourth set at 15-15, Culver junior outside hitter Gabrielle Alley had enough.
   Rather than do nothing about it, Alley swatted five consecutive kills and led the Bulldogs back to the Class 2A final site with a 3-1 win against the Royals in the OSAA volleyball first round on Saturday in Culver.
   Culver won the first two sets 25-16 and 25-21, but had a little hiccup in the third and dropped it, 25-17. With five of Alley's team-high 19 kills in the fourth set, the Bulldogs took charge and fought off a furious Royal rally to claim the fourth set - and match - 25-23.
   "Yeah, I got a little mad," Alley said, smiling. "If someone's hot, you have to feed them the ball, and that's how our team has done it all year long. If someone is having a little trouble, someone else can get it done."
   And it wasn't so much anyone was having an off night as it was Alley just crushing the ball in the set. Her kills were all frozen ropes through the Portland Christian block and hard enough the defenders didn't have a chance to react.
   With the score tied at 15-15, Alley ignited her team with five points in a row, and even nailed her last in the flurry after Portland Christian used a timeout to try to stop her momentum.
   But the Royals, champions of the Northwest League and obviously underseeded at No. 12 in the OSAA power ratings coming into the match, didn't go down without a fight.
   With Culver on four match points, leading 24-20, the Royals' big front line blocked sophomore Tri-River player of the year Shealene Little twice and took advantage of an error to climb within a point.
   But after a Culver timeout, Little connected on her 16th kill of the night, and it proved to be the match-winner as it hit the floor and sent the Culver gym into a frenzy.
   Before the fourth set, however, Portland Christian really had its way in the third. They opened up a 21-11 lead and cruised to claim the team's first set behind the strong arm of Kozlowski.
   Following the somewhat lackluster set for the Bulldogs, head coach Randi Viggiano said the talk in the huddle between sets was short and to the point.
   "We had to play like the match wasn't over," she said. "That was basically the talk. We won the first two sets pretty easily and we got back on our heels a little bit."
   The Royals finished second at last year's state 2A tournament and "came to play," Viggiano said.
   "We played a really good team. Hats off to them," Viggiano said. "But it prepared us better for the tournament, playing against a big block and scrappy defensive team."
   In the second set, Portland Christian held a 9-7 lead, but the Bulldogs quickly turned it around and staked claim to a 17-12 lead after Cassie Fulton stuffed a Kozlowski attack.
   Alley registered the set's final kill after Portland Christian picked up a pair of points on Culver hitting errors.
   The first set was a tight contest, tied 15-15 until Alley's tip kill put the Bulldogs up a point and sparked a 9-1 rally to finish it.
   Fulton had a solo block to make the score 23-16, then the set ended on a Portland Christian net violation.
   The Royals played stellar defense against the hard-hitting Bulldogs and did everything they could to try to slow them down, but in the end, Culver just had too much firepower with Little and Alley on the outside and Fulton in the middle.
   "We feed our monsters as much as we can," Viggiano said. "They do a really good job at working around the block. It's about finding rhythm and we made an adjustment to find it."
   With one of the team's goals accomplished, earning a return trip to the final site, Viggiano said there won't be a new approach to practice throughout the week.
   "We just have to keep getting better," Viggiano said. "We need to continue to create competition in practice and get ready for what is yet to come."
   Culver will take on Kennedy in the Class 2A quarterfd.inals at 1:15 p.m. Friday at Ridgeview High School in Redmon
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