by: PHOTO BY LISA FIGUEROA/SMALL TOWN SPORTS NETWORK - Culver's Kaylee Aldrich lines up her serve while teammate Gabrielle Alley waits for action during the Bulldogs' 3-0 win against Kennedy on Thursday in Mount Angel. The Bulldogs are a perfect 12-0 in Tri-River Conference play. Bulldogs stay unbeaten, take out league rival Kennedy in straight sets

The Culver High School volleyball team continued its quest for a perfect Tri-River Conference record with four wins in the past week.

In a three-team meet on Saturday in Mill City, the Bulldogs easily took care of Toledo (25-5, 25-11, 25-4) and Waldport (25-9, 25-9, 25-8). Thursday, Culver took out league rival Kennedy in straight sets 25-23, 25-17, 25-14, and started the week at home Tuesday with a 25-8, 25-11, 25-8 win against Central Linn.

Thursday’s win against Kennedy was of particular importance to the Bulldogs since the Trojans are not only in second place in the TRC, but coach Randi Viggiano said Culver and Kennedy have developed a bit of a rivalry.

“We knew they (Kennedy) didn’t play the match they wanted to when we hosted them,” Viggiano said, “so we wanted to come out ready to play at their level.”

The Bulldogs were able to do that, plus a little extra, against an aggressive Kennedy team that “takes tons of swings,” Viggiano said.

Along with Kennedy’s aggression at the net, the atmosphere inside the gymnasium was similar to a state playoff match, and the environment was hostile.

“There were signs all over the gym saying things like ‘Crush Culver,’ and people were yelling at our players. We tried to play through the noise and not let the crowd rattle us, and we were able to do that.”

The match wasn’t without a little rough patch for the Bulldogs, however. After the Bulldogs jumped out to a 16-7 lead in the first set, Kennedy started to chip away at the nine-point lead and came back to make the set the closest of the match.

Viggiano said the team struggled with its defensive transitioning in the set, which allows the Trojans to mount the comeback, but the Bulldogs held them off just enough to get out of the first set with a win.

“The team came back to the huddle and sorted it all out after that,” Viggiano said. “I didn’t really have to say anything.”

Middle blockers Andrea Retano and Jenny Vega had an outstanding match, Viggiano said, even though their statistics didn’t exactly jump off the stat sheet.

“They made sure they were always in the right place to help defensively, and they covered the net well the entire night,” Viggiano said. “They had great touches and kills; they definitely made a huge impact on the match.”

Junior outside hitter Shealene Little continued her monster season with a match-high 20 kills for the Bulldogs. The team’s lone senior, Gabrielle Alley, had nine kills and seven digs. Sophomore setter Hannah Lewis recorded 32 assists, and Lynze Schonneker recorded four aces in the win.

In Saturday’s matches against Toledo and Waldport, Viggiano stressed that even when her squad goes up against an inferior team, they still have to play with the same intensity they play with against better teams.

“We need to play our game, no matter who the opponent is,” Viggiano said. “We want to respect the team we are playing, because they are expecting to get our best game. I thought Waldport and Toledo both played better than the first time we played them.

Against Toledo, Lewis notched 11 of the team’s 29 aces, and Little smacked 18 kills. Alley, Schonneker and Kaylee Aldrich had four aces each.

Against Waldport, Alley led the way with 14 kills, followed by Little’s 13. Lewis had 27 assists and Schonneker had six aces.

On Oct. 1, the Bulldogs took on Central Linn in Culver and rolled through the Cobras in straight sets. Little had a huge night for the Bulldogs with 20 kills, 13 digs and five aces. Alley followed with nine kills and 10 digs, while Lewis had 32 assists. Retano and Vega each chipped in a pair of kills each, as well.

The Bulldogs continued their Tri-River Conference schedule in Salem against Western Mennonite on Tuesday, but the result wasn’t available by the Pioneer’s press deadline. They play Thursday at Mill City against Santiam.

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