Culver flies past St. Paul to win McKenzie tournament

by: Bily Gates/The Pioneer - Culver’s Cassandra Fulton attempts to block an attack by Central Linn’s Sydney Belcastro during the Bulldogs’ 3-0 win in a Class 2A Tri-River Conference volleyball match Thursday night in Culver.

rday in Blue River, the Culver volleyball team plowed through the competition en route to the tournament championship, beating Class 1A power St. Paul, 3-1, in the finals.
   Set scores from the final were 25-21, 12-25, 25-18 and 25-17.
   Culver also beat a pair of Class 3A teams to earn a spot in the final. All matches before the final were best-of-three sets, rather than the standard best-of-five sets. The Bulldogs upended Glide, 25-20, 14-25, 15-10 and downed Reedsport, 25-18, 25-27, 15-10.
   Sophomore Shealene Little tallied 39 kills during the tournament and junior Gabrielle Alley notched 36 to lead the Bulldogs' attack.
   Both players were selected to the all-tournament team.
   Senior middle blocker Cassandra Fulton chipped in 21 kills while senior setter Jahnie Cleveland had 67 assists
   Bulldogs take down Cobras at home.
   After a bit of a sluggish start, Culver showed why they are still part of the elite Class 2A teams in a 25-22, 25-22, 25-14 beating of Central Linn on Thursday in Culver.
   In all three sets, Culver needed to come from behind to win, which was partly due to the scrappy Cobras that at times seemed to dig every attack the Bulldogs pounded at them.
   However, the Bulldogs were able to take advantage of Central Linn's mistakes and compound them by scoring in bunches each side-out.
   Once the Bulldogs dialed in their passing to get into system and score, three of their top hitters were able to reach double digits in kills.
   Alley led the way with a great all-around night - 15 kills, seven digs and four service aces - including six kills in the second set when Culver was behind. Little had 12 kills, her last one coming in grand fashion to punctuate a 13-1 Culver run in the final set, and Fulton chipped in 10.
   Culver's issue in the first two sets, head coach Randi Viggiano said, was simply just not moving the ball around enough to keep the Cobras guessing. Central Linn libero, junior Hana Conner, had what seemed like a radar-lock on wherever the Bulldogs were hitting.
   "She's second to none in this league, in my mind," Viggiano said of Conner. "We had to take points one at time, and once we moved the ball around to get into our offense, we started to get going."
   That wasn't any more apparent than at the 10-10 mark in the third set. Everything started to flow for the Bulldogs, and all of a sudden, they went on a 13-1 run to turn the set on its head and eventually end the match.
   "I think the girls were just tired of the match being close," Viggiano said. "That's one thing about my team - when they turn it on, they turn it on.
   We were able to get some swings on some balls that weren't the prettiest, but people were flying around and getting to balls."
   Fulton served the entire run for the Bulldogs with a variety of different floating, top-spin and well-placed serves that kept the Cobras from setting up much of an offense.
   Alley and Little essentially took the third set over. Little made the score 16-11 with one of her most crowd-pleasing kills of the night, a cross-court rocket that landed just beyond the 10-foot line and rolled down the stairs toward the locker rooms.
   Alley followed it up four points later with a nice back-row kill for her 15th of the night, and the Bulldogs put it on cruise control the rest of the way.
   With the win, the Bulldogs moved to 5-1 in the Tri-River Conference. On Tuesday, they lost to undefeated Kennedy in three sets. Both Culver and Kennedy look to be the top teams in the conference, and quite possibly in Class 2A, this season.
   Cleveland dished out 25 assists while freshman Lynze Schonneker had five digs.
   Culver will get back into Tri-River Conference play at 6 p.m. Thursday against Regis in Stayton. They won't be back at home until an Oct. 4 match with Western Mennonite.
   In the meantime, the Bulldogs sit in second place of the Class 2A RPI, the ratings system used to determine opening-round playoff matches and tournament seeding.
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