Lady Bulldogs' upset loss to Heppner last Tuesday followed with convincing wins.

WILL DENNER/MADRAS PIONEER - Perhaps no one had a stronger response to last Tuesday's loss than junior Irma Retano, who proved to be equally valuable to Culver on offense and defense with 44 digs, 42 kills and 11 aces Saturday.
Randi Viggiano wanted her girls to remember the feeling of losing.

Before last Tuesday, the Bulldogs' volleyball team hadn't lost a league match in 57 tries, dating back to 2012 in their days playing as a member of the Tri-River Conference.

That was until a hungry Heppner team came to Culver last Tuesday and upset the Bulldogs 3-2 in a wild match full of momentum swings, on senior night, no less.

From her vantage point as head coach on the sideline, Viggiano saw a Heppner team that wanted to win more than Culver.

The loss might have been exactly what the Bulldogs needed.

Following the match, Viggiano said, "I want them to remember what they feel like right now, so that they don't have to feel like that again. When they walk back into this gym after our talk and they see the Heppner girls and fans smiling because they just upset (us) in (our) gym, I want them to remember that feeling ... when they show up at practice tomorrow, they better be ready to work."

It appears the Lady Bulldogs were plenty ready to move on.

Two days later, Culver marched into Weston-McEwen and beat the TigerScots 3-0 (25-15, 25-17, 25-19). Although Weston-McEwen has lost four of its last six, it remains a postseason threat, and its home atmosphere always has potential to rattle an opponent.

That win alone was reassurance that the Bulldogs had put the Heppner loss behind them. But on Saturday, at the North Marion Tournament, Culver took its play to another level.

The Bulldogs were originally scheduled to play in the Corbett Tournament the same day, but after it was canceled last minute, they were able to compete at North Marion against a host of 4A schools.

After completing three matches in pool play, Culver more than held its own in the following wins over Scappoose (18-25, 25-14, 15-10), Estacada (25-18, 25-18) and in the championship, Hidden Valley (24-26, 25-21, 15-12).

The championship match was a notable achievement for Culver, which played a Hidden Valley team that came into the game ranked No. 2 at the 4A level. And, the win came after the Bulldogs squandered a seven-point lead in the first set that Hidden Valley ultimately claimed. But, just like they did all week, the Bulldogs battled.

"They absolutely responded," Viggiano said of the matches following Tuesday. "Came out strong against Weston-McEwen — a tough place to play — and got it done in three. And (Saturday) was some of the best volleyball that I've seen them play. We only played 4A teams. To win against the No. 2 4A team overall was pretty impressive."

Irma Retano was equally important to the Bulldogs on offense and defense, as she racked up a team-high 44 digs, 42 kills, and also matched Margie Beeler with 11 aces.

"Irma offensively really came alive (Saturday) and hit better than she has all season," Viggiano said. "That makes a huge difference, when we have her as an offensive weapon, as well as her incredible defense."

Beeler assisted 133 Culver kills Saturday to go along with 25 digs, and libero Bridget Lopez had 38 digs and eight aces. Up front, Maddie Miller tallied 41 kills and Catylynn Duff had 38.

Culver will wrap up Columbia Basin Conference play this week on the road against Pilot Rock (Tuesday) and Stanfield (Thursday). Aside from winning, the Bulldogs' focus is consistency.

"That's still the piece we've got to work on — how do we do this consistently over and over again? How can we repeat it?" Viggiano said. "We have lots of room to improve, so that's what we'll be tackling in the next week as we prepare for the district tournament."

Contact Will Denner at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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