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One down, three to go

by: BILLY GATES/THE PIONEER - Culver freshman middle blocker Jenny Vega stuffs an attack during the Bulldogs' straight-set win Saturday against Myrtle Point in the first round of the Class 2A state volleyball playoffs in Culver. With the win, Culver will play in the quarterfinals at 10 a.m. Friday against Oakridge. Culver pounds Myrtle Point in Class 2A volleyball first round


The Culver High School volleyball team looked like a team that should be playing in November on Saturday.

The Bulldogs marched to a resounding straight-set win against Myrtle Point in the first round of the Class 2A state playoffs in Culver.

Set scores were 25-10, 25-13, 25-20.

The manner in which the Bulldogs were able to dispatch the Bobcats was impressive, as they held leads in the first two sets by more than 10 points. The Bulldogs were in control of the match wire-to-wire, and that’s something head coach Randi Viggiano wanted to see heading into the state quarterfinals.

“Especially the first two sets, that was some of the best volleyball we’ve played all season,” Viggiano said. “We didn’t know a ton about them, so we just prepared to play our game and take care of the ball on our side of the court.”

In the third set, Culver faced a little bit more resistance from the Bobcats. Myrtle Point played well sporadically, but put together a game with a little more weight in what turned out to be the match’s final set.

by: BILLY GATES/THE PIONEER - Culver's Gabrielle Alley digs the ball during Saturday's first round playoff match against Myrtle Point. Culver won in straight sets.Culver tied the set at 14-14, fell behind a couple points, and after a Gabrielle Alley kill tied the set again at 16-16.

From that point, the Bulldogs took the lead and didn’t look back.

Freshman middle blocker Jenny Vega brought the crowd to its feet, and the Culver bench erupted in cheers, after she stuffed a Bobcat attacker with a two-handed block to give the Bulldogs match point at 24-20 in the third set.

Shealene Little, the Tri-River Conference player of the year, ended the match with a mighty swat from the left pin to end the match, and send the Bulldogs back to the quarterfinals for the third consecutive season.

“No matter who we play, we want to play our best volleyball,” Viggiano said. “We definitely accomplished that today.”

by: BILLY GATES/THE PIONEER - Culver sophomore Emma Hoke digs the ball during the Bulldogs' 2A first round playoff win Saturday against Myrtle Point.For a team to even have a shot at making return trips to the state tournament, it takes some players stepping up along the way. And there was no better example of that than the play of reserve defensive specialist Jazmin Ruiz.

Ruiz notched eight digs during the match, and most of them came at crucial times to extend rallies when Myrtle Point had the advantage after aggressive attacks at the net.

“She was phenomenol,” Viggiano said of Ruiz. “She had some great ups from the back, and saved a couple balls that probably would have been down otherwise.”

When Culver plays well, they are fundamentally sound and everyone knows what they are supposed to do. It sounds like a pretty simple thing to do, but it’s far from it. To do it with such precision and consistency is what all the great teams do, and Culver is one of them.

The Bulldogs jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the second set, and led by as much as 13 points before the set ended. Lynze Schonneker, who has emerged as the team’s No. 3 attacker and is a nice change of pace from Alley and Little, scored a pair of kills in the middle of the set.

She hit a nice cross-court kill to give the Bulldogs a 14-5 lead, and then smacked another one a couple points later to keep the Culver advantage at nine, 15-6.

Culver came out of the gate in the first set on fire, driving the score up to 19-7 after a Little kill.

Following one of the few times she was blocked by Myrtle Point, Little showcased her awareness and athleticism by quickly resetting to get into a hitting position, and then delivered an expertly placed tip shot that fell for a kill.

Even Hannah Lewis, the team’s setter, tallied a kill in the first set. She took a standing attack beyond the 10-foot line, the ball hit the tape of the net, and then rather casually fell straight down on the other side for a point.

Teammates met Lewis with big cheers, and all Lewis could do was laugh.

For the Bulldogs, Little led the way on offense with 23 kills, and was followed by Alley’s 12. Schonneker notched four kills for the Bulldogs.

Defensively, Little and Emma Hoke each had 11 digs, Alley had nine and Ruiz had eight. Lewis ended the match with 39 assists.

Culver will take on Oakridge, a 3-1 winner against Grant Union on Saturday in first-round action, in the 2A quarterfinals at 10 a.m. Friday at Ridgeview High School in Redmond.



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