REDMOND — Simply put, Randi Viggiano said, a Class 2A volleyball state championship just was not in the cards for Culver on Saturday night at Ridgeview High.
Grant Union, the No. 2 seed, served accurately and took No. 1 Culver out of its offense, the Bulldogs coach said. And even with Culver winning the second set to even the state final 1-1, Grant Union seized momentum in the third game and held off the Bulldogs for a 25-23, 22-25, 25-17, 25-20 win to claim the program’s second-ever state championship.
“We knew they were a great team,” Viggiano said of Grant Union, which Culver defeated in five sets earlier this season. “We both didn’t play our best match when we played each other in early September. … I definitely feel we are the two best teams in the state. But tonight, it just was not mean to be. But we’re holding our heads up high.”
Making its second appearance in the state final in three years, Culver could not find a rhythm in serve-receive, and that proved key to the Prospectors’ victory.
“They served us out of our offense,” Viggiano said. “They served us tough, and our serve-receive didn’t match up. Unfortunately we had to give them a lot of free balls, and when you have an offense like Grant Union’s, you can’t give them a lot of free balls and get away with it.”
Neither team led by more than three points in the opening set, and Grant Union held a 21-18 edge before Culver stormed back to grab a brief 22-21 lead. The Prospectors, however, responded with three straight points to lead 24-22 and closed out the opening-game win with a kill by Sydney Brockway.
The Bulldogs evened the match with a second-set win as Culver used a four-point surge to build an 8-4 lead. The advantage swelled to 20-11 before Grant Union used a 9-1 run to get back to within 21-20. The Bulldogs pulled away, however, to secure the 25-23 win.
From there, Grant Union held off the Bulldogs with gritty victories in the third and fourth sets, sealing the program’s first state title since 1989.
Catylynn Duff finished with 13 kills to pace Culver, while Claire Bender totaled 10 kills. Irma Retano added nine kills and 22 digs, Maddie Miller had nine kills and five digs, and Margie Beeler recorded 37 assists and 18 digs.
“Of course they’re upset and disappointed,” Viggiano said of her players. “But at the same time, they all just talked about how proud they were. That was the message: We’re unbelievably proud of this team. One loss does not definte our season.”