Culver’s road ends at regional

CULVER — Scrappy defensive play and teamwork earned Culver its first sectional crown in 14 years Saturday.
The Lady Cavaliers put in another scrappy performance at Tuesday’s regional with Fort Wayne Blackhawk, but the home team still fell in three games to the visiting Braves, 25-23, 25-19, 25-14, at the Class A Culver Community Volleyball Regional.
Blackhawk improves to 17-19 and moves on to play Frontier at the Caston Semistate Saturday.
“This is the first time in school history that Blackhawk has won, so it’s a pretty big deal for us,” said Blackhawk Head Volleyball Coach Sarah Ernst. “I’ve got a young team, but they’ve worked really hard, and all the glory goes to God.”
The first game was nip-tuck early before a 7-0 run by Blackhawk put the Cavs down by two at 15-17. Culver regrouped but was held off, 25-23, and the Braves grabbed the momentum heading into game 2.
They maintained that momentum with a 6-1 run at the start of the second set, and again Culver collected itself a little too late to fall behind by two games, 25-19. With a two-set lead and the match momentum firmly in its corner, Blackhawk’s offense starting clicking in the final set to put the hosts away 25-14.
“I thought Culver did a great job as far as making us get the kill and continuing the ball and just getting it over the net and just really making great plays,” said Ernst. “It was a great crowd tonight, and I think it maybe took us out of our system a little bit. It took awhile for us to really get clicking, probably because of Culver’s defense.”
As in its sectional run, Culver’s defense made most of the right moves Tuesday, but the team’s offense never really got going as the Cavs used tips and dumps to collect their points rather than hard spiking.
“That’s kind of what happened with us on Saturday; we got down in a couple games and we fought our way back,” said Culver coach Amanda Minix. “We did the same thing tonight, but obviously not on the good side of it. What hurt us is we didn’t get up and hit the ball like we had on Saturday. Saturday, our hitters were getting up and hitting.
“Like I told them in the huddle, yeah it’s good that we can see the open court, try to get them off-balance, but kill-wise we didn’t have that many kills because we weren’t getting up and actually hitting the ball and really making them move on our hits.”
Culver closes out the season at 10-19 and bids good-bye to a trio of seniors in Aspen Kitchell — who led the team in kills and assists Tuesday with nine and seven, respectively — and Samantha Howard — who finished with three kills and two aces — as well as sub Gabby Jurado.
“Aspen, she’s been a four-year varsity letterwinner. She’s going to be missed. She knows the game; she’s played different camps and that type of thing all over the place. A great leader,” said Minix. “Kalee Miller, she did soccer her freshman year and came back and decided she wanted to do volleyball. I put her in as a setter; she was a setter in middle school. She’s not a vocal leader, she’s more of an action leader.”
“Gabby Jurado, she was a JV player last year,” continued the Culver boss. “Not a lot of varsity time this year. She knew what her role was this year. I told her ‘You’re going to be in the back row; you’re going to do some passing.’ If somebody’s having an off night she will be missed. In practice she encouraged the girls and once she got out on the floor she did what she needed to do.”
While Tuesday’s regional loss will no doubt sting for awhile, the Lady Cavs can still look back proudly at the 2011 season.
After a tough start, the young team came on strong at the finish. Culver’s trademark defensive hustle earned it a pair of five-set wins in the final week of the regular season heading into sectional before claiming tournament wins over Northern State Conference foe Triton — which had already handled Culver twice during regular-season play — and defending sectional champ South Central (Union Mills) in two more five-set victories at Saturday’s Culver Community Sectional to deliver the program its first sectional championship since Minix was a senior in 1996.
“We were on a high, of course, on Saturday,” said Minix. “First time since ‘96. We had a pep rally today, and one of my girls spoke, a senior Aspen Kitchell, and the last time we won was when I was a senior and one of our past teachers who’s now passed away was the coach then. We’re going to get up on the wall. That was the big thing — we’re going to get our picture up on the wall just like basketball has and that type of thing. It’s going to sting for awhile. Yeah, they’re upset that they didn’t go out on a higher performance.”
• FORT WAYNE BLACKHAWK 3, CULVER COMMUNITY 0 (25-23, 25-19, 25-14)
At Class A
Culver Community Regional
Culver stats
Kills: Aspen Kitchell 9, Samantha Howard 3
Aces: Clare Hartman 2, Samantha Howard 2
Assists: Kitchell 7
Digs: Ali Overmyer 10, Alex Baker 8
Record: Culver 10-19 (final)