Oregon-Davis holds off Culver rally, advances to sectional volleyball semifinals
Pizur leads with 13 kills; Pearl, Overmyer, Darnell tops in digs; Sieber has 30 serves received
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
BOURBON –- The Culver volleyball team lost the first two games to Oregon-Davis in their Class 1A, Sectional 50 quarterfinal at Triton on Oct. 14.
The third game wasn’t going great either. Oregon-Davis led 19-15 when a Lady Bobcat tip seemed to crawl and then hang on the net for a minute like Simone Biles on a balance beam.
Caught in between playing the ball and letting it maybe fall out of bounds, Culver freshman Brynn Berndt decided to play it but couldn’t control it.
Oregon-Davis led 20-15.
And instead of Culver deciding it wasn’t their night, they won the next seven points. And they won the game. And then they won Game 4.
And then they led 10-6 in Game 5. Culver got within two points of a win at 13-12.
But it was Oregon-Davis who pulled out the two-hour-plus marathon 25-15, 25-13, 22-25, 21-25, 15-13 to advance to the semifinals.
“I think it’s been kind of the story of the season,” Culver coach Andrea Berndt said. “The errors build up, and we let errors continue to build up, and we can’t see the other side of it. The girls fought hard in the third, fourth and fifth games, but the errors build up, and I don’t think they can see the other side of it. I think they get nervous in crunch time.”
Oregon-Davis improved to 8-15 and will play Argos, who received a bye, in the semifinals at noon Saturday.
Senior Alina Pizur had 13 kills for Culver, who doubled their win total from 2020, finished 10-18. Berndt had five kills, 13 assists, eight digs and two blocks. Maegan Pearl, Luci Overmyer and libero Taylor Darnell had 10 digs apiece. Grace Sieber had 30 serves received.
Culver has not won a sectional match since beating LaCrosse in five sets in 2015. (They advanced in the bracket in 2020 because Oregon-Davis had to withdraw due to COVID concerns, but Culver has not won a sectional match on the court since 2015.)
Culver scored four straight points in Game 5 after it was tied 6-6. Alina Pizur had a kill, and Maegan Pearl followed with two aces and a service winner.
Oregon-Davis coach Jessi Danford called timeout, and the Lady Bobcats went on a 6-1 run and took a 12-11 lead when Culver’s Chloee Danti was called for a line violation.
An Avery Garland kill got it back to 12-12. Berndt, who led the team in assists with 13 and was second with five kills, then had a kill, and Culver was two points away.
But a Katelyn Bryan kill for Oregon-Davis made it 13-13, and an Alexis Pitts service winner got it to match point.
Coach Berndt called her last timeout, but Oregon-Davis’ Breanna Moore won a joust at the net to end the match.
The match marked the final prep volleyball matches for Pizur and Sydney Denham. Pizur displayed an array of shots – hard-hitting attacks, roll shots and tips.
But when Culver made their rally, it was the freshmen – Brynn Berndt, Livi Overmyer and Ashley Pugh – who were getting more playing time.
“We’ve got a decent mix,” coach Berndt said. “I can’t say that we’re heavy upperclassmen, but I also can’t say that we’re young. … We were just struggling in our first and second sets, so we tried to make some changes. They worked well, so the whole saying of if-it-aint-broke-don’t-fix-it, that’s what we went with.”
The 7-0 run in Game 3 started with a Garland kill. Luci Overmyer had an ace and two service winners. Danford called timeout at 20-20, but two Hailey Simon kill errors gave Culver a 22-20 lead.
The biggest point of the game might have been with Culver leading 23-22. Livi Overmyer sprawled out to make a pass and then sprung to her feet for a kill on a give-and-go to get Culver to set point.
Darnell’s kill on a free ball that somehow landed on the other side of the net forced a fourth game.
Culver raced out to an 11-5 lead in Game 4 as Culver took advantage when 6-0 middle hitter Madilynn Hudspeth was either in the back row or on the bench.
Luci Overmyer had an ace off the net, Berndt had a kill off a well-executed slide play, and Berndt had a stuff block to make it 11-5.
“We had some big serves,” coach Berndt said of Luci Overmyer and Pearl. “Those were crunch times, and they’re both juniors, so they stepped up big time. They’re powerful, aggressive servers for us.”
Coach Berndt called timeout after a 4-0 Oregon-Davis run got the Lady Bobcats within 24-21, but Brynn Berndt went down the right sideline with a crisply struck attack that Oregon-Davis couldn’t control as it bounced off the back wall of the Trojan Trench.
The match was going five games.
And when Brynn Berndt started Game 5 with an ace, Moore missed on a kill try, and a Pizur tip led to the Lady Bobcats being called for a lift, Culver was off to a 3-0 start in the deciding game.
But there would be more momentum changes.
Oregon-Davis def. Culver, 25-15, 25-13, 22-25, 21-25, 15-13
Brynn Berndt – 5 kills, 13 assists, 3 serves received, 8 digs, 2 blocks; Alina Pizur – 13 kills, 8 serves received, 1 dig; Grace Sieber – 1 kill, 30 serves received, 6 digs; Maegan Pearl – 1 kill, 22 serves received, 10 digs; Avery Garland – 4 kills, 3 serves receuived; Luci Overmyer – 1 kill, 5 serves received, 10 digs; Ashley Pugh – 2 kills, 2 serves received, 4 digs; Chloee Danti – 10 assists, 1 dig; Livi Overmyer – 2 serves received, 2 digs, 1 block; Taylor Darnell – 12 serves received, 10 digs; Sydney Denham – 5 serves received, 3 digs
Alina Pizur Maegan Pearl Brynn Berndt