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  • Val T.

‘We just weren’t consistent:’ Culver drops heartbreaker to Elkhart Christian in 5

BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS

Sports Editor, RTC

CULVER — A late summer and early fall of heartbreakers for the Culver volleyball team continued Tuesday.

Culver led 13-11 in the fifth set before Elkhart Christian came back to win the last four points and down the Lady Cavaliers 25-18, 16-25, 17-25, 25-21, 15-13.

Elkhart Christian improved to 14-13. Culver fell to 14-12. Four of the Lady Cavs’ losses have been in five sets. They also suffered conference defeats to Caston, Triton and North Judson in five.

“I think we're frustrated at this point in time,” Culver coach Andrea Berndt said. “That was a game I thought that we let go. All credit goes to ECA. They were ready to show up. They were ready to play. Our girls were ready to play, but we just weren’t consistent, and that’s been a story the whole year is consistency.

“They fought hard. I will give that to our girls. As a team, we fought hard. We did things well. It’s the moments we have the little brain farts that we can’t have.”

Culver trailed 10-9 in the fifth set before a two-handed tip in the deep corner from Grace Sieber on an out-of-system play and a long kill attempt from Kaelyn Thuku of Elkhart Christian gave Culver the lead.

Shaye Watson tied it with a kill, but Livi Overmyer knocked down an overpass and a back row boomer from Brynn Berndt put Culver back ahead 13-11.

Elkhart Christian used their final timeout. Meredith Gordon missed just long, and two kills from Watson, including a tough-angled tip from the opposite to the Culver front-left portion of the court gave Elkhart Christian a match point.

Culver coach Andrea Berndt called her final timeout on match point, but Lillian Holdeman’s kill on match point just inside the baseline ended it.

“I think the nerves got to us,” coach Berndt said. “We talked a lot about offensively, we need to stay in system, so we can get them out of system. I thought that was tough throughout the night. … When we could attack them, I felt like we had a much better chance of getting those points.”

Watson was the Lady Eagles wrecking ball, mashing 25 kills against Culver’s scrappy defense.

“She’s a very good player,” coach Berndt said. “She’s a smart player as well. She’s one that can read around the block. She’s one that can go over the block. They find her in the front row. They find her in the back row, She stepped up big for them.”

After losing the first set, Culver raced to a 12-3 lead in the second. Elkhart Christian got within 18-14, but Culver closed out the set on a 7-2 run as a great Ashley Pugh dig set up a Brynn Berndt kill. Livi Overmyer had an ace, Tyra King had a stuff block, and Brynn Berndt finished it with a back row kill.

In Set 3, Culver went on an 8-0 run to take a 17-10 lead with help from Ashley Pugh’s serving. Brynn Berndt also had two kills. Perhaps appropriately, Pugh finished the set with an ace.

“Ashley did a wonderful job serving,” coach Berndt said. “Like I said, I think anytime we can get an aggressive serve, some of the girls talk about top-spinning, and anytime we can top-spin, we can jump-serve, we can hit the zone to the seams that we want to, late in the game, very beneficial.”

Shortly thereafter was the match’s most bizarre point, in which Culver played a dig off the American flag above the basketball backboard and eventually won the point.

And that came in the same set in which Brynn Berndt hit an attack so hard that she knocked the antenna off the net and to the ground, which caused a brief delay.

Culver relies on four seniors in Avery Garland, Sieber, Willow Harrington and libero Shelby Olivarez. Berndt, Overmyer, Pugh and King head the junior crew, but Meredith Gordon has gotten increased playing time with her hitting presence from the opposite side.

“We over time have found out that that is a good spot for her to be on that right side, and that is a very awkward, tough position to be in for a right-handed girl,” coach Berndt said. “She’s coming into her own. And I think she likes it better over there. We like her over there. It gives us a great outside option.”


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