BACK WITH A BANG
Fri, 2016-11-04 05:00 News Staff
Cove sophomore returns from injury with 17 kills to lead Cove to playoff victory over Desoto
By TJ MAXWELL
WACO – Copperas Cove head volleyball coach Cari Lowery received good news heading into Monday’s playoff game against Desoto in the bi-district round of the 2016 UIL Region I-6A State Volleyball Championships.
Cove’s leading hitter, Aidan Chace, had been sidelined with a knee injury down the stretch of district forcing Lowery to revamp much of the rotation. The sensational sophomore returned to the court with a vengeance, registering a game-high 17 kills in her playoff debut to spark the Lady Dawgs to a 3-1 (25-22, 25-16, 16-25, 26-24) playoff victory over the Lady Eagles.
“That wasn’t the plan,” said Lowery. “My plan was to play Aidan on three rotations but I asked her, ‘can you do it?’ She said, ‘okay,’ so we did it. She did not go through all six rotations until tonight. I was planning on just putting her in on the front row and not having her set.”
It was a clear lift for the Lady Dawgs to have their best hitter back on the court as the entire team and Cove crowd erupted when she peppered two big kills down to sandwich another kill by senior teammate Zari Chipman for a quick 3-0 lead that seemed to electrify the Lady Dawgs.
“When I got in there and got my first kill, everyone was just happy,” said Chace. “It felt great and it was definitely a lift.”
Chipman felt that lift as well and feels it helped earn the team win.
“It was amazing,” said Chipman. “We really needed Aidan. We need everybody, but we needed Aidan because she’s the heart of the team and makes a big impact. She helps a lot with the kills and our momentum.
“It was a rush. I’m just glad we pulled through. I’m so proud of my team. We played as a team and we won. I’m happy we are bi-district champions now and we can only go farther from here.”
Chipman had a career game with 10 total blocks to lead the team and seven timely kills to help tilt momentum in Cove’s favor.
“She had a great game and I’m so proud of her,” said Lowery. “Zari is a practice player. She practices and looks great but second-guesses herself in the game. We have worked and talked about not second-guessing. You just have to go and believe. If you don’t believe it, I believe enough for all of us so go get it. She did it tonight. She made some big plays tonight.”
Taking into account the adjustment period of another new rotation, Lowry feels her team passed with flying colors.
“I’m proud of them,” she said. “To be so young and inexperienced, we could have folded our tent and went home a long time ago. We could have very easily not have even made the playoffs with the adversity we’ve had this year. It’s a testament to the kids and how hard they work, how much they believe in me and how much they believe in each other that they stayed focused, trusted me and trusted each other and just kept plugging away and that should pay off.”
They showed that resolved after dropping the third set and battling for their lives to hold Desoto off in the fourth set.
“We knew we wanted to be bi-district champs and we want to go really far,” said Chace. “So, we got that set in our mind and we did it. It feels great that I get to be a part of that because Cove has been getting in the playoffs for 10 years. Now it feels amazing experiencing it.”
“We hate losing as a team,” echoed Chipman. “When we lost that third match, we all stepped up and played better. Under pressure, we play together and that’s why we won. Everyone was doing her part – swinging, digging and we played smart.”
The Lady Dawgs (31-13, 10-2 in District 8-6A) came out firing with the renewed energy to take a 6-1 lead in the opening game with points from every aspect – kills, aces and blocks.
The Lady Eagles showed some grit of their own with an 18-8 run to take a 19-14 lead in the set. Blocks by senior Jazmyn Mitchell and junior Kaira Hunnicut, along with kills by Hunnicut and junior Jada Allen, paced the Desoto scoring.
Cove slowly began to creep back in the set. Kills by senior Chyanne Chapman, Chace and junior Talia Kinslow brought Cove back within two, 20-18. Cove then regained the lead on a dump shot by Chipman to tie the game and a resounding kill by Chace to take the 22-21 lead.
A back row kill by Chipman and a kill by freshman Leah Powell gave Cove game point and another Chipman kill ended the set.
Cove battled back from a four-point deficit early to force three ties before beginning to pull away with a 7-1 run that pushed Cove’s lead to 17-11. Directional shots by Chipman and Chace paced the run.
A brief charge by Desoto cut the gap to six, but a 5-2 Cove run closed the set, 25-16 and gave the Lady Dawgs a 2-0 lead in the match.
Senior Brianna Acker had a pair of kills while Chace added another and Chipman notched a block to lead the charge.
Four-consecutive Cove miscues helped Desoto lurch ahead to a 16-9 lead in the third game and the Lady Dawgs never were really able to get back in the error-filled set.
A pair of blocks by Chace and a kill by Acker delayed the inevitable until a block by Mitchell and a kill by Hunnicut closed the door, 25-16.
Cove built an early 9-3 lead in the fourth set with offense points from Chace, Powell, Chapman and Kinslow leading the way.
The Lady Eagles battled back with a 20-13 run to take a 23-22 lead and had game-point to notch the match at two games apiece but solid defense by Cove resulted in three consecutive miscues by Desoto to give Cove the 26-24 win in the set and 3-1 win in the match.
Acker had a second-best nine kills for Cove and Kinslow tied Chipman’s 7. The freshman Powell added six and Chapman had five. Setting up the offense was senior Kiarrah Carlisle with a game-high 34 assists and Chace added 13.
Chapman also added eight blocks and Kinslow had five for the front line defense while senior Madison Wasiak led the back row defense with 28 digs. Sophomore Aviyon Wilborn added 12 and Carlisle had 10. Wasiak also had two aces.
Hunnicut (12 kills), junior Jada Starling (10 kills) and senior Taylor Alexander (19 assists) led the Desoto offensive attack.
Allen and Hunnicut and six and five blocks, respectively to lead the Desoto front line While Alexander and junior D’Aira Crowe led the digs with 15 each.
The Lady Dawgs face off with Southlake Carroll, the no. 10-ranked team in the Texas Girls Coaches Association final regular season state volleyball poll.
The game is set for 6:30 p.m. tonight at West High School in West.
Junior Asjia O’Neal leads the Carroll Lady Dragons in kills with 454 and six other players have at least 120. O’Neal also leads the team in blocks with 115.
Sophomore Kendall Gilpin’s 377 digs paces the back row defense.
Senior Lisie Kitt (616) and sophomore McKenzie Nichols (414) lead the Lady Dragons’ ball handling.