5 Lady Dawgs Volleyballers sign to play collegiately

By TJ MAXWELL
Cove Leader-Press

An historic season for the Copperas Cove Lady Dawgs’ volleyball program led to an historic day for five seniors as they celebrated signing to play volleyball collegiately during a ceremony at Copperas Cove’s Lea Ledger Auditorium on Wednesday.  
Seniors Aviyon Wilborn (Howard Payne University), Christina Pettigrew (Northeastern College in Colorado), Aidan Chace (Angelo State University), Jada Close (Oklahoma Christian University) and Kamryn Ash (Schreiner University) will continue their careers at the next level. 
“Isn’t it impressive to have five seniors signing to go play college volleyball,” said Copperas Cove head volleyball coach Cari Lowery. “It’s very impressive. 
“This group of five girls have contributed to 41 wins this year and 111 varsity wins in their three years as varsity players. They have been a true team in every sense of the word. They’ve been driven and dedicated. They’re here every time the gym’s open, they’re on the sand court when the gym’s not open or they’re calling me to open the gym. They’ve been dedicated, focused, loyal, unselfish and just so much fun to coach. This has been one of my favorite groups and I have been coaching for 25 years.”
They may not have been born to the same parents, but they are definitely family.
“I’m actually very nervous about (playing without her former teammates) and I’m going to miss them a lot,” said Chace. “I’ve been playing with a lot of these girls since junior high. We went through high school together and now we are about to part ways. 
“We are always going to be family. It’s going to be a big adjustment, but I think it’s good for us.”
Sharing this moment with her teammates was also huge for Wilborn.
 “It means so much to be with all of them,” she said. “It’s just sad how we’re all going our separate ways. I just had four great seasons with them and I’m going to miss it.”
Pettigrew is ending a short chapter of her life but embarking on all new ones. Involved in volleyball for just four years, the senior is heading off to college as the first in her family to do so.
“It’s a great feeling to be the first in my family to go to college” she said. “It’s a little nerve-wracking and overwhelming but it’s an amazing feeling.
“It’s not really so much scary but just really new. I’m more excited than scared.”
Ash knows this day wouldn’t have been possible without her team behind her and is honored to share the moment with them.
“I couldn’t have done this without them,” she said. “I’m really proud of them and can’t wait to see what they do.”
For Close, the coaching stands out.
“(The coaches) have prepared me for the next level,” she said. “If you look around and see other teams, you’ll see that they’re not as advanced, so I feel like college will be the same thing with longer days and longer nights.”
Chace will be attending Division II Angelo State University in San Angelo.
“It’s a really great feeling knowing that I’m about to move on and just continue my journey,” said Chace.
Chace also credits Lowery and her staff for setting her up for success.
“Coach Lowery has been a huge part of my future,” she said. “She has definitely paved it for me. I’ve known her since I was a little kid. I was sitting on the bench when my sister played varsity. She helped my get into club volleyball when I was just nine years old and that’s what started it.”
Her well-rounded skill-set attracted the Angelo staff.
“I think it’s how versatile I am,” she said. “Being able to do defense, setting or hitting, I think that’s what drew them to me. The coach said he liked that I had that fight in me, that aggressiveness and being able to do more than one thing.”
Close will be attending the rebooted Division II program Oklahoma Christian University.
“It’s exciting,” she said. “It has opened our eyes that we are about to go off to college and be an adult. It’s scary, but I’m ready for it.”
It took just one visit for her to know her new home.
“The coach was really nice and texted me all the time,” she said. He kept up with me and told me if I took one visit to our college, I was going to love it and I did. It is a beautiful campus and it’s right next to Oklahoma City.”
Ash will play for Division III Schreiner University.
“It feels unbelievable,” she said. “I can’t believe I’m taking the next step to the collegiate level.”
Leadership ability and quickness attracted the Schreiner staff.
“They like how fast I run the offense, they like how I am as a captain, how I can talk to my team and they really like my hands,” said Ash.
Ash is excited about the volleyball program but also excited about the academic program.
“They have a good Kinesiology program and that’s also why I chose it,” she said. “I’m really glad that I’m going there. I feel really good about my choice.”
Pettigrew is just ready to take on some more firsts. Her trip to Colorado was her first time out of Texas and first time on a plane to go with her being the first to go to college.
“It feels amazing,” she said. “Knowing that all the work I put in, I can put that into college. The team is great, and the coach reminded me a lot of coach Lowery and I liked that too. 
“Colorado is a lot different from Texas. The people were very warm and it’s very comfortable there. It wasn’t too big of a change.”
After playing volleyball for just four years, Pettigrew wasn’t sure this day would ever come and she credits Coach Lowery for her strides.
“I’m glad that she pushed us the way she did so it would prepare us,” said Pettigrew. “I’ll always remember all the things she has told me. She will always be in my ear and I’ll always have her.”
Wilborn, who will play for Division III Howard Payne University, echoed those sentiments.
“I never thought that I would get this far honestly,” said Wilborn. “Coach Lowery really helped me. She saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself.
“This moment is just amazing. I’m just very humbled to be able to play at the collegiate level.”
Her quickness and volleyball I.Q. attracted the Howard Payne staff.
“The coach said she liked my quick feet and how I can read the ball, she said. “She said you can’t teach that, it just comes naturally.” 
Just like the rest of the signees, the feeling of home drew her to her respective college.
“When I got there, it was the atmosphere, the team and the coaches. It just felt like home.”

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