Cove downs No. 30 Midway to grab share of district lead
By TJ MAXWELL
Midway thought they could exploit the Copperas Cove defense on Friday night like they did in their first matchup on the Pantherette’s floor back in September. Head coach Cari Lowery and her Lady Dawgs’ volleyball squad knew better.
The Lady Dawgs (30-10, 8-1 in District 12-6A) had one of their best defensive showings of the year when they needed it most as they outlasted the Pantherettes (31-7, 9-1 in District 12-6A) in five sets (15-25, 26-24, 25-23, 18-25, 15-13) to grab a share of the district lead.
“I’m really proud of our defense all the way around – front row and back row,” said Lowery during a phone interview on Saturday. “We had had some big terminating blocks on the front row and we had some game-changing digs off the back row. We served aggressively and smart. We only missed one serve all night. It was just solid, consistent play – no giant ups or downs. We were just plugging away and focused on what we needed to do.”
It looked like Midway may again run away with the contest when they overcame an early Cove lead and went on a 15-5 run to end the first set with a 25-15 win.
The Lady Dawgs would then win three of the next four sets to secure the match and a spot atop the district standings.
Junior Chyanne Chapman exerted her dominance at the net, notching eight solo blocks to lead the Lady Dawgs, including a big block to knot the second set at 15-all that seemed to take some steam off of the potent Midway attack.
“It’s really exciting to see Chyanne coming into her own because she’s got so much potential,” said Lowery. “She’s coachable, a great kid and she still has so much more that she can show.”
Chapman was motivated pregame by a little bulletin board material courtesy of coach Lowery.
“The Midway coach said after the last game that their goal was to pick on our inexperienced middle blockers,” said Lowery. “So, I always like to share that with our ‘inexperienced middle blockers.’ I felt like Chyanne and Megan (Diaz) really made some game-changing blocks and attacks at the net and really shut them down.
“You could hear the Midway girls talking to and yelling at their coach, ‘we don’t know where to go. There’s a block everywhere we go and we try to get around the block, they’re digging it. What do we do?’ The kids heard that and it gave them some confidence.”
The Lady Dawgs had five strong kills and a dump down the stretch to hold off the Pantherettes 26-24 to even the match at 1-1. Kills by Chapman and senior Raeven Dickerson broke a 24-all tie to secure the set.
The Lady Dawgs built on that momentum in the third set, jumping out to an 8-1 lead to begin the third-set action. A pair of solo block by Dickerson, her only blocks of the game, along with kills by seniors Megan Diaz and Jennifer Eubanks aided in the run.
Another powerful block by Chapman halted three-straight Midway points and propelled the Lady Dawgs to a 6-1 run to take a 14-5 lead. Cove miscues and well executed offense by Midway allowed the Pantherettes to pull within one, 22-21, but a kill by senior Katy Ranes gave the Lady Dawgs a two-point edge and a hitting error by Midway’s Emery Judkins gave the Lady Dawgs game-point at 24-21.
Kills by Midway heavy-hitters Allye Beth Deaton and Samantha Sanders cut the lead back to one before a hitting error by Midway ended the set and put Cove up 2-1 in the match.
The Lady Panthers fought back to tie the match with a 25-18 win in the fourth set but the Lady Dawgs came up big in the deciding set with a 15-13 victory.
“It was very exciting,” said Lowery. “I’m really proud of the girls. They stayed very focused, confident and level for the whole game and fought hard. They deserved that win. They knew we didn’t play well when we played at Midway. I think they really felt like we worked hard enough and knew what Midway was going to do and we were ready.”
Chapman added a second-best nine kills to her game-high eight emphatic termination blocks. Eubanks led the kills category for Cove with 12. Dickerson and junior Brianna Acker followed with six apiece and Diaz had five timely and powerful kills.
Diaz and Acker also produced five termination blocks apiece to go with Chapman’s eight.
Five Lady Dawgs notched double-digit digs in the contest for the Lady Dawgs’ back row. Senior Bailey French led the way with 35 followed by junior Madison Wasiak (28), Eubanks (21), junior Kiarrah Carlisle (16) and Ranes (11).
Ranes also led in assists with 23, followed by Carlisle (19).
The Lady Dawgs are peaking at the right time with the playoffs just around the corner.
“That’s the goal,” said Lowery. “It doesn’t always work out that way but that’s the goal.”
Lowery still sees room for growth, though.
“I don’t think we’ve peaked yet,” she said on Saturday. “I still think we have some growth that we can accomplish as we progress in the next few weeks, but they are all getting their confidence and I hope that’s what happened for us last night. Hopefully we gained a little confidence that will carry us into the playoffs. Midway has three 6-foot-1 players that have already committed Division I. That took work last night and I was really proud of the kids.”
The Lady Dawgs need to maintain their focus with a potential trap game coming tonight against a desperate Killeen Lady Roos’ squad. The program-defining win will mean nothing if they don’t hold serve in their last three games against Killeen at home tonight and Heights and Belton on the road.
“We had practice this morning and that’s the first thing I said,” said Lowery. “I told them, ‘enjoy this win over the weekend, but it doesn’t mean anything if we don’t take care of the next three games. With Killeen, beating Ellison, they’ve got us and Midway left. Killeen really needs to knock either us, or Midway, out to have a playoff spot so this is a big game. We have to stay focused on what the ultimate goal is. One win is not the state championship and doesn’t mean anything if you don’t take care of the wins that come after.”