By TJ MAXWELL
Two more Lady Dawgs etched their names in the Texas volleyball record books with selections to the Texas Sports Writers Association All-State Team.
Junior Chyanne Chapman and senior Bailey French were the 12th and 13th Cove players to be selected to the 2015 TSWA All-State team since 2007.
“They both deserve it absolutely,” said Cove head volleyball coach Cari Lowery. “They both have improved dramatically in one season but for sure over their high school career so far. I couldn’t name two more deserving athletes than those two.”
Chapman was selected to the Second Team as a middle blocker. The junior notched 283 total blocks to lead the team with over half over them coming on solo rejections.
Only five other middle blockers were selected ahead of Chapman and nine total were named to the three teams with one more receiving Honorable Mention. Hannah Hickman of the Woodlands: Katie Clark of Arlington and Maggie O’Connell of Katy Seven Lakes were named to the First Team. Madison Rhoder of Fort Bend Austin and Holly Campbell of Westlake join Chapman on the Second Team.
“It’s amazing getting honored to be on the All-State team and being chosen to be among the six middle blockers is a real honor.”
Chapman bested her 2014 total of 244 blocks, despite having her role expanded to involve more hitting in 2015. Chapman also had a third-best 249 kills to add to her team-high blocks. She improved from a fifth-best 117 kills a year ago.
“It was pretty great,” Chapman about her expanded role in 2015. “Last year, I wanted to hit more. This year, I was put more into the game. Having the bigger role was really great. Being a blocker and a hitter really sets the tone for next year.”
Lowery is excited to see what the senior will do next year.
“Chyanne’s best is still to come and that’s exciting,” she said. “I want to see here walk out of the gym at the end of next season, hopefully at the end of November, as one of the best athletes and volleyball players that Copperas Cove has ever seen because she’s capable of doing it.”
Chapman is excited too and, like Lowery, has big goals for her senior year.
“Next year my goal is to make the All-State team again, get MVP and have us win district.”
It was a long time coming for French. With 2013 and 2014 TWSA All-State libero Lexi Perez setting the standard for liberos in the state and holding down the spot for the Lady Dawgs, French could just wait for opportunity and make the best of it when that time came.
She struggled to find her confidence early on and lost her libero position for a spell but hard work and dedication earned her the spot back and eventually led to her placing a Copperas Cove libero on the TWSA All-State team for the second-consecutive year.
“It’s really rewarding and I’m really excited to see my hard work pay off,” said French. “Throughout high school I knew I always wanted to be that varsity libero but there was always someone in front of me the year before. I just waited my turn, worked hard the whole time, watched whatever I could, asked questions and learned from them. I’ve been in a couple different defensive positions but I’ve always loved middle back and so that’s what I strived for.”
French rallied to lead the team defense and notched 706 digs to lead the squad and tied a team high with 60 aces.
“It feels amazing,” she said. “I didn’t expect to be here. I originally lacked confidence. This year, we work on he trusting (coach Lowery) and trusting myself. I was little rocky at the beginning because I didn’t have full confidence. I was like, ‘I’m not as good as Lexi (Perez).’ She had to remind me, “you’re filling shoes but you have to fill them in your own way. It’s really exciting to see I was able to do that.”
It was a tough road for French following two-time All-State selection Perez and school record-holder for single-season digs (1,020) but the senior found her footing to earn the Honorable Mention.
“Bailey stepped into a big role and set some goals for herself,” said Lowery. “It was a struggle early on and there were a few tears involved and banging heads against the wall or against each other. She fought for it and she wanted it. She’s the kind of kid that always does great for me. She’s a perfectionist. She’s like 14th in her class of over 500 and she’s a dual-sport varsity letter winner. I didn’t have to instill in her that desire to be great, she already wanted to be great. I just had to channel it and focus it in the right direction and get her to trust that, if she trusted me, it would happen.
“Now, it’s not going to be, ‘I want to be like Lexi.’ The next generation will be saying, ‘I want to be like Bailey,’ which is what you want as a coach. You want it to continue to improve every year.”
Chapman and French add their names growing list of All-State volleyball players. Lexi Perez (1st Team libero 2015, Honorable Mention libero 2013), Mikayla Blount (Honorable Mention Middle Blocker 2013 and 2014), Qiana Canete (1st Team Middle Blocker in 2012 and 2013), Bryaunea Hall (3rd Team Middle Blocker 2013), Amy Rosenbaum (1st Team Setter 2011, 3rd Team Setter 2010), Kara Kemp (Honorable Mention MB/OH 2008), Christina Miller (Honorable Mention Middle Blocker/Outside Hitter 2008), Sapphire Reid (Honorable Mention MB/OH 2008), Brianna Prater (1st Team Libero 2007), Tyesha McFarland (3rd Team MB/OH 2007) and Christie Miller (Honorable Mention MB/OH 2007).
That laundry list of All-State names is evidence of a successful program under Lowery but the modest architect of a gym full of banners gives the credit to those surrounding her.
“A program (has success) because everyone buys in,” said Lowery. “The administration buys in, the parents buy in, the coaching staff buys in and, most importantly, your athletes buy in – from first grade on up. That’s what it says to me and that’s what it means to me. It’s a complete buy-in by Copperas Cove into this volleyball program and these young women. It’s not just about what the football team or the boys’ programs are going to do. It’s about these young women. Everybody buys in and they support us as a coaching staff and that makes our job so much easier.”
History and the success of her players, however, expounds that story. You must give people something to buy in to and Lowery has done that and then some, says French.
“I wasn’t here when she first got here but she tells the stories all the time on how she started and how they’ve improved,” she said. “Now they are top-notch because of her, her intensity, all the work she puts into us and all the work the girls put in. It’s like faith and trust that we build as we’re getting better. We have to trust her and we have to believe in ourselves and have confidence in the program.”
Keeping a team competitive year in and year out is tough at any level but even tougher at the 6A level and Lowery has done that as well.
“Coach Lowery is a one-of-a-kind coach,” said Chapman. “She pushes you because she knows you can do it. The program gets better every year because she’s just that great of a coach. You have no choice but to progress. She pushes you and has so much faith in us and that really helps us get better and better every year.”
Lowery has coached at all levels but is still awed by the commitment it takes to excel in one sport, much less multiple sports and other responsibilities, and still garner such accolades. Both Chapman and French fall in that lane. Chapman is also a bastketball and track standout and French is a soccer standout.
“It’s pretty amazing, at the 6A level in particular,” said Lowery. “You can be a 3A athlete, and I don’t mean to say anything negative about that because I’ve coached 3A, 4A and 5A, but to be a 6A dual-sport athlete varsity athlete in successful programs and then be a class officer or in the National Honor Society or in the Top 10 percent in a class of over 500, is pretty impressive. It’s pretty amazing and it says something about the quality of kids that I’m blessed enough to get to coach.”