Lady Dawg Volleyball’s historic season comes to end against No. 4 Prosper
By TJ MAXWELL
WEST – The Copperas Cove Lady Dawgs were never really able to find consistency in their Area round loss to the no. 4 Prosper Lady Eagles Friday night at West High School in West.
The Lady Dawgs had shining moments throughout the contest, especially in the early goings of game one, but their new-look rotation struggled to find their rhythm in the 19-25, 15-25, 16-25 loss to the Lady Eagles.
“We beat them in four rotations, but we had two rotations where we couldn’t block, and we couldn’t score,” said Copperas Cove head volleyball coach Cari Lowery. “We just got stuck on our fourth and fifth rotation and couldn’t do anything. In the other four rotations, we beat them.
“When we hit the ball, they couldn’t do anything about it, but you can’t have a breakdown on two rotations where you can’t defend or score. They just went wall to wall on those weak spots and we weren’t adjusting to it.”
The Lady Dawgs had an electric start to the match with a huge block by senior Aidan Chace and a strong kill by junior Janice Fa’aola to take an early lead over the state-ranked Lady Eagles. Cove fought off a few early Prosper runs to take a 17-13 advantage on a block by senior middle blocker Christina Pettigrew, but the Lady Eagles caught fire and closed the first set on a 12-2 run to close the first set on their way to the 3-0 sweep.
The Lady Dawgs’ season has been an historic one, despite a disappointing second-place finish in district and early exit from the playoffs. The Lady Dawgs showed intestinal fortitude by overcoming an injury to the District 8-6A 2017 Defensive Player of the Year, Kristen Wasiak, that could have derailed everything.
The team finished strong to earn their school record 41st game in round one of the playoffs and earn the opportunity to play the defending champions and no. 4-ranked Lady Eagles.
“The 41 wins is a school record,” said Lowery. “No one, to my knowledge, has ever won 41 games in season. As a head coach I had never won more than 40 so that’s a new record for me as well.”
Kills by Chace, senior Jada Close and Pettigrew for Cove and senior Madi Whitmire and sophomore Nikki Steinheiser for Prosper pushed the score to 5-5 after the early Cove lead was erased by the Lady Eagles.
A block by Whitmire and kills by Steinheiser and senior Ciera Hecht helped the Lady Eagles edge out in front 10-7 before a 10-3 run by the Lady Dawgs flipped the lead to Cove 17-13. A kill by Fa’aola on the assist by senior setter Kamryn Ash started the Cove run while kills by Close, junior Leah Powell and a block by Pettigrew helped the Lady Dawgs to the lead.
Prosper sophomore Sami Jacobs then added to her team-high kill total with five kills in the next 10 points to give the Lady Eagles a 22-18 lead. Three Cove errors contributed to the run.
A kill by Pettigrew held off the Lady Eagles briefly before a Jacobs kill ended the set 25-19 for Prosper.
Kills by sophomore Shaylee Shore and Jacobs helped the Lady Eagles jump out to a 5-1 lead in the second set.
Kills by Chace, Close and Powell kept the Lady Dawgs within five points. A kill by Chace and a pair of Eagles’ errors cut the Prosper lead to just three, 12-9, before a 10-1 Prosper run opened a 22-10 lead for the Lady Eagles.
Kills by Jacobs, Hecht and Shore and a pair of aces by senior Kayla Martin paced the Lady Eagles in the run.
Kills by Fa’aola and Chace; along with an ace by Ash and a block by Powell, pulled Cove closer at 23-15, but a kill by Shore and a two-hit by Cove closed out the set 25-15.
A kill by Hecht got the Lady Eagles to a quick start in the third set but a kill by Close and an ace by junior Jaela Rice tied the game at 2-2.
A kill by Chace and a miscue by Prosper gave Cove a 5-4 advantage before Jacobs again made her presence known with a block and a back-row kill to help swing the lead back to Prosper, 9-5.
A kill by Fa’aola helped the Lady Dawgs pull back within two, 12-10, but a service error and a serve receive error on Cove; along with kills by Shore, Steinheiser and Hecht; launched a 13-6 Propser run to close the set and match.
Kills by Close and Powell pulled Cove within four, 19-15 but kills by Jacobs and Shore helped the Lady Eagles close out 25-16.
The Lady Dawgs finish the season 41-4 overall and 14-2 in District 12-6A action.
“I am so proud of them,” Lowery said about her team’s effort and ability to fight back from adversity. “This is my 24th year as a head coach and this is one of my favorite teams. I’m trying not to get choked up talking about them. They are just so special. They are coachable, they are smart, and they are great kids.
“I don’t think they ever quit. They did everything they could. A twist of fate and everything might be different, but it is what it is. We did the best we could.”
Lowery loses most of the team to graduation with eight seniors graduating from the 13-player playoff roster, including six regular starters.
Lowery loses starters Close, Chace, Ash, Pettigrew, Wilborn and the injured Wasiak. Mahal Thorpe, Alex Brito also graduate.
“Legacy is the word and we talk about that all the time,” Lowery said of her senior class. “It’s not just about what you’re doing. It’s also about what you’re doing for the kids that are coming behind you. That’s what those juniors were in there talking to those seniors about. They talked about what they did for the juniors and the program.”