Lady Dawg Volleyball shakes off cold start to beat Lorena 3-1
By TJ MAXWELL
Slow has not been a word associated with this year’s edition of the Copperas Cove Lady Dawg Volleyball team after reeling off nine-consecutive wins to start the season.
A return trip home, however, proved troublesome to the junior-laden squad as teacher in-service days and perhaps a bit of overconfidence led to a shaky start by the Lady Dawgs. They lost the opening set against the Lorena Lady Leopards on Tuesday, one of just a handful of sets they’ve lost this year, before regrouping to reel off three-straight sets to improve to 11-1 on the year.
“We played great last week the entire week,” said Cove head coach Cari Lowery. “Our goal has been to get better every time we step on the court and they’ve done that and been very focused.
“This was the first time back home and we’ve been in in-service so we have been out of any kind of routine. They’ve been at home doing who knows what all day long. There are lots of excuses. I’m not making excuses but there are a lot of things when you’re young that can take you out of your focus.”
Team captain Aidan Chace thinks the slow start was an anomaly.
“This definitely wasn’t our best game,” she said. “Overall we’ve been playing great. I think we just had a little downfall but we are going to pick it back up with our next tournament. This wasn’t our best game for sure.”
Chace feels the break from routine definitely affected he squad’s early efforts but feels the team regained their continuity late in the match.
“People seemed a little bit tired but us as team captains are going to go pick everyone up and get this thing started,” she said. “We usually go in right off the bat getting the momentum and then keeping it throughout the game.”
She’s just glad that her team played one of the worst games of the year and still come away victorious.
“That just proves that we can go in and play teams like Lorena or even better,” she said. “It’s all about our mentality in the game. We go in and pick each other up and try to get hyped before the games. It’s more about our mentality before everything.”
With just two seniors on the squad to go with three sophomores and seven juniors, Lowery feels the squad is ahead of the game despite the early setback.
“I told them that last week was probably the best first week of any team I’ve had since I’ve been here in how good they looked every time they stepped on the court,” she said. “They beat some good teams last week soundly. We were just not focused and ready tonight.”
Lowery thinks overconfidence may have played a factor as well.
“We’ve been winning and sometimes you feel bulletproof and we need to realize we are not bulletproof,” said Lowery. “We are going to have to work all the time. We learned a lesson tonight I believe.”
After a 2-2 tie to start the contest, the Lady Leopards shot out on a 12-5 run to take a 14-7 lead after kills by Lorena’s Blaze Runyan and Mallory Ross and miscues by the Cove offense.
A strong kill by Chace off the assist by junior Kamryn Ash pulled Cove back within three points, 11-14, before kills by Mckenzie Tuyo and Jacey Moore helped push the Lorena lead back to seven, 13-20.
The Lady Dawgs would cut the lead back to four but the Lady Leopards score four of the next five points to secure the set 18-25.
The regrouped Lady Dawgs then shot out to a 9-1 lead in set two behind three kills by Chace and two service points by senior Addie Cook.
A kill by Tuyo initiated a 5-1 run for Lorena but kills by senior Talia Kinslow, Chace and sophomore Leah Powell helped Cove push back ahead by six, 16-10.
The Lady Leoprads again made a run to cut the lead to one, 17-16, before Cove finished on an 8-4 run to close the set 25-20 on a big block by junior Christina Pettigrew.
Neither team could get an edge in the third set until a kill by Pettigrew and a block by Kinslow kick started an 11-2 run to give Cove an 18-7 lead. Kills by Powell and Kinslow, along with blocks by Pettigrew and Chace and service points by junior Aviyon Wilborn and Ash, paced the Lady Dawg run.
A 9-3 run by Lorena again made things interesting until kills by sophomore Jeala Rice and Kinslow gave Cove set point and an errant serve gave them the 2-1-match lead with a 25-18 win.
In the fourth and final set, neither team could take advantage early until three-straight points off attacks from Kinslow and Powell, paired with Lorena hitting errors and a kill by Pettigrew, gave Cove a commanding 15-7 lead.
Four kills by Chace helped keep the Cove lead at eight.
A couple points by Lorena staved off the inevitable before kills by Rice, Kinslow, junior Jada Close and Pettigrew closed out the set 25-16 and match 3-1.
Chace led the team with 22 kills and added 23 assists and eight digs. Kinslow added 12 kills and a block while Poweel added five kills and two blocks and sophomore Janice Fa’aola added five kills. Ash finished led the squad in assists with 31. Junior libero Kristen Wasiak led digs with 23 while Cook and Wilborn each recorded 11. Pettigrew led in blocks with six and added five kills.
The Lady Dawgs compete this weekend in the Bastrop Tournament where they hope to come out tournament champions.
“I want to see what I saw at that tournament last week. We played Arlington Lamar the first game on Saturday morning. They just killed us last year and we just killed them this time. We probably had 16 or 17 terminating blocks against them. So much so that they just started tipping. They couldn’t get a ball past us and their big middle turned to the coach and said, ‘I don’t know what to do.’
There are moments where it’s as good as it’s ever been and potentially better than it’s ever been but, they are young, and that’s the good news. I’m only losing two for next year but we are not looking past this year. It’s still early.
“We are planning on going in and winning gold,” said Chace. “We are going to go in with the best mentality we can. We are going to start off strong and try to keep our momentum throughout all of our games. We don’t plan on losing a set at all.”
Lowery just wants to see them continue the upward trend.
“I want to see what I saw at that tournament last week,” she said. “There are moments where it’s as good as it’s ever been and potentially better than it’s ever been but, they are young and that’s the good news. I’m only losing two for next year but we are not looking past this year. It’s still early.”