Lady Dawgs 2021 alumni game was a family affair
By TJ MAXWELL
Copperas Cove head volleyball coach and girls’ athletics coordinator Cari Lowery always talks about the family atmosphere of her program and that really came to fruition during the annual Meet the Lady Dawgs and Alumni game held Friday night at Bulldawg Gymnasium three Wasiak sisters and two Tuiasosopo sisters were among the attendees and the Wasiak sister’s loving family rivalry was able to play out on the court with the youngest of the Wasiaks, senior Emma Wasiak, able to just edge out her two older sisters, 2017 graduate Madison and 2019 graduate Kristen, and the alumni team.
“It was so awesome,” Emma Wasiak said of the opportunity to play with her sisters. “This is my only year to play with my sisters and of course it’s my senior year. I’ve never gotten a chance to play against them and this was the time.
“My dad said this was a legendary game because of all three of us sharing the court. It was just exciting to get to play against them because we’ve always wanted to play against each other.”
As usual, a large contingent of former players dropped whatever they had planned and made the trek to Copperas Cove to represent the former players. Nearly a dozen former players participated in the alumni game and several others were in the stands or are currently on the coaching staff.
One such representative was 2012 graduate Andrea Hurt who has returned for this alumni game many times since leaving the program nearly 10 years ago.
“It’s nice to see the new generation of Copperas Cove volleyball and to help them get better for preseason in order to play experienced players,” Hurt said of why she keeps coming back. “Coach Lowery to this day is my favorite coach of all time. She’s a great coach. She empowers a lot of young ladies that come through the program and help them become better people, which is why we are so excited to come back whenever she wants us to.”
Also returning were Bailey French (2016 grad), Abby McWhorter (2020), Christina Pettigrew (2019), Savannah Cook (2015), Hope Chapman (2020), Mahal Thorpe (2019), Larissa Melendez (2021) and Janice Fa’aola (2017).
Although this game was just for fun, it a lot meant to players on both sides.
“I think that having them like come back, it’s like a good competition because they used to play here so they know how we play and we kind of know how they play,” said returning senior Jamesia Moody. “I think it was good for them to have us back, to get us ready for the season.”
When asked why so many players come back to coach at Copperas Cove and play in the alumni game, they all answered with the same two words - Coach Lowery.
“I think it’s Coach Lowery,” said Moody. She’s great. “I just think everybody comes back for Coach Lowery. Not just Coach Lowery, but they come back for the experiences to play here again.”
Emma Wasiak agreed.
“They just love the program,” she said. “I just think the program is just amazing and they just love to play for Coach Lowery.”
Although no official score was kept, the 2021 Lady Dawgs were able to edge out their mentors 31-28 in the exhibition match.
“I was nervous about today I’m not going to lie,” said Moody. “I didn’t think that we were going to come out and have it together because we haven’t played in a while, but I don’t think we did that bad for our first day.”
The Lady Dawgs return seniors Kyra Gaston, Jiya Edwards, Leeann Edmond, Moody and Wasiak, along with juniors Aaliyah Butler and Jakhi Smith.
The add juniors Alana Hairston, Layla Cooks and Ashanti Wright, along with sophomores Iliana Buitron and Larisa Perez and freshman Chloe Tuiasosopo for a mix of experience and youth.
“This year actually we have a good chance,” said Moody. “I feel like we have a good group of girls this year, and I feel like we can go far in the playoffs this year. I think that we’ll bring back the number one this year.
“I think we’ve improved on defense and serving, and our setting has got a lot better. Last year we lost one of our good senior setters, and we had two juniors (Smith and Hairston) stepped in and they’re good, they’re doing great.”
Wasiak also likes the potential for this team.
“If we keep working, all of us will be pretty strong,” said the two-time 12-6A Defensive MVP. “We have a pretty strong front row and if we just keep practicing, I think we’ll be a good team.”
Hurt echoed those sentiments.
“I think they will be a lot better than any volleyball I ever played here,” she said.
The Lady Dawgs officially kick off the season today at 3 p.m. at home against Cedar Creek before being honored for again qualifying for the American Coaches Volleyball Association Team Academic Award which requires a 3.30 cumulative team grade-point average on a 4.0 scale at tonight’s school board meeting.
Coach Lowery’s 841 wins puts her 12th all-time in Texas history and the 4th winningest active coach just behind Waxahachie’s Sandy Faussett (852 wins).