Lady Dawgs fight off early scare to sweep Ellison 3-0
By TJ MAXWELL
For the second-consecutive home game, the no. 7 Copperas Cove Lady Dawgs had a tough time getting out of the gates before picking up steam and rolling over their District competition on their way to a sweep.
The Lady Dawgs found themselves trailing much of the first game against the much-improved Ellison Lady Eagles Tuesday night at Bulldawg Gymnasium.
“When Ellison is coming in to play a team that is 25-1 and start getting blocks and kills, they just go out of their minds,” said Copperas Cove head volleyball coach Cari Lowery. “Anybody would do that. We would do that. The kids let it get in their heads a little bit early on and made mistakes we don’t typically make. Then they got in their rhythm a little bit and played better.”
After several early ties, a pair of blocks by Ellison junior Chyra Thompson capped off a 6-2 run that pushed the Lady Eagles’ lead to 16-11.
A block by senior Christina Pettigrew and a kill by senior Aidan Chace on the assist by senior Kamryn Ash helped the Lady Dawgs narrow the lead but kills by juniors Diamond Woods and Nasiyah Smith pushed Ellison’s lead back to four, 21-17.
The Copperas Cove defense began to find its footing, winning several rally points to knot the game at 21-all.
“We weren’t talking to each other and a lot of the teams we’ve played haven’t been what we expected them to be,” said junior Leah Powell who led the Cove offense with 11 kills. “Playing Ellison, a lot of us thought it would be a sweep and we underestimated their athletic ability. Once we realized what they could do, we were able to dig deep down and get it together.”
Kills by Chace and Powell then flipped the lead to Cove and gave them set-point at 24-23.
“For us, it was just a matter of getting in our rhythm, relaxing and playing our game and doing what we knew we could do instead of panicking,” said Lowery. “We play a high-level of teams as much as we can, so a lot of games are like that or they should be because that’s what is going to happen in the playoffs. Nobody is going to lay down and give it to you.”
A kill by Ellison senior Semira Fields gave the lead back to the Lady Eagles with their own set-point, but big offensive plays by Cove’s Powell and a defensive swat by Pettigrew closed the set 27-25.
“I thought we hurt ourselves and made a lot of mistakes,” said Lowery. “Our defense was not what our defense typically is. I thought we had several passing errors that we can’t have. We played the first game not to lose. I was screaming at them to relax and to play their games. Once we started doing that, game two was ours and game three was ours until we made some mistakes and lost our momentum a little bit.”
The Lady Dawgs had an uncharacteristic 11 serve receiving errors and 27 dig errors.
Powell then started set two the way she finished the first. She had three kills and a partial block to earn four of Cove’s first six points on the set on the way to a 6-3 Cove lead.
“At the beginning, morale was kind of low,” said Powell. “We really don’t want to lose any games in district and we want to keep our (district) record as undefeated. I felt the need to reach deep down, get out of my own head, and help out the team by doing what I can.”
Kills by Pettigrew and junior Janice Fa’aola helped Cove push their lead to six, 11-5.
After a pair of errors on Cove made it a five-point contest, 12-7, the Lady Dawgs went on a 12-5 run to earn set-point at 24-12.
A block by senior Jada Close kick-started the run while kills by Powell and a block by Pettigrew helped cement the lead.
“She’s a phenomenal athlete,” Lowery said of Powell, one of just three juniors on the senior-laden squad. “It’s just awesome and she’s just a junior and that makes it even better. She and Janice are both juniors and they are just going to get better and better.
“We had some games this weekend where Janice played out of her mind and hit those same kinds of balls. It’s exciting to see.”
“One time in my life I would like to just be able to elevate and bang the ball like that,” Lowery added with a giggle. “No approach or nothing, just hang there until the ball gets to me, then knock the leather off it.”
A few more errors by Cove allowed Ellison to cut the lead to single-digits, 24-16, before a kill by Pettigrew closed the game, 25-16, and put Cove up 2-0 in the match.
Cove (26-1 overall, 2-0 in District 12-6A) found themselves in a battle again in set three.
An early 9-5 lead morphed into trailing 12-11 after kills by Ellison’s Thompson and freshman Adelia Puni.
Kills by Chace, Close and Powell then flipped the lead back to Cove, 15-12.
A kill by Fields, along with a tip and ace by senior setter Jakarta Hope, helped force four ties until a kill and a block by Pettigrew helped Cove make it a 22-19 contest.
Kills by Fa’aola and Close, along with an ace by Ash closed out the set, 25-23, and match 3-0.
Lowery is excited about getting back to the court for a rare practice to get ready for their district road match at Killeen Shoemaker set for 5:30 p.m. tonight.
“We had our first actual big practice for the year yesterday and it was awesome,” Lowery said after the win. “I was excited to get to fix things. We are going to clearly practice on serve/receive because I don’t think we received the ball as well as we should have. There is just some little stuff. District play is different than some of the teams we see. We saw a lot of tips tonight that we don’t typically see. It’s typically just get up and bang it on both sides so we have to work on all that stuff.”
The junior Powell had 11-kills to lead the senior-laden squad with Close (80, and Chace (7) following.
“Being with the older girls since my freshman year has definitely made me feel very much like a part of their senior class,” said Powell. “I feel just as much connected and just as much responsible for the team as they do.”
Ash led in assists with 22 followed by Chace’s 15.
Pettigrew led the front row defense with nine solo blocks while Close added five total blocks. Senior Kristen Wasiak led the back row defense with 12 digs followed by Powell’s nine.