Lady Dawgs lock up playoff spot, now look for No. 1 seed

By TJ MAXWELL
Cove Leader-Press

HARKER HEIGHTS - The no. 11 Copperas Cove Lady Dawgs’ volleyball team solidified their playoff spot with a sweep of the Lady Knights Tuesday night in Harker Heights and will look for revenge over Midway tonight to take sole possession of first place in District 12-6A.
The Lady Dawgs (37-2 overall, 12-1 in District 12-6A) made quick work of the Harker Heights Lady Knights (2-10) in a 25-12, 25-8, 25-14 sweep at Knights Gymnasium.
Cove’s Christina Pettigrew is known for her defensive prowess at the net, but the senior also showed she’s an offensive threat with her team-high 10 kills in the win to tie senior teammate Aidan Chace.
Copperas Cove head coach Cari Lowery admitted after the game that it was by design.
“We’re just working on moving the ball because we have offense everywhere, but we have to be able to move it,” she said.  “There are people scouting us that have played us before, so we have to show them something new. We can’t give them the same thing they saw before.”
That worked to perfection as time and time again Pettigrew finished strong down the middle of the court to force the Lady Knight’s defenders to widen their defensive net and open up the Cove outside hitters.
Solid defensive play from the new look back end also helped set up the offense. Six different players had at least six digs in the contest with newly anointed senior libero Aviyon Wilborn leading with 12. Junior Leah Powell led in serves received with 18.
“They’re getting better every time and that’s all we can do,” Lowery said of her defense play since losing her starting libero to injury almost two weeks ago. “We just have to keep working on it and try to get more comfortable doing what we need to be doing.”
The Lady Dawgs established their offense early on a big kill by Pettigrew that opened up a 6-2 Cove lead. 
Kills by Powell, junior Janice Fa’aola, senior Jada Close and Chace helped the Lady Dawgs double the Lady Knights’ score at 12-6.
Cove extended their lead to 13, 21-8, with kills by Powell, Chace Pettigrew and a dump by Close. Three Powell kills and one Chace shot came at the end of long rallies.
Kills by Harker Heights seniors Samantha Dreibelbis and McKayla Flowers briefly halted the Cove run, but a dump by Chace and a kill by Pettigrew closed out the set 25-12.
Cove again jumped out quickly to take a 9-2 lead in set two behind shots by Close, Chace and Powell.
Four-consecutive Heights’ miscues and a block by Pettigrew increased the Cove lead to 15-4.
Harker Heights senior captain Haley Brown registered a kill and senior Sorcha Dunn recorded an ace to cut the Cove lead to single digits, 15-6. However, four-consecutive miscues by the Lady Knights paired with kills by Cove’s Pettigrew and Fa’aola helped Cove push their lead to 16, 22-6.
Kills by Pettigrew and Fa’aola, along with an ace by Powell closed out the set 25-8 for a 2-0 Cove lead.
The Lady Knights saw their only lead of the match to start the third set. An ace by freshman Kayla Williams and a kill by Flowers broke a 2-2 tie for Harker Heights’ only lead, 4-2.
A pair of Haeights errors along with a quick kill by Pettigrew and a kill by Powell helped flip the lead back to Cove, 7-5.
Kills by Pettigrew, Close and Powell for Cove and by sophomore Sydney Seldon for Heights kept the score close, 12-10, before the Lady Dawgs finished on a 13-4 run to close out the match.
A kill by Fa’aola, along with consecutive blocks by Pettigrew and Powell, increased Cove’s lead to six, 17-11. A kill down the line by Powell, a dump by Chace, a kill by Pettigrew and another Powell block made it a 21-11 Cove lead.
Kills by Seldon and Flowers kept the match alive briefly until four unanswered Cove points closed out the set 25-14 and match 3-0.
Following Pettigrew and Chace in kills were Fa’aola (7), Powell (6) and Close (6).
Chace and Fa’aola followed Wilborn in digs with nine each followed by Powell (8), senior Kamryn Ash (7) and Close (6).
Ash led the squad in assists with 24 followed by Chace (11).
Pettigrew and Powell tied with three blocks to lead the Cove front line defense.
The Lady Dawgs look to avenge one of only two losses on the year when they travel to Waco to face the Midway Pantherettes in a battle for first place.
“We need to finish the games when we have an opportunity to finish,” said Lowery. “We just didn’t finish last time, but maybe that was a good thing for us because we’ve had to work harder. 
“Sometimes when you’re 16 or 17, you can tell them all day long that everybody is not going to lay down for you.  Somebody is going to step up and get you, so you have to keep working. But, until it slaps them in the face, they don’t really know it. I’m hoping it will pay off for us one way or another.”
The Lady Dawgs are currently a half game in front of the Pantherettes (11-1) with three games left heading into tonight’s competition.
“We’re in the playoffs and that’s the goal but we just have to keep getting better and take care of business,” concluded Lowery.
 

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