Lady Dawgs open playoffs Tuesday against Mesquite Horn
By TJ MAXWELL
The Copperas Cove Lady Dawgs open their third season on Tuesday when they face off against Mesquite Horn in round one of the UIL State Volleyball Playoffs in the second game of a playoff double-header at Glen Rose High School with a first-serve time set for 7:30 p.m.
In a repeat of last year, Cove will return to the site of their last playoff where they will look to repeat last year’s sweep of the Lady Jags.
The Lady Jags have five district losses, but Copperas Cove head volleyball coach and girls’ coordinator Cari Lowery knows records or past successes mean nothing at this point.
“In the playoffs, it really doesn’t matter what anybody has done prior,” she said. “It is what they’re going to do (tonight). “I have seen people that should not have lost that were 40-1 lose to a fourth-place team right off the bat. We went to the Allen tournament earlier in the season so we could see some of those teams so we’ve seen some of the teams we may end up playing.”
The Lady Jags’ offensive attack is led by sophomore outside hitter Mikaila Harris’ 233 kills with junior middle blocker Charlize Williams (138) and senior middle blocker Ashanti Sampsell (114) following.
Senior setter Kaitie Wheeler leads the team in assists with 344 followed closely by another sophomore, Arianna Tubbs, with 326.
The defensive back row is led by freshman libero Ryan Henderson with 513 digs followed by Harris (319), senior Victoria Stormer (185) and Wheeler (155). Henderson also leads the team in aces with 60.
Williams leads the front-row defense with 83 blocks with Sampsell following with 33.
The Lady Dawgs finished the regular season with two players within five kills of each other to lead the way. Seniors Leah Powell and Janice Fa’aola have combined for 911 kills with Powell having the slight edge of 458 kills. Seniors Jaela Rice and Sam Ingram also have triple-digit kills with 150 and 139, respectively.
Setting up that offense is junior setter Emily Vanderpoel (635 assists) and Ingram (609).
Leading the front row defense for the Lady Dawgs is sophomore Kyra Gaston with 149 blocks followed by Rice with 138 and Powell with 79.
Powell lead the back-row defense with 456 digs followed by sophomore libero Emma Wasiak (444), Fa’aola (421), Ingram 278, Vanderpoel (164) and Rice (163).
Fa’aola leads in aces with 49.
A win by the Lady Dawgs would set up a second-round matchup with either 9-6A champion no. 11-ranked Prosper (24-8 overall (11-1 in District 9-6A) or the fourth-place team out of District 10-6A Naaman Forest (16-21, 8-6) but Lowery knows if you look ahead you will get beat.
“We’ve got to step up and play every point and not make mistakes,” she said. “We have to make people earn their points, we can’t give them away.
“It’s a brand-new season and it’s anybody’s ball game. It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish, and we aren’t the same team we were two months ago or a month ago. We’re trying to get better every day. There are teams that are as good as they can be and we’re not that yet. We’re still working. These kids work hard every single day and I want it to pay off for them.”