Lady Dawgs outlast Lady Eagles in two-hour, four-set 8-6A battle
By TJ MAXWELL
KILLEEN - Eight points or fewer separated the Copperas Cove Lady Dawgs and the Ellison Lady Eagles all night in the two-hour, four-set District 8-6A clash Tuesday in Killeen.
The two teams went virtually point for point for nearly the entire match with exception of a couple key runs that allowed the Lady Dawgs to escape Killeen with a 3-1 (25-20, 25-21, 23-25, 29-27) victory.
“It’s kind of always like that when we come here,” Copperas Cove head coach Cari Lowery said about the tightly contested battle. “It’s always a tough match here. Ellison has great athletes and we have great athletes.
“We did not play a solid or consistent game tonight. A couple of my younger and inexperienced players played nervous like they haven’t played in weeks. Some of that is they know these kids and they’ve grown up with them. We just have to figure out what to do to get over those nerves.”
After 10 lead changes and 12 ties in the first 35 combined points, the Lady Dawgs went on one of few sustained runs by either team on the night to close out the first set 25-20.
A pair of kills by junior Aidan Chace on assists by junior Kamryn Ash broke a 17-17 tie and kick started an 8-3 Cove run to close the first set.
Kills by Chace and sophomore Janice Fa’aola, along with a pair of service points by Chace helped give the Lady Dawgs game point and a kill by senior Talia Kinslow on the assist of Chace closed out the set.
The Lady Dawgs biggest lead of eight points came in the early stages on set two when Cove reeled off six-consecutive points on the way to a 10-2 lead.
After surrendering the opening point of the set, kills by junior Jada Close and Chace, an ace by senior Addie Cook and a block by Chace paced the Dawgs’s 6-0 run. Sophomore Leah Powell then added a pair of points on an attack and an ace to go with junior Christina Pettigrew’s block kill for the 10-2 lead.
The Lady Eagles then slowly began to chop at the Lady Dawgs’ lead behind kills by seniors Symone Thomas, Breonna Fleming and Shauntia Landrum.
A defensive kill and a pair of offensive kills by Kinslow and a kill by Close then staved off the Ellison comeback to give Cove a 23-18 before a kill by Powell and a dump by Chace gave the Lady Dawgs a 2-0 lead in the match.
The Lady Dawgs (27-8, 2-0 in District 8-6A) and the Lady Eagles (13-5, 0-2) then embarked on another back-and-forth affair in the third set that had 12 lead changes and 13 ties.
Four points was the biggest lead by either team in the set when a kill by Thomas and a block by senior Elicia Barinas pushed Ellison ahead 21-17.
A kill by Chace and a block by Fa’aola helped the Lady Dawgs knot the game at 21-all before kills by junior Semira Fields, Fleming and Landrum closed the set on a 4-2 run to give Ellison a 25-23 win for a 2-1 match record.
The Lady Eagles then pounced on the shell-shocked Lady Dawgs to begin the fourth set with a 10-3 run to start. Hitting errors by Cove, paired with blocks by Thomas and Landrum and kills by Barcinas and Landrum, led the way for Ellison.
The Lady Dawgs went on a run of their own to knot the game at 11-all. A pair of attack points and a pair of blocks by Kinslow and Close led the way for Cove.
A pair of big kills by Thomas and Barcinas helped the Lady Eagles briefly pull away again, 14-11, but two blocks by Close and kills by Chace and Pettigrew gave Cove back the lead at 19-16 after the 8-2 Cove run.
Ellison again had an answer with kills by Barcinas and Fleming swapped the lead back to Ellison once again, 20-19.
Both teams then went back-and-forth for ties at every point until kills by Powell and Chace gave Cove the 29-27 edge and 3-1 match win.
Chace led the team in kills with 14 and Powell added 10 kills. Powell also had some big plays defensively to save points and keep Cove in some rallies. She led the team in digs with 17. Chace had 27 assists while Kinslow had four blocks and Cook had three aces to lead Cove.
“(Powell did some good things out there) and she’s a sophomore but that is what you’ve got to do,” said Lowery. “She one of just a few players I have playing all the way around. She has a huge responsibility on her shoulders. She’s not afraid. Sometimes she’s afraid of it in practice but we talk her through it and she steps up and goes to get it. She did it tonight. She made some big momentum-changing plays tonight.”
Lowery sees this close match as a great learning opportunity for her team and her staff but also knows her team needs to get out of their own way.
“It’s both,” she said. “I saw something that I have to do tonight that I’ve been thinking about. I haven’t done it because it hasn’t been a necessity, but now it’s a necessity. I saw it tonight. It’s about my Xs and Os but they have to get out of their own heads.”
The Lady Dawgs will get another tough test when they travel to Belton (11-7, 1-0) tonight to take on the Lady Tigers.
“They’re big and they beat Ellison Friday night and I knew that coming in tonight,” said Lowery. “(Ellison) didn’t want to start district 0-2. They had to win tonight so they were playing out of their minds.
“Belton has scouted us at least three times so they think they’ve got something. They don’t waste their time to come see you if they don’t think they have something to counteract it, but we’re going to have to play better than we did tonight for sure.”