Lady Dawgs stay in playoff hunt with sweep of Tem-Cats
By TJ MAXWELL
The Copperas Cove Lady Dawgs looked more composed and focused as they made quick work of Temple in a 3-0 sweep (25-12, 25-15, 25-15) of the Tem-Cats Tuesday night at Bulldawg Gymnasium to improve to 6-2 in District 12-6A and stay in striking distance of the district crown.
“Consistency is the key word this year,” said Copperas Cove head volleyball coach and girls’ coordinator Cari Lowery. “We’re doing the best we can and working on it. I have to go back to missing a year with the young kids. Chloe (Tuiasosopo) is basically coming from seventh grade to a varsity position and that maybe a little crazy on my part, but she’s getting there. (Larisa) Perez is a sophomore move-in from last year so she’s never played this kind of volleyball before.”
The Lady Dawgs used some misdirection and movement and changed up their setting strategies in their offensive gameplan to keep the Tem-Cats off balance defensively.
“We’re trying to work on running more plays,” said Lowery. “When you have young kids that come from junior high or freshmen that have never ran a play, it takes a minute to understand. If they don’t do what they’re supposed to do, they’re just in the way and it takes everybody out of it.”
After allowing the Tem-Cats to take a 2-1 lead to open the match, the Lady Dawgs exploded on a 10-1 run to take control.
A dump by junior setter Jakhi Smith, along with kills by senior Jiya Edwards and sophomore Larisa Perez, a push shot by junior Leila Cooks, and a solo block by senior Kyra Gaston, helped the Lady Dawgs take the 11-3 lead.
A kill by senior Abi Kinney, and a block by senior Khia Kirkwood helped Temple narrow the lead to 15-8 before another Edwards kill, an ace by senior libero Emma Wasiak, and three-consecutive hitting errors by Temple pushed Cove’s lead to 12, 20-8.
A kill by Temple senior Ali Mack slowed the Cove run briefly before a kill by Gaston and a dump kill by Smith made the score 22-9.
Another Mack kill and two more by sophomore Allison Vaden kept the set alive until a pair of kills by Gaston helped the Lady Dawgs close the set 25-12.
A kill by Kirkwood after a long rally helped the Tem-Cats jump out to a 3-0 lead to start set two before a kill by Gaston and two more by Edwards knotted the game at 4-all.
Cove’s Edwards and Temple’s Vaden exchanged kills to make it a 5-all game before four Temple errors, along with a block and ace by Gaston pushed Cove ahead 11-6.
A pair of kills by Temple senior Lyric Biggiers and one by Cove junior Aaliyah Butler helped push the score to 13-9 before another Edwards kill, a hard kill by Gaston down the left line, and an ace by Cooks made it a 17-10 Cove advantage.
A pass over the net by Edwards and a kill by Perez helped the Lady Dawgs increase their lead to eight, 20-12, before kills by Perez and senior Jamesia Moody and a block by Moody helped Cove close the set 25-15 for a 2-0 lead in the match.
The Lady Dawgs started the final set with a 13-0 run after falling behind 2-1 to open the set.
A block by Gaston helped kick start the run while a dump by Smith, kills by Edwards and another Gaston block helped lead the way.
Kills by Mack and Kinney, along with a trio of blocks by Vaden, helped the Tem-Cats pull within seven, 15-8, before kills by Gaston and Moody pushed Cove’s lead back to nine, 18-9.
A pair of kills by Biggiers and a block by Mack helped Temple pull within six, 20-14, but a pair of kills and a block by Gaston, paired with Temple miscues closed the set 25-15 and match 3-0.
Edwards finished with 11 kills to lead the Lady Dawgs with Gaston (9), Moody (5), Perez (4) and Smith (3) following. Smith led the offense with 23 assists with junior Alanna Hairston adding 10. Cooks and Edwards added a pair of aces each.
“We’re working every day,” said Lowery. “It’s not how you start it’s how you finish. We still have some young girls and occasionally have some young mistakes, but they work hard and they’re doing everything I ask. We just have to keep digging away at it.”
Gaston had 10 blocks to lead the front-row defense with Moody adding three more. Wasiak led the back-row defense with 13 digs followed by Perez (12) and Edwards (7).
Biggiers led the Tem-Cats with seven kills followed by Kirkwood (4), Mack (3), and Kinney (3). Senior Sophia Brea led in assists with 18 while Amaya Benekin-Mills led in digs with 17. Vaden led in blocks with three.
The Lady Dawgs (6-2) go back to work Friday at home against Killeen (1-7) with a firm hold on the final playoff spot behind Belton (7-1), Bryan (7-1), and Ellison (6-2) who holds the tiebreaker over Cove.
“What we’re working on now is getting better every play and every day,” said Lowery. “It’s not about doing enough to win that game. It’s about doing enough to get better on the court, so we get to keep playing.
“We’ve got six more district games and, hopefully, we get to keep playing longer than that.”