Lady Dawgs sweep Cedar Hill 25-12, 26-24, 25-20; face Southlake Carroll in Area rematch
By TJ MAXWELL
WEST – It wasn’t the cleanest game of their season but Copperas Cove head volleyball coach Cari Lowery knew coming in that playoff jitters might have been a problem for her inexperienced squad.
The nerves showed themselves a bit but the team’s poise shown ever brighter in the 3-0 sweep of Cedar Hill in the bi-district round of the 2017 volleyball playoffs Tuesday night at West High School.
The Lady Dawgs dominated the first set before having to battle for their lives in the final two sets to secure the sweep.
“It’s a win and we’re excited about it,” said Lowery. “For young kids that a majority of them have never been in a playoff game, I think we performed well because we could have lost it in game two and lost our focus. We didn’t. We fought back. We were behind almost the whole game and we fought back. We also fought back in game three.
We did not play, offensively, like we needed to play in game two and game three. In game one, we played an offensive quick game…our game.”
The Lady Dawgs may have taken their foot off the gas after dominating game one 25-12 and almost lost game two before a kill by senior Talia Kinslow and a block by Kinslow and junior Jada Close kept the Lady Dawgs firmly in control of the match 2-0.
“I kept telling them, ‘they’re not going to lay down,’” said Lowery. “They are playing for their lives so every point has got to count.’ I was proud that we made some plays out of nothing and we were scrappy when we needed to be so I’m happy.”
The Lady Dawgs again found themselves down by as much at four points in the final set before finishing on a 13-4 run to secure the win.
“It feels great,” said sophomore Janice Fa’aola who had four kills, a dump and a block during the run. “We kept our energy up through most of the game and we encouraged each other when we made mistakes.”
Lowery is proud that her sophomore shook off some early nerves and played a huge role down the stretch.
“Janice early was hesitating and nervous,” said Lowery. “I told her, ‘you got here by being the player you are, so be that player and game three she really did step up. She has a great little sharp shot and she sees the court well and she’s a great jumper as well. She hit that third of the court that was wide open all night several times and got a big block over there, too.”
Kinslow also scored some clutch points for the Lady Dawgs in the final two sets.
“She really did. She stepped up,” Lowery said of Kinslow. “She was disappointed in her play but she made some critical plays that we needed at critical times and had that big block at the end.
“She’s not naturally an aggressive, gritty player. She’s quiet and soft-spoken so she’s unassuming but then she elevates. Sometimes she plays too delicate and tries to place it in that three-inch spot in the corner and I’m just like, ‘hit it because you can. You can touch the rim with both hands and elevate and hang there.’”
It looked like it might be a quick night after a 10-3 run by Cove opened the night but a couple of early Cove miscues helped the Lady Longhorns keep the gap at seven.
Kills and blocks by Kinslow and Close and a kill by sophomore Leah Powell pushed Cove’s lead to 15-6 before the first kill of the match by Cedar Hill on a blast by junior Brianna Green briefly halted the Cove run.
A kill by junior Aidan Chace and a block by junior Christina Pettigrew helped grow the Cove lead to 13, 21-8.
A block out of bounds by Chace and long kill attempts by Fa’aola and Chace prolonged the inevitable before Kinslow put the set away with a kill on the assist from Chace for the 25-12 win.
Three-straight serve receive errors by Cove helped the Lady Longhorns build a 7-4 lead in the early stages of set two.
A kill by sophomore Jasmine Hall and a dump by junior Mya Adeoye pushed the Cedar Hill lead to four before kills by Fa’aola, Kinslow and Chace; along with a pair of aces by junior Kristen Wasiak sparked a 7-0 run for the 12-9 Cove lead.
Errors again allowed the Lady Longhorns to creep back into the lead 14-12 on a pair of two-touch calls and a hit into the net.
A kill by Kinslow stopped the Cedar Hill run and started one for Cove before two kills and a block by Chace gave Cove back the lead, 17-16, despite kills by Adeoye and Green.
Miscues by both sides pushed the score to 21-all when kills by Pettigrew, Fa’aola and Close gave the Lady Dawgs set point, 24-21.
Two Cove miscues and a block by Green then knotted the match at 24-all before the plays by Kinslow and Close gave Cove a 2-0 lead.
Errors by Cove and a block by Green gave the Lady Longhorns the early 7-4 advantage in the final set before Cedar Hill returned the favor in the form of errors and a back row kill by Chace knotted the set at 7-all.
Kills by Kinslow and Close gave Cove a 9-8 lead before five more Cove miscues allowed cedar Hill to build a four-point lead, 13-9.
Cedar Hill held the surging Lady Dawgs at bay briefly with kills by Green and junior Amber Johnson kept the four-point lead at 16-12 before kills by Chace and a block by Kinslow kick started the 13-4 run to close the contest.
Blocks by Fa’aola and Kinslow helped Cove get match point before the Kinslow kill closed the set 25-20 and match 3-0.
Chace led the Cove offense with 10 kills while Kinslow added nine and Powell and Fa’aola chipped in six apiece. Chace also led in assists with 18 while junior Kamryn Ash added 16 more.
Close led the front line defense with eight blocks and Pettigrew added six.
Wasiak led the back row defense with 13 digs while Powell added 12 and Chace registered nine.
The Lady Dawgs will get a chance to avenge last years’ playoff sweep at the hands of Southlake Carroll and Lowery likes her team’s chances.
“I thought we played well against them last year, better than I thought we could,” said Lowery. “I think this year this team is a little more confident and far more offensive. Against a team like Carroll that plays a lot like us, it’s going to be a better game.
“We play better against teams that play a faster, prettier, more aggressive game because we don’t relax. When we play teams that are tipping or whatever, sometimes you get back on your heels a little bit because it slows it down. We like it fast.”
Lowery also knows it doesn’t get any easier from here. Should her no. 21 ranked Lady Dawgs get past no. 17 Southlake Carroll, they have a potential matchup with no. 14 Byron Nelson or Carroll rival South Grand Prairie that won Southlake’s district.
“Region I is just brutal and we are just a little bitty small school that should probably be a 5A school with teams that are ranked in the top 5 or 10 in the nation all yearlong,” said Lowery. “We’re here though and there are a lot of people that aren’t. Anything can happen so we’re just going to get in there and play our best and anything can happen.”