LDVB defeats Ellison; forces 3rd place tie in 12-6A
By TJ MAXWELL
KILLEEN – The final match for Copperas Cove head volleyball coach Cari Lowery and her Lady Dawgs volleyball team was much like the season – a rollercoaster ride.
The Lady Dawgs, who had already locked up at least the fourth seed in the playoffs, were on the verge of getting swept in their season finale against the Lady Eagles after dropping the first two sets by identical scores of 25-17.
However, the Lady Dawgs still had some fight left and avenged one of their first-round losses with a five-set (17-25, 17-25, 25-15, 25-16, 15-9) road win over Ellison to force a coin-flip to determine the final two seeds.
“I’m just happy we’re still playing,” Lowery said after the win. “Midway’s season got called on Tuesday and they’re out. It could have happened at any point in time. You just don’t know. It’s not necessarily from anything you’re doing wrong or right, it’s just how the year is, so we’re just happy we’re still playing.
“My JV and freshmen got to come back today. They’ve been quarantined for two weeks. They didn’t get any practice, came back today to play, then they called this afternoon to cancel the freshmen game. For grown people and for me, and I’ve been doing this forever and I love what I do, the start-stop, start-stop is overwhelming for 15- and 16-year-olds and you can see it all over them.”
Trailing 2-0 in the match, the Lady Dawgs began to find some energy and rhythm in the early stages of set three.
A kill by senior Saniyah Hammonds and an ace by senior Quetzalli Bibbins gave Ellison an early 4-3 lead in the third set before kills by junior Jiya Edwards and junior Kyra Gaston flipped the lead to Cove 6-5.
A block by Gaston and a kill each by Gaston and junior Jamesia Moody helped the Lady Dawgs push their lead to three, 10-7.
After a push shot by Ellison senior setter Alexis Barcinas stalled the Lady Dawgs’ lead, a kill by Edwards off the assist by sophomore Jakhi Smith started a 10-1 Cove run.
Push shots by senior Hope Chapman and senior Emily Vanderpoel pushed the score to 15-8 before aces by Vanderpoel and junior libero Emma Wasiak helped the Lady Dawgs take a 21-9 lead in the set.
A kill by senior Deajia Brown and an ace by Bibbins temporarily kept the set alive for Ellison until another Edwards kill, along with a kill and a block by senior Larrissa Melendez, gave the Lady Dawgs set point, 24-12.
A pair of Cove miscues and a kill by Ellison junior Kira Bass made it a 24-15 score before a push shot by Gaston closed the set, 25-15.
Two big kills by Edwards and two more by Gaston helped the Lady Dawgs jump out to a 6-1 lead in set four.
A push shot by Ellison briefly halted the Cove run before another Gaston kill and a combo block by Gaston and Moody made it a 9-2 Cove lead.
A block by Bass; along with kills by Barcinas, junior Adelia Puni, and Bass; helped the Lady Eagles pull within four points, 11-7.
A pair of blocks by Barcinas and a kill by junior Adaizah Millett helped the Lady Eagles narrow the lead even further before a push shot and a kill by Cove’s Chapman began a 6-1 run for a 20-12 lead for the Lady Dawgs.
A kill by Cove’s Gaston and one by Ellison’s Bass helped push the Cove lead to 23-15 before kills by senior Jasmine Davis and Edwards closed out the set 25-16 and knotted the match at two sets apiece.
The Lady Dawgs again got out to a quick start in the fifth and deciding set with kills by Chapman and Melendez, along with an ace by Wasiak for a 5-1 lead.
Kills by Ellison’s Puni and Bass helped the Lady Eagles narrow the Cove lead to just 1, 7-6, before back-to-back blocks by Gaston and an ace by Melendez pushed Cove’s lead to 10-6 in the race to 15.
A pair of kills by Ellison’s Millett pulled the Lady Eagles back within three, 12-9, before the Lady Dawgs closed out the match with a pair of kills and a block by Edwards for the 15-9 win in the fifth set and 3-2 win in the match.
“Ellison is all seniors and I said at the very beginning that the teams that win this year are going to have the best athletes of the most experience because nobody got any time,” said Lowery. “We’re not that this year. We’re not the most experienced. We are three sophomores and juniors on the floor. I have three seniors with any experience and that is it. I’m proud of them. There are moments of beauty and then it’s a little, what are we doing?”
Edwards and Gaston led the Lady Dawgs attack with 12 and 11 kills, respectively. Melendez added seven kills, followed by Chapman (5), Moody (3), and Davis (3).
“Jiya, the last four or five games, has really broken loose and been the player I thought she could be,” said Lowery. “The potential is all there, they’re just going to have to show up and play.”
Vanderpoel set up the offense with 27 assists while Smith chipped in 10.
Leading the front-line defense was Gaston with 13 blocks while Moody added six followed by Edwards, Melendez and Davis with two each.
Wasiak led in digs for Cove with 32.
Leading the Ellison attack were Millett with nine kills and Brown with six. Barcinas, Bass and Hammonds added five kills each.
Barcinas led in assists with 28.
Neither team could get an advantage in the first set of the match until kills by Millett and Barcinas helped give the Lady Eagles a 17-9 as part of a 6-0 run after three points or less separated the teams through the first 20 points.
A passing error and a net violation by Cove helped the Lady Eagles grow their lead to nine, 19-10.
Kills by Davis and Edwards but a push shot to the open court by Barcinas helped the Lady Eagles close the set 25-17 for a 1-0 lead in the match.
A kill by Melendez and a combo block by Edwards and sophomore Aaliyah Butler helped give Cove a 3-0 lead in set two before a kill by Brown, consecutive blocks by Bass and a kill by Bass flipped the lead to Ellison, 5-3.
A directional kill by Gaston and an ace by Smith flipped the lead back to Cove, 6-5, before kills by Bass and Bibbins and an ace by senior Mikayla Morgan made it a 9-7 Ellison lead.
Kills by Moody and Edwards for Cove couldn’t hold off a 13-8 Ellison run, fueled by kills from Millett, Brown, Puni and Bass and an ace by junior Evelyn Lorenzo that gave the Lady Eagles a 23-15 lead.
A kill by Moody and an ace by Vanderpoel kept Cove in the set before a kill by Millett and a Cove passing error closed the set, 25-17.
A coin-flip will likely determine the final seeding of the two teams. The loser of the coin-flip will face undefeated District 11-6A champions Mansfield with the winner of the flip to face either Lake Ridge or Waxahachie.
Lowery is just thankful to be get an opportunity at the postseason after the rollercoaster season.
“I’m just happy we’re getting a playoff game,” said Lowery. “If it’s just one or two or seven I’m happy for whatever we get.”
“I’m wearing a mask talking to you wearing a mask. That pretty much sums up the whole season. It is a nightmare. I know what I do that gets kids and it’s not behind a mask. I can’t see them, I can’t high-five them, I can’t hug them. Half the time you’re screaming as loud as you can, but they can’t hear you or understand you. It’s just a crazy year.”