LDVB secures second seed with sweep of Ellison Lady Eagles
By TJ MAXWELL
The Lady Dawgs closed out the regular season in style with a road sweep over the Ellison Lady Eagles to secure the no. 2 seed heading into the UIL State Volleyball playoffs to begin next week.
Sophomore Kyra Gaston had a career night with 16 blocks against the hard-hitting Lady Eagles while senior hitters Janice Fa’aola and Leah Powell combined for 28 kills to help lock up the second seed Tuesday night at Ellison High School.
“We’re doing some good stuff,” said Copperas Cove head volleyball coach and girls’ coordinator Cari Lowery. “Kyra Gaston probably had 15 blocks and that’s awesome. Larissa Melendez is coming through. Everybody is coming through and taking care of business. I thought we played well, and I was pleased with that.
“Even though it was back-and-forth a little bit, I thought we controlled what we were capable of controlling. Ellison has some big hitters so they’re going to get some kills and they have some big blockers so they’re going to get some blocks.”
It was a tight match from start to finish with neither team leading by more than six points at any time during the match, but the Lady Dawgs were able to get that separation at the close of each set to pull off the 3-0 sweep (25-19, 25-21, 25-21) to finish the regular season 32-11 overall and 14-2 in District 12-6A play.
“That’s the way it ought to be,” Lowery said of the tough matchup. “That’s great preparation for the playoffs.”
Two kills by senior Kyra Thompson and another by sophomore Adelia Puni gave the Lady Eagles a 3-1 lead to start on their home court but a kill by Powell and another by Gaston helped knot the game at 6-all.
Kills by senior Nasiyah Smith helped the Lady Eagles retake the edge before two blocks by Powell and a kill by senior Sam Ingram gave Cove their first lead of the match at 11-10.
A 10-6 run by the Lady Dawgs pushed the lead to 21-16. Two kills by Fa’aola an one each from Powell and Ingram fueled the Cove run.
Points by Ellison’s Thompson kept the Lady Eagles in the set but a pair of kills by Powell closed it out at 25-19.
A kill by Ingram along with two blocks by Gaston gave Cove a 7-5 lead after a push by Thompson gave Ellison the opening point and brief lead.
Several long rally points created ties on each of the next four points before a kill and an ace by Ingram helped Cove increase their lead by three, 13-10.
Kills by Puni and sophomore Evelyn Lorenzo and two net violations by Cove led to the eighth tie of the set at 15-all.
An ace by junior Emily Vanderpoel and kills by Fa’aola and Powell gave Cove another three-point edge at 19-16 before a block and a kill by Thompson brought Ellison back within one 20-19.
A block by Gaston, a dump by Ingram and a kill by Powell then gave Cove set-point at 24-20 before a kill by Fa’aola closed the set at 25-21.
Consecutive blocks by Ellison’s Thompson and senior Diamond Woods helped Ellison take a 5-2 lead to open the final set, but a block by Gaston, a dump by Ingram and a serve into the net by Ellison gave Cove back the lead at 7-6.
A kill by Puni and a block by Smith gave Ellison the lead back at 8-7 before ties at the next eight points pushed the score to 15-all. Kills by junior Larissa Melendez, Fa’aola and Powell accounted for Cove’s scoring while kills by Smith and Puni paced the Lady Eagles.
Cove regained the lead with three-straight points on a block and kill by Powell and an ace by Ingram, but Ellison knotted it back up at 18-all on a dump by junior setter Alexis Barcinas and a pair of two-tough violations by Cove.
Ellison returned the favor with a two-touch for a 19-18 Cove lead before kills by Gaston and Fa’aola and a block by Gaston helped Cove push their lead to five, 23-18.
After a kill by Fa’aola gave the Lady Dawgs match-point at 24-19, kills by Smith and Thompson kept the match alive briefly before the 16th kill by Fa’aola closed the set at 25-21 and match at 3-0.
Powell added 12 kills to Fa’aola’s game-high 16 kills. Ingram added nine and senior Jaela Rice added six.
Melendez added six blocks to Gaston’s game-high 16 while Rice added four.
Powell led the back-row defense with 16 digs followed by sophomore Emma Wasiak (12), Fa’aola (11 and Ingram (11). Fa’aola led in serves received with 23 followed by Powell (22) and Wasiak (12).
Ingram and Vanderpoel led the Lady Dawgs in assists with 20 and 13, respectively, and aces with two each.
The Lady Dawgs must now await the winner of the tie-breaker game between 11-6A’s Tyler Lee and Mesquite Horn to be played tonight in Grad Saline.
A win by Tyler Lee would create a Monday night matchup with the Lady Dawgs at Italy High School, whereas a win by Mesquite Horn would create a Tuesday matchup with Cove Tuesday night at Glen Rose High School. Both games are set for a 6:30 p.m. start time.
Despite who they play, Lowery feels it’s about how her team plays that will determine the outcome.
“We’ve got to step up and play every point and not make mistakes,” Lowery said. “We have to make people earn their points; we can’t give them away. We did give away some points tonight with net violations, missed serves and other things I can’t stand.
“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.”