LDVB shakes off early nerves to sweep Shoemaker in 12-6A opener

By TJ MAXWELL
Cove Leader-Press

It was the first time in a varsity district volleyball contest for many of the Copperas Cove Lady Dawgs and that was apparent early on as Killeen Shoemaker took an early 9-6 lead paced by the Lady Wolves’ Emi’Jah Spencer.
“We have some young sophomores out there and some young, inexperienced girls and they were nervous,” said Copperas Cove head volleyball coach Cari Lowery. “It was the first home game of district. It was loud and, so, we started nervous.”
“In game two, we played like we should have played. We came back mid-way through game one and I was pretty pleased with it after that. Once they finally got in their rhythm and got a couple big kills, them they started playing how they can play.”
A block and kill by Cove senior Janice Fa’aola, along with a rejection by senior Jaela Rice, sparked a 19-7 run to close the set.
A kill by Spencer and a dump by Nathalynn Nanai helped keep the Lady Wolves within striking distance at 17-15, but three-consecutive kills by Fa’aola and an ace by sophomore Emma Wasiak helped open a 22-15 lead.
Another kill by Spencer slowed the Cove momentum briefly but kills by Fa’aola and a kill by Rice closed the set 25-16.
“When we started playing, we were kind of slow,” said Fa’aola. “It’s a reflection of how we practiced. By the second set, we came together and talked about what we needed to do to play our game and keep the pace up.”
Fa’aola started the second set the same way she ended the first, hammering down kills before senior Leah Powell joined in on the fun with three-consecutive kills to give the Lady Dawgs a 10-3 lead.
“She’s a weapon for sure,” Lowery said of Fa’aola. “She and Leah (Powell) both are, and Jaela Rice is as well. They were triple blocking in the middle, so we didn’t get to use our middle attack as much as we have used it. Last year’s team, we had five or six hitters so it was spread out so everybody doesn’t really know what Janice, Jaela and Leah can do yet.”
A kill by Shoemaker’s Tyra Williams broke the streak for the Lady Dawgs but a block and a kill by senior Leah Powell started another run to push the lead to 13-4. Another kill by Shoemaker’s Williams was answered with a 7-0 Cove run, led by kills from Fa’aola and Powell. 
A pair of blocks by Shoemaker’s Veronica Myles and Spencer briefly held off the inevitable but a block from Cove sophomore Kyra Gaston another Fa’aola kill led a 5-1 run to victory, 25-9.
Cove again jumped out to a huge lead, 9-1, in the third and final set, punctuated by a kill and two blocks from Powell along with an ace from Fa’aola.
A block by Shoemaker’s Nanai and a pair of kills by Spencer helped narrow the Cove lead to just three, 10-7. 
Kills by Powell and junior Larissa Melendez helped Cove grow its lead to eight, 18-10, before a service point and a Spencer kill made it a 19-12 contest. 
Two kills by Powell and another block by Gaston pushed the lead to 21-13 before kills by Powell and Fa’aola pushed it to match point at 24-15 and a block by Fa’aola closed the match.
“Last season, we had a lot of seniors,” said Fa’aola. “Although I was an upperclassman, I had a lot of seniors to look up to and this year, I’m the senior so I have to be the role model to all the newcomers and younger players. I’m excited.”
The Lady Dawgs’ offensive attack was led by Fa’ola with 17 kills and Powell with 14. Setting up that offense was junior Emily Vanderpoel with 20 assists and senior Sam Ingram with 18.  
Leading the back-row defense was Wasiak with 15 digs followed by Fa’aola (13) and Powell (8). Leading the front row defense was Powell, Gaston and Rice with three blocks each. Wasiak and Vanderpoel also had a pair of aces each to lead the stat. 
The Lady Dawgs will travel to Bastrop tonight to face Cedar Creek in a non-district tilt before returning to District 12-6A play Tuesday against Waco High at Bulldawg Gymnasium.
“I really think we just need to work on being consistent. We have moments where we’re playing really good with high energy and, sometimes, we might slip into a hole. I think that’s one of the biggest things we need to focus on…playing consistent the entire game.”
The Lady Dawgs have played 26 games and six scrimmages in three weeks. That fast-paced schedule now slows to a crawl for district play and Lowery hopes it has prepared her team for a tough district battle.
“Prepare or not, it’s what you’ve got to do,” said Lowery. “We tried to play as wide of variety of teams we could. We’ve lost a few games, but we weren’t blown out by anybody. I feel like if we went back to the Allen tournament next weekend, I think we’d win it. If we went back to the Austin tournament, I think we’d win it. I knew early on because we had new kids and I lost my middle to an injury three practices in, that we were going to do a little of this early on.” 

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