THE NEW NORMAL
Fri, 2016-10-28 05:00 News Staff
Lady Dawgs sweep Shoemaker in season finale; prepare to face Desoto in playoff opener
By TJ MAXWELL
KILLEEN – It’s not exactly the performance Copperas Cove head volleyball coach Cari Lowery wanted to see from her squad in the season finale, despite sweeping the Shoemaker Lady Grey Wolves in Killeen on Tuesday.
After shooting out to an 8-2 in the first game, the Lady Dawgs had to fight off two set points to take the first set 27-25.
Cove again found themselves battling to fight off a feisty Shoemaker squad in the second set, 25-22, before finally starting to click in the final set with a 25-17 win.
“I’m glad it’s over,” said Lowery. “We jumped out to a big lead in the first game and then we exhaled and never really got it back. The style of play between the two teams is so vastly different; it’s always a hard game to play.”
Injuries have forced Lowery to be a little more daring with her lineup as Lowery feels that will pay off down the road with nearly everyone on the roster logging minutes. She already had three sophomores on the floor much of the season but, with the injury to leading hitter sophomore Aidan Chace, Lowery has had to add freshman Leah Powell to the mix.
“It’s always beneficial (to get playing time for your reserves),” said Lowery. “We have been a different team on the floor and a different combination for about three weeks now. I have a freshman on the outside and she’s getting kills. She’s getting better, she’s coachable and she’s making some big plays. I changed the offense again in game two and had some people step in. I put a setter in (Antanese Kinard) that played in three or four games all year long. Every time she’s on the court it is a learning- and growing-moment for her. We are not going to be the team we were a month ago for the rest of the season ago. We’ve got to find new normal and continue to get better.”
The Lady Dawgs began and ended like gangbusters but it was the middle part that concerns Lowery.
Adversity can sometimes get in their heads and she feels they need to have a short memory and stay locked in.
“Today in practice it looked great and it looked great at the beginning of the game today,” said Lowery. “But, since we are so young and we haven’t played where we jumped out on somebody as a team before, we exhaled and had to fight back out of it.
“They have to learn that when you get bad calls or no calls it doesn’t matter. You have to step back in and keep playing. If they take a point away from you or a few points, you have to maintain your composure and play because that’s going to happen. Officials are human and they are judgment calls sometimes and the call they make is not the call I would make and that’s the way it is.”
Senior setter Kiarrah Carlisle is tasked with putting the ball in the right positions to ease the burden on her less-experienced hitting corps.
“I think we’re getting a little better each day and we should be good by the playoffs,” she said. “I just need to make sure they are focused at all times and doing what they need to be doing. Everyone is stepping up and continue to get better everyday.”
Carlisle has relies on her two main outside hitters, junior Talia Kinslow and senior Brianna Acker, to hammer one to the floor when they need a spark offensively.
“They have really big swings,” said Carlisle. “When they do what they need to do, they are untouchable. They are great hitters.”
Carlisle credits senior libero Madison Wasiak for keeping the team focused enough to earn the sweep over Shoemaker and pick up the 30th win of the season.
“Madison Wasiak was a leader tonight, too,” said Carlisle. “She told us we all need to get in the game and we need to play. She was a big leader for us tonight.”
A kill by Kinslow along with block by senior Chyanne Chapman and Kinslow helped the Lady Dawgs shoot out to an 8-2 lead but kills and an ace by Shoemaker’s Charlene Shepherd helped the Lady Wolves get back in the set and a point by Alexia Wilkinson knotted the game at 11-11.
After more ties at 15, 16, 17 and 18, Shoemaker edged ahead, 22-18, with a few errant Cove shots.
A kill by Acker and a push shot by Zari Chipman narrowed the gap but two more errors by Cove gave the Lady Wolves game point at 24-22.
Kills by Powell and Acker and an ace by Carlisle knotted the game at 25 before two Shoemaker errors gave Cove the set 27-25.
Shoemaker would jump out to the early lead, 7-3, in set two with shots by Shepherd leading the way but shots by Kinslow and Acker brought Cove back within one, 9-8.
Shoemaker again widened the gap leading by as much as five, 18-13, but kills by Chapman, Kinslow and Acker highlighted a 12-4 run to close the set. A kill and a push by senior Dazsa Braddock ended the set.
The Lady Dawgs jumped out to an early lead, 6-2, in the final set before a 6-1 run gave the Lady Wolves an 8-7 lead on another kill by Shepherd.
Cove answered with an 11-4 run to regain control, 18-12, on three-consecutive kills by Kinslow set up by Carlisle.
Another block and dump by Shoemaker’s Shepherd brought the Lady Wolves back within three, 20-17, but five-straight points by Cove closed out the match. Kills by Acker and Braddock, along with an ace by Chapman and a block by Braddock highlighted the run.
The Lady Dawgs finish the regular season 30-13 and 10-2 in District 8-6A.
“It’s not the season we wanted or the season we hoped for,” said Lowery, “But it’s the season we have and we’ve got to do the best we can with it.”
Kinslow finished with a match-high 14 kills while Acker chipped in 12 to lead the Cove hitters. The freshman Powell added seven.
Carlisle led in assists with 27 while Kinard added 11.
Wasiak led the Cove back row defense with 30 digs followed by Carlisle (16) and senior Aneissa Vega (14).
Chapman had eight blocks to lead the defense at the net and Kinslow added four.
Cove begins their playoff adventures Monday at 6:30 p.m. against the Desoto Lady Eagles at Waco High School in Waco.
Desoto (24-14, 12-3) finished third in District 7-6A. They have three hitters with at least 164 kills in juniors Jada Allen (211), Jada Starling (209) and Kiara Hunnicut (164).
Senior Taylor Alexander gets the majority of the ball handing duties with 384.
No one on the team has triple digit blocks but six players have double digits, led by Hunnicut’s 89 and Allen’s 84.
Leading the Lady Eagles’ back row is junior D’ Aira Crowe with 294. Four other defenders have at least 128 digs.
Lowery feels they have seen this style before when facing some of the athletic teams of the Killeen school district and feels if her team shows up, they can move on.
“They’re bigger than us but then again everybody is,” said Lowery. “They have a left-hander and they are scrappy. They run a quick offense from their right side and the middle primarily. They are beatable but everybody has to show up and play.
“Everybody is beatable in the playoffs. It’s anybody’s ball game. We made the playoffs where 80 percent of the schools in Texas are done by Friday and we get to keep playing. Whether its one game, two games or six games. We’re just going to take it as it comes and do our very best.”
Carlisle knows to expect a battle and her team must be ready.
“Just expect that everything is going to come back,” she said. “We need to play our game and control the ball.
“We just need to continue to work hard and do what we do every day. We can’t really be stressed about the game. We just need to do what we know how to do.”