Undefeated Lady Dawgs sweep Shoemaker in playoffs dress rehearsal

By TJ MAXWELL
Cove Leader-Press

The present and future of Copperas Cove Volleyball appears to be blindingly bright as the entire program finished 99-15 overall and 35-1 in District 8-6A to finish as district champs at all three levels.
The Cove Freshman Gold team finished an impressive 32-3 overall and 12-0 in district play while their junior varsity counterparts finished 30-4 overall and 11-1 in district competition to claim the championship.
The Lady Dawg varsity team has been equally impressive this year with just two seniors on the team and a pair of sophomores in the regular rotation.
“It’s crazy. It feels amazing,” said Addie Cook, one of just two seniors on the squad. “I just can’t wait for the playoffs to see what there is to come. I know we’re capable of so much more and I still feel like we haven’t played our best game together but I feel it will come.”
The Lady Dawgs have only lost four games through all of district and all of them were at the hands of last year’s nationally ranked Midway Pantherettes squad that also had to replace a talented senior class.
“I’m very proud of them,” said Copperas Cove head volleyball coach Cari Lowery. “I get asked every year, ‘what are you going to do without so-and-so?’ I always just say, ‘we’ve got to get up and keep going.’ 
“Because we just have two seniors on the team, they shouldn’t have won this district but they worked hard every day. They worked hard all summer. They were here for strength and conditioning all summer and I’m proud that it paid off for them like it should.”
The Lady Dawgs capped their stellar regular season in style with their 10th sweep in district action in their 25-12, 25-11, 25-7 win over the Lady Grey Wolves Tuesday at Bulldawg Gymnasium.
Coach Lowery likes what she saw from her team in the dressed rehearsal for the playoffs.
“I saw some good stuff because Shoemaker had nothing to lose in this last game so they were sending stuff straight back over at us,” she said. “We had to work our transitions and talk better on the floor. In game one it took us a minute but we got better and better and they didn’t hit anymore of those little chunky shots down on us.”
The Lady Dawgs shot out to a 9-0 lead to start the match against Shoemaker with three consecutive aces by junior Kamryn Ash getting the action started before kills by juniors Aidan Chace and Jada Close and a block by Close before Shoemaker’s Emi’jah Spencer halted the 9-0 run with a kill. 
After a pair of Cove hitting errors made it a 9-3 contest, a 7-1 Cove run gave them control of the set 16-4. Kills by sophomore Leah Powell, Chace and junior Christina Pettigrew along with a block by Chace paced the Lady Dawgs’ offense.
A kill and a dump by Charlene Shepherd helped the Lady Wolves cut the Cove lead to 10, 17-7, before uncharacteristic mistakes by Cove and a pair of kills by Alexia Wilkinson helped the Lady Wolves cut the lead to single digits, 20-12. Kills by senior Talia Kinslow and Chace then paced a 5-1 Cove run to take the first set 25-12.
Cove again jumped out early on Shoemaker in the second set, taking a 5-1 lead behind kills by Close, Pettigrew, Chace and sophomore Janice Fa’aola.
A kill by Shepherd helped Shoemaker stay close at 6-4 until an 11-3 Cove run opened up a 10-point lead for the Lady Dawgs, 17-7.
A kill by Kinslow through the Shoemaker block attempt started the run. Kills by Close, Powell, Chace and Close buoyed the run and another ace by Ash closed the run.
A two-touch violation by Cove briefly halted the onslaught but a 7-1 Cove run made it set-point t 24-9. A four-hit by Cove and a kill by Shepherd kept the game briefly alive by a kill by Fa’aola on the assist by Ash finished the set 25-11 for a 2-0 Cove lead.
Shoemaker again fought to keep the set close, staying within three points of Cove until the Lady Dawgs embarked on a 10-2 run to create an 11-point chasm at 17-6.
A kill by Shoemaker’s Tyra Williams briefly halted the run but that would be the last point for the Lady Wolves as Cove finished on an 8-0 run to claim the match 3-0 and the undefeated district championship 12-0.
Chace added another 12 kills to her team-high season total of 434 to lead the Lady Dawgs to victory. Close finished with eight kills followed by Fa’aola (7), Powell (6) and Kinslow (6).
Ash led the offense with a game-high 28 assists to add to her team-high 822 assists on the year. Chace chipped in 13 assists to that tally. Ash also finished with seven aces to add to her team-high 61 aces.
Powell led the back row defense with 19 digs while junior Aviyon Wilborn added 10 and junior Kristen Wasiak added nine. All but two Lady Dawgs seeing action registered digs in the contest.
Chace led the front line defense with three blocks for her 152nd block on the year. Pettigrew leads the team with 172.
The Lady Dawgs will begin their quest for a state title Tuesday night at West High School with a 6:30 p.m. first serve slated against the winner of tonight’s matchup between District 7-6A’s Cedar Hill and Desoto battling for the third- and fourth-place spots.
Lowery feels her team is well prepared for either team as they employ similar characteristics as some of the Lady Dawgs’ district opponents.
“They play a lot like those teams in Killeen so everything we do here is just to get us ready for the playoffs because every single team you meet in the playoffs is different,” she said. “Texas is a big ol’ place and volleyball is different in different parts of the country so you have to be ready for anything.”
Cook likes her teams’ chances against whomever they meet in the opening round as long as they are focused and together.
“We just need to communicate and pass well as a team,” said Cook. “We need to play together the whole time and stay energized throughout the whole game and not just parts of it. The playoffs will be a little faster paced and level of competition will be different.”
Although this is the last hoorah for Cook and Kinslow, Cook is expecting more of the same from her team for the remainder of the season and again next year when the rest return.
“I think fans should be expecting a lot,” she said. “We are undefeated district champs and hopefully state champs this year and hopefully next year as well. Just because they’re young doesn’t mean they’re not experienced. They can play the game. They know what they’re doing.”

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