The excitement is finally about to begin.
After months of preparation and practice, and playing 45 matches, including a 13-1 run to a share of the District 8-5A championship, Copperas Cove head coach Cari Lowery is on the precipice of embarking into the only time of year that truly matters — the postseason.
“I feel good, I’m ready for the playoffs,” she said. “I’m ready for season No. 3. That is what you work the first two seasons for.”
This will be the Lady Bulldawgs’ eighth consecutive postseason appearance under Lowery, who took control of the program in 2004, and despite failing to match last season’s undefeated District 8-5A championship team’s record, Copperas Cove is as dangerous as ever.
Led by a pair of explosive middle blockers in defending district MVP Qiana Canete and Bryaunea Hall, few teams can match the power generated at the net by the Lady Bulldawgs. And they have the numbers to prove it.
Including their two playoff matches, the 2012 team finished with 1,421 kills. Entering Tuesday’s regular season final against Shoemaker, Copperas Cove already vastly exceeded the total, posting 1,528 kills.
Defensively, after thwarting 530 attempts in 2012, the Lady Bulldawgs are slightly behind last season’s pace with 474 blocks. Additionally, they already have 200 more digs than last year and their number of aces is comparable with 213 this season after having 244 last year.
Copperas Cove excelled in almost all areas during its 25-5, 25-16, 25-11 win against the Lady Grey Wolves.
Canete recorded a team-high 24 kills to give her 624 for the season after setting a school record with 453 last year. She also contributed three blocks, tying her with teammate Hall, who added a dozen kills in the victory. Junior setter Mikayla Blount finished with 24 assists and served up six aces, while Lexi Perez led the team with 12 digs.
While Lowery was pleased with her team’s one-sided win, she believes the effort does little to get her team for the postseason.
“Just one game is never going to prepare you for the playoffs,” Lowery said. “We’ve played almost 50 games counting scrimmages this year. That is what prepares you for the playoffs.”
The Lady Bulldawgs (38-7, 13-1) still have one more piece of business to attend to before their playoff run can begin.
Due to splitting the season series with Midway, the Pantherettes and Copperas Cove finish the season with identical district records. In order to determine district seeding for the postseason, the pair will play today at 6 p.m. at Temple High School. The winner will face Duncanville in the bi-district round, while the loser plays Midlothian.
Regardless of the outcome, the Lady Bulldawgs enter the playoffs as an experienced team with a chip on its shoulder following a last season’s humbling straight-set loss in the area round to Flower Mound.
Anchored by group of five seniors, Copperas Cove has only lost 23 sets all year with Midway’s 3-2 victory marking the only time the Lady Bulldawgs lost a set in district competition.
While players like Canete and Hall typically garner the most attention due to their high-flying, hard-hitting styles, success in the playoffs will depend on getting production from every member of the roster, according to Lowery.
“You can’t just have the big, tall girl that plays and not have any defense to get the ball to her,” she said. “Everybody has got to do their job, so we are going to depend on everybody.”