Copperas Cove has a huge void to fill.
After being led to consecutive District 8-5A championships by Qiana Canete, the Lady Bulldawgs must learn to live without the standout outside hitter, who now suits up for the University of Texas-Arlington.
Canete was far more than raw talent, though.
“What made her great was not her size or her athleticism, it was her attitude and work ethic,” Lady Bulldawgs head coach Cari Lowery said. “That’s what made Qiana great and set her apart from everyone else. She was blessed with athleticism and she was extremely coachable from Day 1, and if I tried hard to think of a day or a minute or a second she didn’t give me everything she had, I couldn’t have done it.”
In addition to solidifying Copperas Cove as an elite team, Canete was an all-state selection, two-time district and all-area MVP, and set the program record for most kills in a season (679) and a career (1,464).
Making matters worse for the defending champions, graduation also stole Canete’s on-court complement in fellow middle blocker Bryaunea Hall and defensive specialist Destiny Henderson.
Luckily there are plenty of players willing to shoulder the responsibility.
“We’ll have to step up,” 2013 all-district defensive player of the year Lexi Perez said.
“But there’s a lot of seniors, and I think we’ll step up, and we’ll be good together. I’ll try and help by talking on the court and pushing everyone to be the best they can be all the time.”
The first practice of the season was held Monday at Bulldawg Gymnasium with about 90 kids trying out for the team.
Senior setter Mikayla Blount has already secured her position following an impressive 2013 campaign that earned her a spot on the all-district first team. In fact, she is already looking to assume added leadership duties.
“I’ll try to step up as much as I can and try to push everyone else on the team to step up and fill those holes,” she said.
With eight consecutive playoff appearances, Copperas Cove consistently has the talent to thrive on the court, but the team’s success will be determined by how the players perform away from the game, according to Lowery.
After witnessing Canete’s dedication to the game over the past several years, the blueprint is obvious to the players.
“Her commitment level changed the game for all the other kids because they saw her and how talented she was,” Lowery said.
“She could have very easily relaxed and exhaled by her senior year … and she just raised her game and her practice to another level. So, that changes it for everybody.”