Last year, Copperas Cove’s softball team appeared to be on the verge of something big.

Now, it is time to see if the Lady Bulldawgs’ potential panned out.

Following a five-year postseason absence, Copperas Cove finally returned to the playoffs in 2013, using raw talent to compensate for a lack of experience. It wasn’t always pretty or 100 percent effective, but the Lady Bulldawgs’ approach guided them to success.

In the aftermath of their 18-17 campaign, former head coach Shelly Hayes, who spent only one season at the helm of the program, stepped down immediately following the Lady Bulldawgs’ loss to Mansfield Timberview in the bi-district round of the Class 5A playoffs.

Although their leader departed, much of the team remained intact with five 8-5A All-District selections returning in an attempt to improve on last year’s run.

Bryan Waller stepped into the void, assuming head coaching responsibilities for the Lady Bulldawgs during the summer, and with the regular season schedule in the books, we are about to find out exactly how this team has grown.

Despite all their progress last season, it was crystal clear Copperas Cove was outmatched once the playoffs began. Having never experienced the pressure, it was evident the big stage swallowed the Lady Bulldawgs’ confidence at times.

The No. 20 Lady Wolves capitalized on three costly Copperas Cove errors, which all led to runs, producing a 5-4 victory in the series opener.

In Game 2, Timberview used a five-run fifth inning to propel it to a sweep, winning 9-2 to end the Lady Bulldawgs’ otherwise positive season.

While the conclusion of the season was far from ideal, the Lady Bulldawgs established themselves as a program capable of becoming a postseason fixture.

Tonight, the Lady Bulldawgs have an opportunity to show the state their time has arrived as they begin their best-of-three bi-district series against the same team responsible for ending their season a year ago.

Like Copperas Cove, the No. 25 Lady Wolves return a number of players from last year’s lineup, creating a rematch capable of serving as a measuring stick for the program.

Once again, the Lady Bulldawgs enter the postseason as a fourth seed and will receive a stiff challenge from the back-to-back District 7-5A champions. Once again, Copperas Cove will be looking to end its dubious and lengthy stretch without a playoff victory, while their opponents attempt to use the Lady Bulldawgs as a stepping stone.

And once again, Copperas Cove’s confidence, determination and resolve will be on display.

Unlike 2013, however, this group of Lady Bulldawgs should be prepared for the pressure cooker atmosphere.

Instead of being a roster full of wide-eyed sophomores and juniors, the lineup is filled with established seniors and numerous battle-tested underclassmen. Waller, who preaches accountability, trust and teamwork along with hammering home the importance of fundamentals, has implemented a new philosophy.

While we won’t know if time has changed this team until the series is complete, even if Timberview delivers another sweep, the wheels of improvement are in motion.

Copperas Cove now has a new goal.

Simply making the playoffs is no longer the Lady Bulldawgs’ sole focus.

Now, winning in the postseason takes precedent, and that is the truest sign of change.

Contact Clay Whittington at

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