For the past four years, Bulldawg Gymnasium served as her second home.
Tuesday marked the beginning of the end for Qiana Canete’s relationship with the building where she developed into the school’s most prolific hitter. After countless hours of practice, numerous matches and endless fond memories, the senior standout played for the time on her home floor as Copperas Cove beat Killeen in lopsided fashion, concluding a journey responsible for molding her career.
“(Bulldawg Gymnasium) means a lot,” Canete said following the sweep of Killeen. “It is crazy that four years ago I was sitting on the freshman team, and now I’m here. I’m just happy that what I did all added up, and I’m actually somewhere with volleyball.”
The middle blocker begins her college career at the University of Texas-Arlington next season after accomplishing almost everything possible at Copperas Cove, including winning a district championship, being named all-area MVP and rewriting the school’s record books. The one goal that has eluded her, however, is a deep playoff run.
The Lady Bulldawgs were eliminated in the area round during each of the past two seasons, including last year after Canete led the team to the first undefeated district championship in program history, while breaking the single-season record for kills.
With two regular-season and at least on playoff match still looming, Canete has already replaced the milestone, having delivered 590 kills to this point, including a match-high 18 kills against the Lady Kangaroos.
Killeen had no answer for Canete or the No. 22 Lady Bulldawgs, who kept pace with Midway atop the District 8-5A standings with a 25-16, 25-12, 25-15 victory on senior night. Although Copperas Cove (36-7, 11-1) needs to win out and have the Pantherettes lose one of their final two matches to claim a second outright district title, Canete is already looking ahead to the playoffs with the Lady Bulldawgs guaranteed at least second place.
“We just have to make sure that in practice we keep working hard, and we never stop working hard,” Canete said. “We have to keep pushing each other and make sure that (we transform) everyone’s weakness into a strength.”
Copperas Cove showed little vulnerability against Killeen, using long runs to take control in each set.
Killeen (12-14, 5-7) was within two points, 14-12, midway through the opening set before a 9-1 run by Copperas Cove completely swung momentum in its direction. In the second set, the Lady Bulldawgs used a 15-4 run to build a comfortable 17-6 advantage and cruise to victory.
The Lady Kangaroos had their best showing in the third set, holding a slim lead on several occasions, including at 12-11. Middle blocker Bryaunea Hall, who posted 13 kills and four blocks, tied the score 12-12, triggering a set-clinching 14-3 outburst by Copperas Cove, including nine unanswered point to secure the victory.
Like Canete, Hall, who is also a senior, can hardly believe she played her final match at Bulldawg Gymnasium.
“Some parts of me want to cry, knowing this is my last home game,” Hall said. “Not in a million years would I ever think I’d cry after a volleyball game, but I guess this year really changed me.”
Copperas Cove plays at Ellison today at 5:30 p.m. before traveling to Shoemaker Tuesday.
While head coach Cari Lowery enjoyed the victory and seeing her players, especially the seniors, and their parents honored during a post-match ceremony to conclude the home schedule, she is thrilled it is over.
“I hate this night,” Lowery said laughing. “There is so much stuff for them to focus on with it being senior night and their last home game, it is hard to stay focused (on the match). But overall, we won in three sets, and I can’t ask for much more than that.”
Contact Clay Whittington at email@example.com