Qiana Canete knows every match could be her last.
Copperas Cove’s standout senior is merely weeks away from concluding her high school career, but she is not ready to look back just yet.
The No. 21 Lady Bulldawgs swept Duncanville in the opening round of the Class 5A playoffs Tuesday evening at Midway High School, propelling them into a matchup against No. 12 Hebron in the area round.
Before she even left the gymnasium, Canete was already getting giddy about playing again, especially against a state-ranked opponent.
“This was definitely a good start,” the middle blocker said, “but I’m really looking forward to the next game. We’ve got to keep pushing and keep doing what we did tonight. We’ve got to keep doing everything the right way.”
Copperas Cove’s area-round match takes place at 2 p.m. on Saturday at Glen Rose High School, and any slipup could give the team consecutive early exits from the postseason after losing to Flower Mound in the second round last year.
The point was emphasized by the Lady Panthers, who were dominated in the first two sets before bouncing back to challenge Copperas Cove in the third set. Duncanville’s rally proved inconsequential in the big picture, however, as the Lady Bulldawgs won 25-11, 25-7, 25-20 to advance.
But a message was received nonetheless.
“In the playoffs, everybody is playing like it is the last game of their lives,” Copperas Cove head coach Cari Lowery said, “because it very well could be. Everybody is playing with everything they’ve got for every point.”
Copperas Cove broke a 3-3 tie in the opening set by winning three consecutive points, including back-to-back kills from junior Mikayla Blunt. The Lady Bulldawgs allowed the Lady Panthers to score consecutive points just once during the duration of the set, while using long rallies, including a 12-3 run, to cruise to victory.
The second set was even more one-sided as the Lady Bulldawgs (40-7) won at least five consecutive points on three different occasions to claim a 2-0 lead in the match.
It appeared the third set would be another lopsided affair as Copperas Cove built an immediate 9-2 lead.
The Lady Panthers (12-23) answered by winning eight of the next nine points to tie the set 10-10 and the teams went back and forth from there.
“I didn’t expect Game 2 to be like that,” Lowery said. “I expected every game to be a tough game, so we’re just glad one of them was easy.”
The squads exchanged a couple ties before Duncanville claimed a 15-12 lead. The Lady Bulldawgs answered by scoring three consecutive points, including Bryaunea Hall’s kill to tie the set at 15-15. Hall finished with 10 kills.
Copperas Cove quickly trailed again at 17-15, but responded by winning 10 of the final 13 points to extend their season.
“We slowed down,” said Blount, who led Copperas Cove with 22 assists. “We exhaled as Coach Lowery would say, but other than that, we did good. We kept our intensity up for most of the game.”
“In the third game, we just started relaxing, which we shouldn’t do,” said Canete, who finished with a team-high 15 kills and three blocks. “We need to learn how to keep playing and keep the mood we had in the first two games.”
Lexi Perez finished with 18 digs for the Lady Bulldawgs, while teammates Destiny Henderson and Lily Drever had two aces apiece.
The Lady Bulldawgs will need another strong showing in order to survive Hebron (35-11) and reach the regional quarterfinals. The Lady Hawks, who have won 10 of their last 11 matches, beat Hurst L.D. Bell 25-16, 25-17, 25-7 in the opening round Tuesday to advance
“We’re going to practice hard and get ready to go out and play our game,” Blount said. “(Duncanville) was good competition, and we needed it to prepare for the next team.”