COPPERAS COVE — Barring a complete collapse, Copperas Cove secured a playoff spot Tuesday.
But Cari Lowery does not care.
The Lady Bulldawgs swept visiting Ellison 25-14, 25-10, 25-18 on Tuesday evening, improving their District 8-5A record to 8-0. While their unbeaten run thus far virtually guarantees a trip to the postseason, Copperas Cove’s head coach refuses to look past her upcoming opponents.
“There isn’t any point in this district that anybody can let off the gas,” Lowery said. “Everybody’s got to play all the way through. It’s tight, and everybody is still in it for a playoff spot.
“I tell (my players) every day that we don’t get to have a bad game. All of our bad games, we should have had those in August.”
Mathematically, the Lady Bulldawgs (28-6) could miss the playoffs if they go on an extended losing streak, but if their performance against Ellison (14-16, 3-5 8-5A) was any indication, such a skid seems highly unlikely. Ellison, on the other hand, needs a strong showing and a little help from the competition over the duration of district play to work its way into the playoff picture.
“We do have a chance, I’ve just got to win five out of the six coming up,” said Ellison head coach William De Gracia, “And I believe we can because I do have ballplayers. They’ve just got to show up and play, and they have to trust each other. That’s the point we are at. I think that is what we are lacking.”
Led by Qiana Canete’s all-around showing, No. 15 Copperas Cove trailed just twice in the entire match. Canete finished with team-highs in digs (11) and kills (12) to go with an ace and two blocks.
After using a 9-2 run to clinch the opening set, the Lady Bulldawgs used a 15-1 outburst, including 10 consecutive points on the back of senior Arielle Garcia’s serving, to claim a 24-10 lead in the second set, but Ellison (14-16, 3-5) answered by constructing a small rally, scoring five unanswered points.
However, Copperas Cove middle blocker Bryaunea Hall delivered an emphatic kill to clinch the set. The junior finished with six kills.
Despite earning the second-set victory in relatively dominating fashion, Lowery denied any notion it allowed her team to felt at ease.
“The idea of momentum for us (is nonexistent),” she said. “We’ve played enough games that we’ve been ahead and lost or been behind and come back, so we just try to be consistent.”
Ellison earned its only two leads of the night early in third set, winning the first two points of the set before holding a narrow 3-2 advantage. Copperas Cove immediately responded by winning six of the next seven points and never looked back.
The Lady Bulldawgs held a six-point lead at 16-10, then pushed it to seven points (21-14) before wrapping up the victory on a Mikayla Blount kill set up by Garcia. The pair of setters combined for 46 assists, 13 digs, 11 kills, three aces and a block.
“Setting is the hardest skill in volleyball by far,” Lowery said. “It’s not just the hardest skill, but they are the coaches on the court, and they’ve got to be in my head and know what needs to happen. They’ve got to know what your team is doing, what the other team wants to do. They’ve got to know which hitters are hot, where the blockers are; it’s just a lot of stuff setters have to do, and our setters are great.”