Copperas Cove already achieved a pair of firsts in school history, and the Lady Bulldawgs hope to add another before the end of their season.
Last week, No. 14 Copperas Cove earned the program’s first district championship. Tuesday, with a straight-sets victory at Killeen, the Lady Bulldawgs accomplished the first undefeated district run in school history.
After the milestone victory, Copperas Cove head coach Cari Lowery admitted the success experienced this season is the result of years of work.
“It takes a while to build a program,” the coach said. “We’ve been building and getting progressively better each year, and this team truly plays like a team.
“A lot of them have been with me on varsity for a couple of years now, and this is one of the first groups that has been with me through junior high and high school. It makes a difference.”
The team cohesion was evident at Killeen, where the Lady Bulldawgs completed their perfect run through District 8-5A with a 25-9, 25-11, 25-17 win.
The victory caps off a 21-match winning streak to end the regular season, but Copperas Cove needs to extend the streak to 28 consecutive wins if it hopes to become the first Lady Bulldawgs team to win a state championship.
And Lowery, who has been relentlessly stressing the importance of winning every match to her players for months, believes it can be accomplished with proper focus.
“We have to continue to build on our momentum and not let mistakes take us out of our game,” Lowery said. “That’s why you play a tough pre-district season. You play the best teams you can find, so that you have to fight for every single point, so you’ll be ready to fight when the fighting counts.”
Copperas Cove (35-6, 14-0) opens the playoffs against Mansfield Timberview on either Monday or Tuesday. Both coaches will solidify the date this afternoon. Prior to the bi-district match, however, the Lady Bulldawgs will host Class 4A No. 4 Hutto in a warm-up match Friday at 6 p.m.
If all goes according to plan, Copperas Cove will produce a repeat of its performance against Killeen. The Lady Bulldawgs were in complete control for almost the entire match, trailing just one time all evening.
Copperas Cove jumped out to an 8-1 lead in the first set before posting seven consecutive points to clinch the win. It was more of the same in the second set as the Lady Bulldawgs opened with a 9-2 run and closed with a 7-2 outburst.
Killeen (18-30, 1-13) claimed its only lead early in the third set at 4-3, but Copperas Cove answered by winning 10 of the next 13 points to trigger a victory. The Lady Kangaroos refused to go away in their season finale and pulled within seven points, 24-17, thanks to a 6-2 run capped off by Johlicia Williams’ kill, but could not get any closer.
Williams, who posted a team-high tying five kills, is one of four seniors to conclude their high school careers in the loss, joining Tiare Dugger, Esha Atkins and Dominique Pettway.
“Those are my four little babies, really,” Killeen head coach Shelly Harris said. “I got them as freshmen, and we’ve had our ups and downs, but they always, no matter how much I chewed them out and just ripped them up, kept coming back. That says a lot about them.”
And the quartet will be missed on offense after combining for 13 of the team’s 20 kills against Copperas Cove.
“We are in a total rebuild next year,” Harris said. “We were young this year, but we will be even younger next year. In two or three years, we will be a team to fight. I’m not saying we not going to be all right and do all right, but we are going to be very young.”
While Killeen is forced to look ahead to next year, Copperas Cove middle blocker Qiana Canete, who finished with a game-high 13 kills to go with three blocks, three digs and two aces, is taking time to enjoy a remarkable run she hopes does not end until the hoists a state championship trophy.
“It feels amazing,” the junior said. “We’ve been working really hard to get to this point. We are just going to see where we can go from here.
“We’ve just got to work harder, play harder and do everything we can to keep going.”
Contact Clay Whittington at firstname.lastname@example.org