C opperas Cove’s softball team is young, inexperienced and opens its first playoff appearance in four seasons against a state-ranked opponent.

It might not sound like an ideal situation, but it’s a recipe for success.

With first-year head coach Shelly Hayes at the helm, the Lady Bulldawgs have thrust themselves in the postseason for the first time since 2008 after going 18-15 overall and 8-6 in District 8-5A to earn the district’s fourth and final playoff berth.

Their reward is a best-of-three series against No. 18 Mansfield Timberview, beginning Friday evening at Waco ISD Sports Complex.

With absolutely no playoff experience on the roster, the Lady Bulldawgs will be walking into an unfamiliar situation against a highly-touted team. To say Copperas Cove needs to play its best game of the season is an understatement, and considering the bi-district matchup is a series, the Lady Bulldawgs will have to produce a pair of wins to extend their season.

While anything is possible, and Copperas Cove certainly has the talent to pull off an upset, odds are, it will not happen.

Most likely, the Lady Bulldawgs will be one-and-done, but that is not necessarily a bad thing.

Lets face it; rarely does a team coming off a lengthy postseason drought make a run at the state championship. Building a title contender takes time, and during the maturation process, there are typically growing pains. The key is to focus on the “growing” and not the “pains.”

The Lady Bulldawgs have made tremendous strides this season, flourishing under Hayes. The players bought into her concept and developed belief in their abilities. Simultaneously, a quiet confidence developed.

From the opening day of district play, the entire roster was convinced, and rightfully so, Copperas Cove would buck the program’s unflattering trend and reach the postseason. Simply believing in their collective skills was the first victory for Hayes.

Along the way, the team suffered discouraging losses and saw places for improvement during every game, but when the outlook appeared dismal, the Lady Bulldawgs displayed resiliency, marking another mental hurdle cleared by the team.

But for all the progress Copperas Cove has made, its faults are still glaring. Unexplainable errors occur from time to time, and the team’s collective patience at the plate has a lot to be desired, but the raw talent is there. More importantly, it is not going anywhere.

The Lady Bulldawgs have four juniors and five underclassmen on the roster. Their core is set for next season and beyond, and the potential of becoming a district power is plausible if the players continue to grow together.

It is not happening this year, however.

Copperas Cove simply does not have the complete package to make a deep run, and advancing to the area round should be considered an incredible success. The Lady Bulldawgs should use this opportunity against Timberview to merely soak up the playoff atmosphere, play to the best of their abilities and let the chips fall where they may.

Even a sound pounding would be beneficial. After all, nothing stokes a fire more than a humbling defeat.

The reality of the situation is the Lady Bulldawgs are in a no-lose situation. If they win, they pulled off an improbable victory, and if they lose, there is no harm done because few expect them to advance.

All Copperas Cove needs to do during its reintroduction to the postseason is learn from the experience because, regardless of the outcome, it can only benefit the program moving forward.

Contact Clay Whittington at clayw@kdhnews.com

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