WACO — Copperas Cove did what it was supposed to, but it was not done to Cari Lowery’s liking.
The No. 12 Lady Bulldawgs won their playoff opener against Mansfield Timberview 25-17, 25-20, 23-25, 25-17 to keep their season and double-digit winning streak alive, but mistakes plagued the team throughout the match. While Copperas Cove’s head coach would have preferred a dominating victory, she feels the team’s subpar performance has a bright side.
“The good news is we just won a bi-district championship and did not play anywhere close to as good as we can play,” Lowery said. “(The Lady Wolves) played like it was their last game. They played with quite a bit of fire. They are a much more mature, older, team than we are, and that showed a little bit.
“We had about four people on the floor who had never played in any kind of playoff game before, and that does make a difference. They played with some jitters a little bit, so I hope we got those out.”
Despite the team’s faults in execution, the result was exactly what the Lady Bulldawgs wanted.
Copperas Cove (37-6 overall) advances to the Class 5A area round of the playoffs to face the winner between No. 28 Flower Mound and Hurst Bell.
Those teams play each other today with the area round match to be played Thursday, Friday or Saturday.
Although the Lady Bulldawgs only lost one set to Timberview, at times, it was questionable if they would survive the match.
After Cove used late runs to clinch the first two sets, the Lady Wolves responded with a third-set victory sparked by a 13-6 run to go ahead 22-19. Copperas Cove pulled to within a single point on two occasions and thwarted a set point, but could not rally for the victory.
Thanks in part to the play of junior middle blocker Qiana Canete late in the fourth set, though, the Lady Bulldawgs won and extended their winning streak to 23 straight matches.
“I just thought we needed to capitalize on their mistakes and think about what they were doing wrong and what we were doing right,” Canete said. “We just needed to listen to coach Lowery and play to the best of our abilities.”
Canete, who recorded team-highs with 20 kills and eight blocks, certainly did so in the final minutes of the match.
With the score tied 12-12, Canete delivered an emphatic kill to put Copperas Cove ahead before extending the Lady Bulldawgs’ advantage to 16-12 with a scoring block and kill on consecutive plays. Following three straight points from Timberview, Canete was responsible for three more points as Copperas Cove went on a 7-0 run to practically clinch the victory.
“I get really intense, and when they get a kill on me, I feel like I am doing horrible,” Canete said. “It is really overwhelming when (an opponent) is up, and I just keep thinking that I have to keep fighting back.”
The Lady Wolves made Copperas Cove wait briefly for the win, denying a pair of match points before Carlie Tuiasosopo, who finished with 14 kills, posted the match’s final point on a crosscourt kill.
“Nobody is going to (lay down) in the playoffs,” Lowery said. “We have to play for every point.”
Copperas Cove must also defend every point in the playoffs and did so on multiple occasions, using dives and determination to keep rallies alive throughout the match. In all five players finished with double-digit digs as outside hitter Brittney Johnson had a team-high 21 followed by libero Jessica Vick with 17, while Canete and Destiny Henderson each added 14.
“Our defense is phenomenal,” Lowery said. “Jessica Vick and Brittney Johnson are phenomenal defensive players all by their selves, and there is not a team anywhere around that wouldn’t want either of them defensively.”
Contact Clay Whittington at email@example.com