Copperas Cove's Ciara Cheadle, left, and Brittney Johnson try to block the ball against Moody's Kylee Cendro Tuesday evening at Copperas Cove High School.

When Copperas Cove lost in the area round, it left a pain.

When Gatesville lost three all-district players, it left a void.

When Lampasas lost its grip on an unexpected level of success, it left doubt.

More importantly, each team’s 2011 season left it with something to prove.

Last season, with current Baylor freshman Amy Rosenbaum highlighting the squad, the Lady Bulldawgs produced a 33-win season, including a 12-2 run through district. But they were swept by eventual regional semifinalist Lake Highlands in the second round.

Despite the departure of Rosenbaum and a handful of other seniors, Copperas Cove has an experienced core returning, centered around eight upperclassmen.

The group, along with its coach, believes now is the time to create a legacy comparable to the school’s two-time state finalist football team, and they are putting in extra work to help produce a deep playoff run.

“They never stop working at getting better at volleyball,” Copperas Cove head coach Cari Lowery said of her players. “And that is really what it takes at a (Class) 5A school.

“Our football players are up here for strength and conditioning in the summer, and they are workingon being better football players all year long, and our volleyball players are doing the same.”

Due to realignment, the Lady Bulldawgs now reside in District 8-5A with Belton, Killeen, Ellison, Shoemaker, Harker Heights, Temple and Waco Midway, but Arielle Garcia is showing no lack of confidence.

“Basically, I know that we can do it,” the senior setter said. “We can definitely be the district champs.”

Less than 20 miles away, the Lady Badgers enter the 2012 campaign looking to show themselves and their critics the program’s brief brush with success was not a fluke.

One year after losing a playoff play-in match, Lampasas snapped a lengthy postseason absence in 2010, but following the departure of all-state selection Madison Morris for UTEP and head coach Beth Rutland for motherhood, the Lady Badgers spent a season in flux, searching for an identity.

With just three seniors on the roster, it is a problem Lampasas continues to struggle with.But if new coach Kecia Davis has her way, it will not take long before the Lady Badgers are molded into strong competitors both mentally and physically.

“I came in with a tough workout for them, and I’m big into weight lifting,” the former UMHB coach said. “I have a particular program that I do that works on mental toughness, but it has a lot of conditioning included.

“I’ve been pretty pleased with their effort on that.”

The results are already evident in outside hitter Jenna Jenkins.

“Even though we are a younger team, we can do things, and it is possible for us to go farther than we have in the past few years,” the senior said.

Unlike Lampasas, Gatesville has become a perennial playoff participant under head coach Rickey Phillips, who has taken the Hornets to the postseason nine consecutive years with the most recent two ending at the regional tournament.

Although the team lost several key players from its 2011 roster, including unanimous district MVP Glynna Johnson, setter of the year Kaitlin Poe and blocker of the year Skye Truss, Phillips believes his current squad will find a way to continue the trend.

After all, they have a history to maintain.

“I think our kids kind of feel like they don’t want to be the ones to let that streak end,” the coach said. “It’s their drive during the summer. It is what gets them to go play club ball when they can, and it gets them to go to camps.

“From the very start, at seventh grade, they start learning the expectations of what we want at high school.

“By the time theyw get to high school, they want to go do everything they can to contribute to that effort.”

Gatesville and Lampasas now both cohabitate with Burnet, Brownwood, Liberty Hill and Llano in District 8-3A.

“They are some not just good volleyball teams in it, but there are some very good volleyball programs in that district,” Phillips said.

And just like Copperas Cove, Lampasas and Gatesville, they all have something to prove.

Contact Clay Whittington at or (254) 501-7564.

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