“There will be little rubs and disappointments everywhere, and we are all apt to expect too much; but then, if one scheme of happiness fails, human nature turns to another; if the first calculation is wrong, we make a second better: we find comfort somewhere.” — Jane Austen, “Mansfield Park”
A week ago, there was no team hotter around the area than the Harker Heights volleyball team.
In the midst of a double-digit win streak, its second this season, the Lady Knights were cruising along having not lost a single set through two weeks of District 8-5A play.
Heights was riding high, led by one of the area’s tallest and physically imposing teams with five players standing at least 5-foot-11.
Then came Copperas Cove, a local volleyball power with six consecutive playoff appearances, and its own 10-game win streak.
And in four games, the Lady Bulldawgs showed everyone inside the Harker Heights gym how quickly a hot flame can be extinguished.
Facing their first true test of the season, the Lady Knights (29-4, 5-1 8-5A) took advantage of some Cove errors and won their 13th consecutive set with a 25-17 score in Game 1.
But the tables flipped in a heartbeat as Cove (28-6, 6-0) took the second game 25-16 and then closed out Game 3 on a 12-2 run for a 25-15 victory.
With their backs to the wall, and truly challenged, the Lady Knights collapsed under the pressure, succumbing to Cove’s experienced play, 25-6.
For a team like Heights that has come up short of their playoff aspirations each of the last three seasons, the defeat was particularly unnerving as it propelled the Lady Bulldawgs to No. 16 in the state rankings and sent the Lady Knights — who entered ranked 18th — tumbling out in one fell swoop.
Fourth-year Heights coach Chris Wiley was particularly disappointed in his team’s inability to rise to Cove’s challenge, but he didn’t hesitate when asked about what the loss meant for his girls’ chances at winning district.
“We’ll just have to beat (Cove) at their place,” Wiley said.
It’s that sort of bravado and confidence that is the biggest change from previous seasons and the biggest reason why the Lady Knights could very well do what has been nearly impossible in recent years — beat the Lady Bulldawgs at home.
With the mentality that they are the superior team, that with their height advantage and grizzled experience of seven seniors — all of whom have lived the disappointment of recent years — Heights is capable of almost anything.
It’s also what’s helped them respond following what few losses they’ve suffered this season, including a dominating 25-7, 25-17, 25-13 sweep of an overmatched Shoemaker squad that upset the Lady Knights during last season’s playoff collapse.
Although with last Friday’s victory, Copperas Cove remains the queen bee of District 8-5A, but don’t be surprised if Heights is able to retool and bring another extended win streak into its Oct. 16 game at Copperas Cove looking to return the favor.
Because if the Lady Knights are going to continue to count themselves among the area’s elite, it’s going to take more than just a few sparks. It’ll take a fire strong enough to smoke every team in district.