COPPERAS COVE Ciara Cheadle knew she would be playing against Moody on Tuesday.
She just didn't realize it would be with the varsity team.
Junior middle blocker Qiana Canete suffered a minor knee injury in Copperas Cove's season-opening loss to Leander Rouse on Monday. With the season having barely begun, Lady Bulldawgs head coach Cari Lowery made a last-minute decision to sit Canete in an attempt to avoid potentially aggravating the injury and brought Cheadle up from the junior varsity team to fill the roster void.
By the time the match ended, Cheadle was no longer a varsity replacement. Her performance cemented her place on the team.
"It was right before the JV game, I was warming up with my JV team and coach (Jennifer) Ballard came out and grabbed me and told me I was going to be playing with varsity," Cheadle said. "It was a big shocker. But I was just determined to help my team win."
Despite short notice, the sophomore impressed her coaches with her preparation and in-game abilities, helping Copperas Cove defeat Moody 25-6, 25-4, 25-4.
In addition to a solid statistical showing in her debut, Cheadle made timely plays, clinching the second set with a block before serving the final 14 points of the third set to secure the straight-set, home victory.
"It says a lot about her maturity on the court," Lowery said of Cheadle's performance. "Some kids are game players and some kids are practice players, and she showed us tonight she is a game player, and she is not afraid.
"She served well, she passed well, she got some blocks up there, she was aggressive on the net, and everything we've told her, we've coached her (to do), she executed tonight."
Following the victory, Lowery informed Cheadle and her teammates she would be joining the varsity team.
"I was just thanking God for letting the coaches see how bad I really wanted it," Cheadle said. "I was just so shocked and speechless. I even teared up a little bit."
Cheadle's unexpected emergence, however, was just one highlight during the Lady Bulldawgs' lopsided victory.
Senior libero Jessica Vick served up 15 consecutive points during the opening set, giving Copperas Cove a 19-2 advantage. The Lady Bearcats responded by winning four of the next five points, but it was not enough as the Lady Bulldawgs went on a 5-1 run capitalized by Carlie Tuiasosopo's set-clinching kill.
In the second set, Copperas Cove (1-1 overall) immediately constructed another significant advantage, using an 18-point outburst to claim a 21-2 lead. Moody scored the next two points of the set to draw within 17 points, but could get no closer.
The Lady Bearcats (0-1) managed to temporarily avoid giving up a lengthy scoreless skid early in the third set, trailing 10-4 at one point, but it did not last. The Lady Bulldawgs scored the match's final 15 points with Cheadle serving up all but one.
While Cheadle's play might come as a surprise to some, teammate Arielle Garcia knew she would impress when given an opportunity.
"She looked really good for this being her first game," the senior setter said. "She stayed up on the block with her hands up, and she did good.
"But it is expected (from her)."
Cheadle and the rest of the Lady Bulldawgs get the opportunity to begin their first winning streak of the season Thursday, when they play Rockdale (8:30 a.m.), Troy (12:15 p.m.) and Evant (4 p.m.) during pool play of the Copperas Cove tournament. A total of 20 teams will participate in the three-day tournament.