By Angel Verdejo

The Cove Herald

It wasn't so much the postseason that made Copperas Cove's athletic year.

Cove's football, volleyball and girls soccer teams reached the postseason, but all lost in the first-round game. Highlighting the postseason accomplishments was the boys track team, which finished second at the 5A state championships after winning the 12-5A and Region II-5A meets.

John Horton won the state title in the triple jump, while Ashleigh Andrews took gold at the 5A girls powerlifting championships. In addition, Cove's 400- and 800-meter relays both took second place at state.

The tennis team returned to the region tournament, the school's fourth appearance in five years.

But there was history. Head volleyball coach Cari Lowery claimed her 500th career win, while the girls soccer team won four of its final five district games, taking 12-5A's fourth seed and reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2001.

It wasn't just on the field - 29 athletes were honored in signing ceremonies throughout the year in eight different sports.

Top-5 memorable performances

1. Football's big-play ability on display against Ellison - In a season filled with big plays, the Dawgs were at their best Oct. 8 against the Eagles. Cove scored six times on plays of at least 37 yards and another on a 21-yard fumble return.

The scores came nearly every way possible: William Randolph had 83- and 55-yard runs and a 97-yard kickoff return, Orlando Thomas had a 50-yard run and 37-yard catch. And midway through the first quarter, Gene Gilbert returned an interception 45 yards for a score.

2. Ashleigh Andrews takes gold at state powerlifting - A year after finishing fifth at the Class 5A girls powerlifting state championships, Andrews more than made up for it as a junior. She won the 165-pound division, beating the lifter in March who finished one spot ahead of Andrews a year ago.

In all, the Lady Dawgs sent five lifters to state championships, with each placing in the top-five of her respective division. That included two third-place finishers (Kenya Williams and Jinea Witter).

3. Volleyball gets two historic wins - In her time at Cove, volleyball coach Cari Lowery (who started in 2004) and her teams had never beaten powerhouse and district rival A&M Consolidated. That was until Sep. 28, when the Lady Dawgs dropped their opening two games at home before rallying for a 22-25, 16-25, 30-28, 25-21, 15-10 victory.

In their regular-season finale, the Lady Dawgs beat Temple on the road, and - with the win - gave Lowery career win No. 500.

4. Ricardo Artis goes for 44 against Bryan - When he was on, Artis proved to be one of the better scorers in District 12-5A. He showed just that Jan. 28 at home against Bryan. The Dawgs eventually lost the shootout, 101-90, but Artis, who is headed to North Lake College, did his part.

He scored 44 points, making five 3-pointers to go with multiple shots around the basket. Artis had a chance for 50 - he missed nine free throws.

5. John Horton takes gold and silver at state - The triple jump is Horton's main event and the one he'll likely specialize in at the University of Houston next year. He showed how good he could be, placing second at the UIL State Track and Field Championships.

But it was in the long jump where Horton left his mark this season. A runner-up to teammate Orlando Thomas at the District 12-5A meet, Horton took first at regionals then took gold at state with a school-record leap.

Five to watch in 2011-12

1. Orlando Thomas, football - With a full season at quarterback under his belt, expect Thomas to only get better under center for the Dawgs. The University of Texas commit will likely be the most dynamic player on the field.

2. Amy Rosenbaum, volleyball - The Baylor commit took on plenty of added responsibility for the Lady Dawgs last season, which may only make her better in the long run. Already a top-notch setter, the 6-foot Rosenbaum is pretty good at the net too.

3. Ty Johnson and Austin Greene, baseball - If the Dawgs are going to turn the corner in District 12-5A, it will be behind these two talents rising seniors. Johnson is one of the area's best returning bats, while Greene can cover plenty of ground in the outfield.

4. Shelbie Letzer and Alyson Sinclair, soccer - Cove loses two college-bound talents (Kristen Grant and Shelby Campbell) but Letzer and Sinclair should keep the Lady Dawgs in range to return to the playoffs after making it for the first time since 2001.

5. Irene Espinoza, softball - Replacing the gigantic shoes left by Shabanese Brown was tough to ask for a freshman, but on more than one occasion, Espinoza made a play in the field or at the plate that made people wonder just how good she'll end up.

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