By Monty Campbell
The Cove Herald
The Copperas Cove Bulldawg tennis team continued slaying their dragons from their past — nearly defeating a team for the first time ever and then finally knocking a team off for the first time — culminating in a third-place finish in the Hewitt Midway team-tennis Saturday in Robinson.
After nearly pulling off the first victory over the Belton Tigers in program history as Cove fell 10-9, the Dawgs accomplished the feat by trumping the Harker Heights Knights 10-9.
Copperas Cove (9-3) continued its best start to a season in school history by defeating the Knights for the first time in three attempts this year behind the steady play of the girls, who were victorious in seven of the nine matches.
“I am real proud of the way that they girls played all weekend (29-7). It was huge how each of the girls stepped up, either by winning their match themselves or putting us in a position to win the match,” Copperas Cove head coach Paul Talbett said.
“There was not one time where we let up in intensity, going after it all the time. The difference between losing and defeating Harker Heights was that we played with pure heart.”
Freshman Melika Bembridge continued a stellar beginning to her career as she paced the girls with four consecutive victories, bumping her overall individual record to 19-1.
Bembridge and girls’ doubles partner Tina Thai, joined forces to defeat the No. 1 girls’ doubles team from Harker Heights, Erin Cullinan and Carli Hubert, in straight sets 6-1, 6-4. Bembridge then set her sights orsingles’ play, easily defeating Rachel Rodgers 10-3.
While Bembridge has been pacing the girls with a .950 winning percentage, Thai isn’t far behind. She has posted an .870 percentage (20-3 overall), herself.
Thai quickly defeated Kristine Palmares 10-6, after taking a short breather following her doubles’ match victory.
After a short setback in No. 2 girls’ doubles — where Jillian Jones and Candace Walker fell to Kristen Baker and Palmares 1-6, 2-6 — the Lady Dawgs picked right back up where they left off.
Heather Pergande and Dana Whitt disposed of Allycia Ferguson and A.J. Monroe 6-1, 6-2, and Pergande continued her solid early season (13-2 overall) by knocking off Cullinan 10-6 in girls’ singles play.
Dani Almli teamed up with Zach Lampa in the mixed doubles portion of the match and the pair fell to Rodgers and Will Truitt 3-6, 4-6.
Talbett said that the Harker Heights pair was the most difficult team that Almli and Lampa had seen all season and that the Cove tandem was playing good tennis together.
Almli went on to drop her singles’ match to Baker 9-11, but the loss was only her third all season as she has recorded an overall record of 12-3.
In other girls’ singles matches, Jones defeated Hubert 11-9, after trailing in the match 9-6 and fighting off eight match points, to raise her overall mark to 18-6. Walker knocked off Monroe 10-5 to bump her overall season record to 11-5.
For all of the success that the girls’ side has produced, the Cove boys have been impressive considering their lack of experience.
Lampa leads all boys’ players with an overall record of 17-5 and increased his winning percentage by defeating Max Easton 10-7, for one of the three victories on the boys’ side against the Knights.
Tevin Ogo provided the clinching victory for Cove as he defeated Michael Joseph 11-10 in a thrilling singles’ match that came down to the tie-breaker.
Ogo also gave the Dawgs another victory earlier against the Knights when he and boys’ doubles partner Jordan Kingery defeated Jacob Bland and Miguel Barrero 7-5, 6-2, pushing Ogo’s overall record to 15-9.
Kingery (13-11) was not as fortunate for Cove in the singles’ portion of the match, falling to Truitt in No. 1 boys’ singles 5-10.
Another set of Dawgs with tough assignments against the Knights were co-captains Zack Bengston (10-14) and Matt Cranfill (10-14), who were pitted against Demitri Hobbs and Joseph in No. 1 boys’ doubles play.The Cove duo forced a third-set tiebreaker, but eventually fell to the Heights’ pair 5-7, 6-3, 6-10.
Bengston then dropped his singles’ match to Hobbs 3-10 and Cranfill dropped his match to Barrero 10-11 (4), although Cranfill did make an amazing comeback from a 9-5 deficit to make the match interesting.
The final Dawg pairing of Tim Ortner (14-10) and Leighton Bennett (5-7) did not disappoint with their effort, but could not overcome the Knights experience as they fell to Tyson Adams and Max Easton in No. 3 boys’ doubles play 4-6, 1-6.
The freshman, Ortner, did bounce back and battle in singles’ action but once again dropped a match to a more experienced Adams 5-10.
“Everyone did what they needed to do for us to win this match,” Talbett said. “We finally got over the hump against Harker Heights and maybe it will help change the kids mind-sets, knowing that we can beat really good teams.”
Copperas Cove’s victory over Harker Heights and the near- miss against the Belton Tigers confirms Talbett’s beliefs of the team’s progress.
The Cove tennis program remains busy as the varsity team travels to Cedar Park today for a match at 4 p.m.
Talbett feels that the Timberwolves will be a good test for Cove as they vie for second in their district behind Georgetown and Westwood.
Both JV teams will be in action as well. JV Gold is at Harker Heights at 4:30 p.m., while JV Blue hosts Shoemaker at 4 p.m. today.
The Dawgs will then take holiday (Labor Day) vacation off before resuming play later next week.
Contact Monty Campbell at email@example.com or call (254) 547-9173.