By Alex Byington

The Cove Herald

HARKER HEIGHTS - Without its top hitter, Copperas Cove was nowhere near its best.

Despite an uncharacteristic 31 unforced errors, the 18th-ranked Lady Bulldawgs still managed to sweep host Harker Heights 25-11, 25-23, 25-16 to continue their roll through District 12-5A.

"I just feel like we're still getting used to not having Phyllicia (Cross)," said senior setter Amy Rosenbaum, who led with 11 kills, 11 assists and three blocks, "so you could see our lack of experience with this team, but I feel like we pulled it out well.

"... It was kind of a rough patch, but we pulled it out."

Cross, who is ineligible for the rest of the regular season, missed her second straight match.

Winners of 15 consecutive games since rallying to sweep the final three of a five-set victory over A&M Consolidated on Sept. 28, Cove (28-8, 9-1 in 12-5A) remains tied atop the district standings with the No. 16 Lady Tigers following their five-game win over Belton on Tuesday.

Heights (13-15, 4-6), which has lost four straight matches - all on three-game sweeps, is now tied with Ellison and Bryan in fourth behind Belton.

"(The win over Consol) was a huge confidence-booster that kind of put Copperas Cove on the volleyball map, and it reinforced what I've been telling them about what we were capable of," said Lady Dawgs coach Cari Lowery, who is two wins away from 500 for her career.

Of course, No. 498 wasn't exactly smooth sailing.

Cove breezed through the first game, jumping out to a commanding 15-2 advantage on the heels of a 9-0 run, and quickly morphed that into a 20-4 lead before closing out the game scoring five of the final eight points.

That's when the errors began to pile up for the Lady Dawgs.

Despite trailing early 6-1, the Lady Knights rallied to within 10-9 thanks to seven of Cove's 16 errors.

The mistakes continued to pile up as Heights took its only lead of the match 17-15 on a hard-hit kill from senior outside hitter Bianca Patterson to cap a 5-0 run.

"We were in a little bit of a different rotation, trying some people in some different spots, so there was some miscommunications," Lowery said.

Both teams then traded point-for-point to tie it at 19-19 before the Lady Dawgs took advantage of four Lady Knights miscues to score five of the next six points and pull to game-point at 24-20. Then, despite three straight Cove errors, the match ended on a net serve by Heights.

"I feel like we played a great match tonight," Heights coach Chris Wiley said. "We played well, there were a couple of times in Games 2 and 3 when we fell behind and we caught back up and made it real interesting."

Both teams battled point-for-point in Game 3 with Heights pulling within 15-13 thanks to nine unforced errors by the Lady Dawgs.

That's when Cove got serious, scoring six of the next seven points beginning with a big kill by Lilly Ayala for a 21-14 advantage.

"We were like, 'OK, we have to accept the fact that we're missing a player,' and so it's like, 'Let's win this quickly and go get some Chick-fil-A,'" Rosenbaum joked.

The Lady Dawgs scored the final four points thanks to three Heights errors to close out the game.

Senior outside hitter Alex Chace also had a double-double for Cove with 13 digs and 11 kills, while senior setter Kenya Williams led with 17 assists and five aces.

Heights was led with 10 assists by setters Taylor Denney and Ashlyn Osbourne, while middle blocker Bianca Patterson had eight kills, Anna Gibbons added five and libero Amber Bailey had 13 digs.

"I just told them, we're not just playing for this one game, we're playing for everything that's coming down the road," Lowery said. "... We need(ed) to pick it up and play our game instead of getting sucked into playing unorthodox and a little out of control."

Copperas Cove def. Ellison 25-14, 25-22, 27-25 (Friday) - The Lady Eagles made a late push at home, but the Lady Bulldawgs held strong to continue their hold atop District 12-5A. Ellison was led with 11 kills by junior middle blocker Megan McKinnon, while setter Brea Wade had 17 assists and libero Katie Vichensont had 13 digs.

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