COPPERAS COVE — Sometimes things come too easy for Copperas Cove.
After dominating District 8-5A since realignment, the Lady Bulldawgs have developed an extreme confidence. In its 19 previous district matches, Copperas Cove lost just five sets, producing straight-set victories in each match this season.
The trend continued against Ellison, but not before the Lady Eagles delivered a little reality check.
The Lady Bulldawgs extended their district winning streak to 21 with a 25-11, 25-12, 25-9 home victory Tuesday, but Ellison was able to keep things interesting in the beginning of every set, causing senior Bryaunea Hall to admit her team must perform a delicate balancing act each time it steps on the court.
“We already had the mindset (coming in) that we were going to beat them,” the middle blocker said. “(Head coach Cari) Lowery told us not to have that mindset just because we are undefeated, but we were probably still using it, which we shouldn’t do.
“You don’t want to be cocky, but at the same time, you are like, ‘Yeah, we are (the best).’”
Despite failing to impose their will from each opening serve, once the Lady Bulldawgs got going, they claimed complete control.
Ellison held early leads in each set and was tied 5-5 in all three sets before Copperas Cove used a series of offensive outbursts to establish double-digit advantages, while strong defense allowed the Lady Eagles to score consecutive points just twice during the spans.
Although Copperas Cove (31-6, 6-0) struggles at times to contain its confidence, Ellison head coach William De Gracia often finds himself attempting to convince his players they can play with any team.
“Through the first seven points of each set, it was pretty good,” he said. “Then, after that, we fell off, and I think that we just couldn’t believe we were hanging with them toe to toe. … But you can’t take away anything from (Copperas Cove). No matter how you put it, that is just a strong program.”
Hall led the Lady Bulldawgs offensively, finishing with a team-high 13 kills and accounting for five of Copperas Cove’s final 10 points in the final set, while teammates Qiana Canete and Kiana Chipman added 10 and five kills, respectively. Standing at 6-foot-1, Hall had a commanding defensive presence at the net as well, blocking one shot and altering several others.
“She’s got all the tools, so when she is in (sync), it is just terrifying,” Lowery said. “I’m glad she is on my team when she is on.”
Copperas Cove trailed 5-4 in the opening set, but scored five consecutive points to grab momentum and closed the set on a 21-6 run, including seven unanswered to secure the victory.
The second set followed an almost identical pattern as the Lady Bulldawgs won 20 of the last 26 points. In the third set, Ellison (16-9, 4-2) claimed its largest advantage of the night at 5-2, but Copperas Cove responded with a 23-4 run to keep their district record unblemished.
For Lowery, the difference between Ellison keeping things close and Copperas Cove dominating had nothing to do with either team’s confidence level.
“We were playing good,” she said of her team’s big runs. “It is (as easy as that). We were doing what we are supposed to be doing. … When we play the game at our pace, then we play well. When we let it slow down or (let the opposition) change the pace a little bit, sometimes it takes us a minute to grab it back.”
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