By Angel Verdejo
Killeen Daily Herald
Cari Lowery reminded her team countless times.
Focus on Temple. Focus on Tuesday night.
Copperas Cove's head volleyball coach knew her team's regular-season finale could have been a recipe for disaster. The Lady Bulldawgs had already secured a trip to the playoffs, were coming off a high-emotion, back-and-forth thriller against A&M Consolidated on Friday, and welcomed a Temple squad in must-win mode.
The Lady Dawgs listened to their coach. And it worked - the Tem-Cats pushed Cove in Game 3 but the Lady Dawgs held on at home to finish off their sweep (25-18, 25-12, 26-24).
"We just played slow, a little bit sloppy and made silly, little mistakes," Lowery said. "I don't think we looked past Temple ... we need to be pushed because there aren't any easy games in the playoffs."
A&M Consolidated wrapped up the 12-5A championship with Friday's win at Cove. The Lady Dawgs (32-9, 12-2) are the district runner-up and will face Tyler Lee to open the playoffs next week.
The bi-district matchup likely won't be finalized until today, but Cove and Tyler Lee, 11-5A's third seed, could possibly meet at Fairfield High School either Monday or Tuesday.
"Every challenge that we face now just betters us for playoffs," said Cove setter Amy Rosenbaum, who finished with 49 assists. "Whether it's losing to A&M or barely beating Temple, if it all teaches us a lesson about volleyball, winning and getting the job done, then that's good."
Temple (17-22) falls to 7-7 in district play and is tied for fourth place with Ellison, which lost to A&M Consolidated on Tuesday. The two will have a one-game playoff Friday at Salado.
Cove, despite a few runs from Temple, quickly won the opening two games. That included a 6-1 start to Game 2, with the Lady Dawgs only building on the lead - Cove forced a Temple timeout with a 14-6 lead and followed with three straight points after the break.
The Tem-Cats struggled offensively, getting most of their points off Cove attack errors. Temple has couldn't find an answer for Cove's Qiana Canete.
The sophomore finished with team-high totals in kills (17), blocks (5) and aces (3). Two of those aces were part of Cove's opening run in Game 2.
The kills came throughout the match, including a number down the left side of Temple's defense.
"I was on fire," Canete said.
Added Rosenbaum: "Qiana butters my biscuit. If I set her and she gets a kill, then we both win. I can just get the ball to her and I know she's going to put it down."
In Game 3, the Tem-Cats stayed with Cove, even taking a late lead on an Abby Goodman dump over the net off a bad pass from the Temple back row. The point put Temple up 24-23 and forced a Cove timeout.
Rosenbaum went back to Canete after the break, and she tied the game with another kill. Canete then followed with a tip that fell in after nearly stepping on the line in trying to cut a ball across Temple's defense.
The tip gave Cove match point, with Canete and Rosenbaum blocking Temple's Taylor Valentin to end it.
"That last little hit that she made when she tried to cut it, I said 'Why are you trying to cut it? Nobody's touching anything. Just keeping swinging,'" Lowery said. "But my goodness, can she hit the ball."
A&M Consolidated def. Copperas Cove, 30-28, 25-20, 12-25, 18-25, 15-10 (Oct. 21) - At Cove, A&M Consolidated prevailed to wrap up the District 12-5A championship, but second-place Copperas Cove gave the Lady Tigers all they could handle. The Lady Bulldawgs rallied after dropping the first two games, pushing the match to a fifth game before A&M Consolidated held on for the road win.
A&M Consolidated claimed the district title, finishing two games ahead of Cove in the standings. Three Lady Dawgs reached double-digit kills, with Qiana Canete (20) leading the way followed by Andrea Hurt (15) and Arielle Garcia (10).
Canete and Hurt each tallied seven blocks, while senior setter Amy Rosenbaum had six blocks to go with 58 assists. Claire Taylor led the defense with 43 digs.
Rosenbaum reads to first graders - As part of the Reading is Fundamental program, Cove senior Amy Rosenbaum read to first-graders Wednesday at Clements-Parsons Elementary School. The Lady Dawg setter shared how reading helped her to succeed in school and allowed her to fulfill a goal of being accepted by a Big 12 college - Rosenbaum will graduate in December and play volleyball at Baylor next fall.