BELTON — Stacy Meyers knew stopping Qiana Canete would be difficult. She was right.
The defending District 8-5A MVP was on point Tuesday evening as she led Copperas Cove to a straight-set victory at Belton. Despite having no answer for Canete, the Lady Tigers head coach had nothing but praise for the senior after the match.
“She is even better than she was last year,” Meyers said. “I really think (Canete) is one of the best high school players in the state right now.
“She is just playing some (top-notch) ball right now, and it is very tough to defend. … There are times when she gets on a roll, we are not going to be able to stop it.”
With Canete guiding the way, the Lady Bulldawgs were never threatened as they cruised to a 25-16, 25-14, 25-17 victory, keeping their unblemished district record intact. Canete, who has already committed to the University of Texas-Arlington, finished with a match-high 27 kills to go with four aces and three blocks.
Although the final outcome was in Copperas Cove’s favor, Canete was not pleased with how her team opened the match.
“I think we started off slow,” she said. “We always start off slow when we come to Belton, but we picked it up and played like we should. I don’t know why (we started sluggish). We know that everybody is going to come prepared and have their ‘A’ game, so we should know that we have to be prepared also.”
It did not take the defending district champions long, however, to find their rhythm.
Belton kept things close early, using a 3-1 run to pull within two points at 11-9 in the first set, but the Lady Bulldawgs (29-6, 4-0) won eight of the next 10 points to extend their lead before closing with a 6-2 run, including Canete’s set-clinching kill.
The Lady Tigers (17-10, 2-2) claimed a narrow 6-5 advantage in the opening moments of the second set, but again, Copperas Cove produced another dominating stretch to wrestle away any momentum Belton had. Canete was responsible for four kills during Copperas Cove’s ensuing 12-2 outburst as it established a 17-8 lead.
“We didn’t make just a ton of stupid mistakes or give them (lots) of free points,” Meyers said. “We did some, but you are going to have that in every game. I felt like we made them earn their points, and they did. Obviously, they have good players and when they get a good set, (Canete) can hit it over us, and we can’t defend the whole court.”
After constructing the double-digit cushion, the Lady Bulldawgs’ defense clamped down, allowing Belton to record consecutive points just once before sophomore Katy Ranes, who posted 20 assists to tie Mikayla Blount for team-high honors, set Canete up for the final kill.
Like Meyers, Copperas Cove head coach Cari Lowery was impressed by Canete’s performance, but still saw areas in need of improvement.
“She had a great offensive game, but not as great of a defensive game,” Lowery said. “But trust me, she will work on that and get better because she wants it to be perfect every time. She is so competitive, and that is what sets her apart from other athletes. She is blessed with phenomenal talent and a great gift, but she works on that gift every day. … She wants to be better every time.”
Teammate Bryaunea Hall came to life in the final set, recording six of her 10 kills to complement her team-high six blocks.
“She was mad the first two games because she didn’t get set that much,” Lowery said. “She had a really good (third set), and she really changed the pace for us.”