By Clay Whittington
Killeen Daily Herald
COPPERAS COVE — Copperas Cove finally has time to rest, and it is paying off.
After playing 25 matches in 20 days to start the season, including a stretch of nine matches in three days at the recent Volleypalooza tournament, the Lady Bulldawgs are adjusting to a schedule with weekly games set for every Tuesday and Friday.
The most significant benefit from the schedule is it allows head coach Cari Lowery an overdue opportunity to get in some practice time, particularly with her younger players, but equally important to the coach is it provides periods of rest.
“It lets us do some fine tuning, like with Bryaunea Hall, for instance,” Lowery said. “Because this is just her second season to play, she needs lots and lots of repetitions and because half the time she is a basketball player, I don’t get her all year long. Lots of those girls, I have them all year long, so they get lots of reps, and she hasn’t had the benefit of that
“Plus, they are getting a little bit of recovery time. Their legs are getting rested, and my legs are getting rested too. And my brain is getting rested.”
The Lady Bulldawgs and their coach certainly appeared mentally and physically prepared against Shoemaker on Tuesday, defeating the Lady Grey Wolves in three sets, 25-10, 25-10, 25-10, and improving to 2-0 in District 8-5A.
Led by Hall’s eight kills and team-high three blocks, Copperas Cove was never threatened as it used long runs in each set to propel itself to victory.
In the opening set, the Lady Bulldawgs (22-6, 2-0 overall) held a narrow 5-4 advantage before scoring 10 unanswered points with Qiana Canete serving for nine of them. Shoemaker (11-9, 0-2) responded with a 4-0 run, but Copperas Cove used a 10-2 outburst, including three aces from setter Arielle Garica, to secure a 2-0 lead.
The Lady Bulldawgs then won 12 of the last 13 points in the second set, including the final nine points, to pull away after leading by four points at 13-9.
Senior libero Jessica Vick recorded consecutive aces to help start the run, while Garcia set up Canete for a pair of kills sandwiched around a kill by Mikayla Blount to cap it off.
Canete finished with team-highs in kills (10) and aces (4), while Garcia posted 30 assists.
Copperas Cove opened the third set on a 14-4 run before winning nine of the final 12 points to clinch the district victory.
Like her coach, Brittney Johnson, who led the Copperas Cove with 15 digs, believes the less frenetic schedule is helping the younger players reach their full potential.
“They are getting much better by just practicing with us,” the senior said. “They hit harder, they read hitters better, they play defense better and it is really good for them.”
Blount, a sophomore, who has been forced to do a lot of learning on the court this season, also agrees.
“It makes it a lot easier because I know I can mess up in practice and fix it,” she said, “and then know I can do it (correctly) in a game.”
Contact Clay Whittington at email@example.com or (254) 501-7564. Follow him on Twitter at @KDHsports.