COPPERAS COVE — Cari Lowery tried anything she could think of.
Playing shorthanded against the state’s top-ranked team, Copperas Cove’s head coach was forced to think outside the box Tuesday.
In the end, Class 6A No. 1 Waco Midway was simply too powerful, earning a straight-set victory, but it did not prevent Lowery from attempting every option.
“We’re just limping right now because we are injured,” she said. “At one point, I had two sophomores and a freshman on the floor going against a team that’s ranked best in the state.
“It’s rough. I had to put a setter in who has not been on the floor since August. We just tried everything.”
Without leading hitter Aidan Chace, who injured her right knee last week against Belton, the Lady Bulldawgs could not generate the offense needed to propel them to an upset and lost 25-6, 25-10, 25-18.
The Panthers secured the District 8-6A championship with the win, while Copperas Cove clinched the district’s second seed, and although it was not the outcome the Lady Bulldawgs hoped for, Lowery believes they benefited from the contest.
With the playoffs rapidly approaching and Copperas Cove searching for solutions to losing Chace, who ranks first on the team in kills, second in assists, third in blocks and fourth in aces and digs, several players received experience that could prove valuable.
“The good news is I got a lot of underclassmen on the floor tonight,” Lowery said. “Maybe down the road, and it might not even be this year, but in the future, that will be good news for us.”
Midway (40-2, 11-0) overwhelmed the Lady Bulldawgs from the beginning of the match, winning six of the first eight points before closing the opening set with a 17-1 outburst.
The second set was more of the same as the Panthers jumped out to a 10-4 advantage before their cushion inflated to 21-9. Then, on the heels of Copperas Cove senior Brianna Acker’s kill, Midway closed the set with five unanswered points.
With their backs against the wall, however, the Lady Bulldawgs responded.
Copperas Cove (28-13, 8-2) never led but held two ties in the final set, matching Midway’s opening point before stringing together consecutive points for the first time all evening and using a 5-0 run to tie the set 7-7.
Midway immediately regained control with five unanswered points, but several inexperienced Lady Bulldawgs produced down the stretch.
Copperas Cove freshman Leah Powell recorded a kill, Antanese Kinard set up Acker for an emphatic kill, and Zari Chipman executed a block to force a second match point.
Although it was not enough to contend with Midway, the late sparks gave Lowery confidence moving forward as the Lady Bulldawgs prepare for their final two matches before playoffs.
“The fact that we did not just lay down and curl up is big,” she said. “In the last game, we were in it with them. We’re digging up their hits, we passed well, but we just had far too many hitting errors.”