Copperas Cove is the underdog, but Aviyon Wilborn does not feel like it.
For a majority of the season, the Lady Bulldawgs occupied a position in the Class 6A poll, climbing into the top 10 before a pair of district losses to Waco Midway dropped them from the rankings.
At moments during Tuesday’s bi-district playoff match against Mesquite Horn, Copperas Cove certainly played like one of the state’s elite teams, embarking on multiple one-sided runs en route to a 25-12, 25-14, 25-8 sweep.
But Wilborn believes it was more than just a strong showing, viewing the performance as proof the Lady Bulldawgs are capable of upsetting No. 4 Prosper in tonight’s area-round match even if the rankings project otherwise.
“It was very important to win the way we did,” the senior libero said, “so that Prosper can see how hard we play.
“Now, they have to go get ready for us.”
Copperas Cove’s players have reason to feel confident.
The Lady Bulldawgs enter the 6:30 p.m. tipoff at West High School with a 41-3 overall record, opening the season by wining 29 of their first 30 matches before losing to the Pantherettes in a five-set thriller at home.
Copperas Cove would also be defeated in a five-set rematch, but it was not the team’s most significant loss as standout libero Kristen Wasiak — a 2017 all-state selection — broke a finger, sending her to the bench.
The injury, which relocated Wilborn from her original position, also forced defensive philosophies to be completely reevaluated.
So, while Lady Bulldawgs head coach Cari Lowery expects confidence, she also knows there is reason to be cautious of the Lady Eagles.
“We’ve got to be better,” she said. “We’ve got to fix all the little mistakes.
“We’re not going to win every single point, we’re not going to shut them down on every single attack, but we can’t let that get in our head. We just have to keep plugging away and do what we do the best we can do it.”
Prosper (33-9) opened the playoffs with a 25-20, 25-11, 25-16 victory against Rowlett, giving the Lady Eagles 16 wins in their previous 17 matches in a streak stretching back to Aug. 31.
And Prosper is also accustom to postseason success, routinely making deep runs into the bracket, including last season, when the Lady Eagles won the Class 5A state championship.
Copperas Cove senior Aidan Chace understands it will be difficult to navigate past Prosper and into the regional quarterfinals for the first time since 2014, but she feels the Lady Bulldawgs are prepared.
“We definitely want this challenge,” Chace said. “It’s all about our mentality. We see this as a big challenge, and that is something we love.
“Throughout this season, we’ve thrived on challenges.”