COPPERAS COVE — Coaching them was easy. Letting go is difficult.
During the past three seasons, Copperas Cove head volleyball coach Cari Lowery has witnessed a quintet of players blossom together under her watch.
Since joining the varsity roster as sophomores, Jada Close, Aviyon Wilborn, Aidan Chace, Kamryn Ash and Christina Pettigrew helped guide the Lady Bulldawgs to a combined 111 victories, including a school-record 41-4 showing last season.
While winning was not always easy, everything else was, according to Lowery.
“I’ve been a head coach for 25 years,” she said, “and this is one of my favorite groups.
“Sometimes you have to have pull it out of a team or drag it out or push it out or kick it out of a team, but with these young women, I didn’t have to do any of that. They were focused from day one, because they had high expectations for themselves.”
Along with success on the court, the five Lady Bulldawgs’ dedication earned them something else — an opportunity to continue their careers.
In front of an auditorium full of friends and family, the group took part in a signing ceremony Wednesday afternoon as each committed to their respective colleges.
Like with Lowery, the event was bittersweet for Wilborn, who signed to
play at Howard Payne.
“It means so much to be able to sign with all of them,” the defensive specialist said, “but it’s sad that we are all going our separate ways.
“I had a great time during my four years with them, and I’m just going to miss it.”
Each of the Lady Bulldawgs’ signees landed on the 12-6A All-District list in their final seasons with Wilborn and Close, who committed to Oklahoma Christian, being placed on the second team.
Although volleyball will remain a large part of her life, Close, a middle hitter, knows signing is much more significant.
“This is exciting,” she said. “It really opens up my eyes to the fact I’m about to go off to college, and I’m about to become an adult.
“It’s scary, but I’m ready for it.”
Pettigrew was named all-district most valuable blocker as a senior, fulfilling a longtime goal, and she accomplished another milestone Wednesday.
With her commitment to Northeastern Junior College (Colo.) official, Pettigrew will become the first member of her family to attend college.
Following the ceremony, she admitted the moment was special.
“It is a great feeling,” Pettigrew said. “It is kind of nerve-wracking and a little overwhelming, but this is an amazing feeling.”
Ash also earned an all-district superlative, being named one of three co-most valuable setters en route to signing with Schreiner, and Chace, who committed to Angelo State, was placed on the first team after being named newcomer of the year in 2016 and most valuable player in 2017.
Despite being completely content with her decision, Chace confessed to having apprehension about moving on.
“I’m actually very nervous about playing without all these girls,” she said. “I’m going to miss them a lot, because we’ve been playing together since junior high and when we were little kids, and now we’re about to split ways.
“But we’re always going to be family.”
And most feel like Copperas Cove is home, but luckily for Ash, her next destination is equally comfortable.
“When I went to visit,” Ash said, “I just loved the atmosphere. It was such a beautiful area — kind of like Copperas Cove — and there was a river running through it.
“My heart just felt like I belonged there.”