COPPERAS COVE — The scenario was simple.
With a victory against Killeen in the regular-season finale, Copperas Cove would clinch District 8-6A’s last playoff berth, propelling the Lady Bulldawgs into the postseason for the third consecutive year.
So, when Copperas Cove freshman Haven Stevenson recorded the match’s opening goal late in the first half, she instantly knew the play was significant.
“That took a lot of pressure off,” the forward said. “It felt really good to score first and know that we had the lead.
“Then, we just have to keep things where it is.”
And that is exactly what the Lady Bulldawgs did.
Stevenson’s shot proved to be the only goal of the evening as Copperas Cove secured its spot in the playoffs with a 1-0 victory. The outcome gives the Lady Bulldawgs their third consecutive win, allowing them to narrowly edge out Harker Heights in the standings.
Copperas Cove finished with a 6-8 record in district, while the Lady Knights went 5-8-1 after tying Shoemaker 1-1 on Friday.
Although Copperas Cove head coach
Pat Rox would prefer to avoid needing a late-rally in district play to qualify, he believes the experience will be beneficial heading forward.
“Those last few games were gigantic,” Rox said, “and the bottom line is if someone was a freshman at the beginning of the season, they aren’t one anymore.
“There are no more excuses. It’s time to step up and just do your job.”
While Copperas Cove produced just one goal, there were opportunities for more, especially in the first half.
The Lady Bulldawgs dominated the pitch on offense, producing 10 shots before halftime, but miscues and ill timing helped prevent any scoring.
Copperas Cove junior Nicole Evans never lost confidence, though.
“If we just keep shooting,” the midfielder said, “it will eventually go in, and if we keep crashing the goal, the goalie will end up taking a misstep, and it will go in.”
With 2 minutes, 13 seconds remaining before halftime, it did.
After being denied on nine shots, Lady Bulldawgs junior Kailey Walker found Evans on the right wing, where she dribbled the ball briefly before crossing it in front of the goal to Stevenson, who headed it in.
“That’s exactly how we practice it,” Rox said. “Sometimes it translates to the game field, and tonight was one of those times.”
Copperas Cove produced nine more shots in the second half to total 19 for the match and only allowed the Lady Kangaroos, who fell to 2-11-1 in district, one attempt — a first-half breakaway by junior forward Aqila Lambertis, which was denied by Lady Bulldawgs goalkeeper Sophia Caro.
Now, Copperas Cove turns its attention toward the playoffs.
Following spring break, the Lady Bulldawgs will face District 7-6A champion Duncanville in the bi-district round either March 23, 24 or 25.
For the moment, however, Stevenson is simply enjoying Copperas Cove’s accomplishment.
“This feels really good,” she said. “We made a big comeback late in the season after losing to Ellison, so it just feels really good to be going into the playoffs.”