By Angel Verdejo
Killeen Daily Herald
GATESVILLE - Funny how a little trash talk - real or fictional - can go a long way in motivating a team.
Gatesville and Copperas Cove battled last week in the Lady Dawg Invitational, with the Hornets walking away with a back-and-forth, high-intensity victory that went the full three games.
At the rematch Saturday, Gatesville had a little extra incentive to win.
"We heard through the grapevine that Cove thought it was a fluke," Gatesville senior Skye Truss said.
Regardless of who may or may not have said what, the Hornets proved again that they can beat Cove, a perennial playoff team. Meeting in the Gatesville Tournament championship, the host team won a momentum-turning Game 1 before doing it again in Game 2 to take the title (25-23, 25-23).
"It just helped us prove that it was not a fluke - that we can beat them in two," said Truss, who put down three kills in a row during a seven-point Gatesville run in the opener. "It's about who wants it more."
Said Cove head coach Cari Lowery said: "They're just better than we are right now - just playing more consistently than we are right now."
But just as they said after squaring off last weekend, coaches and players agree matches like this can only benefit both teams down the road. The Hornets are coming off a historic season in which they reached the Class 3A region tournament for the first time. Cove hasn't missed the playoffs in five seasons.
"If we just play crappy teams all year, we're not going to get any better for playoffs just because we're 28-0," Truss said. "I'd rather be 20-8 and play good teams."
Game 1 was all about runs. Up 13-12, Gatesville pushed it to 17-12 before Cove rallied with the next seven points.
The Hornets followed with that seven-point run to reach game point, only to watch Cove cut it to one. The Lady Dawgs had a chance to tie, but a hitting error gave the game to Gatesville.
Gatesville jumped out to a 6-1 lead in Game 2, but Cove settled in and took advantage of three straight Hornet attack errors to take a 9-8 lead and force a timeout.
The two went back and forth from there, with six lead changes in the game. An Andrea Hurt kill and Gatesville error cut the Hornets' lead to 23-22, but Cove couldn't push through.
After a timeout, Paige Chambers put down a loose-ball kill for match point. Glynna Johnson followed two points later with a kill that Cove libero Claire Taylor got her hands on, but the ball ricocheted out of reach to give Gatesville the win.
"This was a lot like the other one," Gatesville head coach Rickey Phillips said. "There were a lot of highlight plays tonight on both sides of the net. It was just good ol' volleyball."
Also winning twice on the day was Salado, which bounced back from an opening-round loss to Lago Vista to capture the consolation championship. The Lady Eagles beat Florence on Thursday before picking up wins Saturday over Hillsboro (25-5, 25-13) and Waco University (25-13, 25-12).
"It was good for us. It was not necessarily the outcome I wanted to start off the tournament," Salado head coach Rachel Lee said. "However, very few teams come tournament time get to go home with a win, feel good about what they produce and go home with a trophy. So I'm thrilled that they ended up where they did."
Florence beat Hamilton (25-15, 25-7) in its only game Saturday. Lampasas, which lost to Cove in the quarterfinals, beat Harker Heights (25-18, 22-25, 25-17) before dropping its finale to Waco Reicher (25-19, 25-15). Killeen beat rival Shoemaker (24-26, 25-23, 25-17) and lost to China Spring (25-21, 25-12).
Championship – Gatesville def. Copperas Cove 25-23, 25-23
Consolation final – Salado def. Waco University 25-13, 25-12
Lampasas def. Harker Heights 25-18, 22-25, 25-17
Salado def. Hillsboro 25-5, 25-13
China Spring def. Killeen 25-21, 27-25
Florence def. Hamilton 25-15, 25-7
Killeen def. Shoemaker 24-26, 25-23, 25-17
Rogers def. Gatesville Gold 25-19, 22-25, 25-20
Copperas Cove def. Lago Vista 25-7, 25-17
Gatesville def. Marble Falls 25-21, 25-21
Lampasas def. Waco Reicher 25-19, 25-15