By Monty Campbell
Killeen Daily Herald
COPPERAS COVE Rebuilding a sports program takes plenty of time, patience and the ability to connect on not only a coaching level but also on a personal one. Lady Dawgs head volleyball coach Cari Lowery is attempting to revive a dormant program and thrust it into playoff contention in her second season at the helm in Copperas Cove.
The Lady Dawgs began the rebuilding process under Lowery last season with a record of 4-16 overall and a 2-12 mark in the ever competitive District 13-5A. The young team managed to pick up district wins over newcomers Harker Heights and Shoemaker while taking several other clubs to the critical fifth game before falling.
Although their final record did not indicate as much success as desired, Lowery continued to be impressed by how the players were picking up the new system last year and how hard they have worked in the off-season.
"We have a lot of young kids back on the team but they are maturing well," Lowery said. "All spring we worked on fundamentals and teaching them the game. "
The successful off-season program and the summer volleyball season that many of the players participated in has led to lofty expectations for this year' s squad.
"Our goal is to get to the playoffs this year," she said. "We need to continue to improve on our defense and focus on the serve. "
"We have got a lot of young kids on the team but, in a way, it is easier to coach them because they have not developed bad habits that some of the players under the old regime had," Lowery explained. "I am really happy on how hard the kids have worked. They are very coachable."
The Lady Dawgs are going to have to fill two big holes in order to meet that goal. All-District outside hitter Katelyn Nelson and middle blocker Brittany McKinney have moved on to the college ranks. The loss of the two seniors coupled with the advent of a new position, libero, does not overly concern the coach.
"Those two (Nelson and McKinney) were great athletes and now it's like we are all freshmen again," Lowery explained, while expressing her eagerness to start this new campaign. "It is impressive how far this team has come. They have worked really hard for this season."
The gap the departure of the two all-district performers leaves is not impossible to fill for Lowery. She has a solid nucleus of players that can replace the two without missing a beat in returning players Sasha Dock, Chani Wilson, Adeline Soloff and Ashley Rosenbaum.
Dock and Soloff (who is coming off major knee surgery in the off-season) are two senior setters that are looking to stabilize the passing game of the Lady Dawgs.
Wilson will be playing a new position in Texas high school volleyball this season. She will line up and play libero a position that is used in international and college volleyball. The libero is not able to serve during games but will be a defensive specialist, wearing a different-colored jersey, only allowed to play defense and pass the ball.
Ashley Rosenbaum has the responsibility of being one of the big hitters in the middle. The sophomore will be looked upon to lessen the impact of the loss of the two seniors last year with her play that Lowery says continues to get better with every passing practice.
The four aforementioned players, along with the rest of the club, must step up because in District 13-5A there are no nights off. According to Lowery, the three teams that will be the most difficult match-ups for Cove will be A&M Consolidated, Bryan and Belton.
The Lady Dawgs will get the opportunity to see how far they have come when they kick off the season Tuesday evening at 5 p.m. against Del Valle.
Contact Monty Campbell at firstname.lastname@example.org