By Angel Verdejo
Killeen Daily Herald
COPPERAS COVE - Cari Lowery reminded her team countless times.
Focus on Temple. Focus on Tuesday night.
Copperas Cove's head volleyball coach knew her team's regular-season finale could have been a recipe for disaster. The Lady Bulldawgs had already secured a trip to the playoffs, were coming off a high-emotion, back-and-forth thriller against A&M Consolidated on Friday, and welcomed a Temple squad in must-win mode.
The Lady Dawgs listened to their coach. And it worked - the Tem-Cats pushed Cove in Game 3 but the Lady Dawgs held on at home to finish off their sweep (25-18, 25-12, 26-24).
"We just played slow, a little bit sloppy and made silly, little mistakes," Lowery said. "I don't think we looked past Temple ... we need to be pushed because there aren't any easy games in the playoffs."
A&M Consolidated wrapped up the 12-5A championship with Friday's win at Cove. The Lady Dawgs (32-9, 12-2) are the district runner-up and will face Tyler Lee to open the playoffs next week.
The bi-district matchup likely won't be finalized until today, but Cove and Tyler Lee, 11-5A's third seed, could possibly meet at Fairfield High School either Monday or Tuesday.
"Every challenge that we face now just betters us for playoffs," said Cove setter Amy Rosenbaum, who finished with 49 assists. "Whether it's losing to A&M or barely beating Temple, if it all teaches us a lesson about volleyball, winning and getting the job done, then that's good."
Temple (17-22) falls to 7-7 in district play and is tied for fourth place with Ellison, which lost to A&M Consolidated on Tuesday. The two will have a one-game playoff later this week.
Cove, despite a few runs from Temple, quickly won the opening two games. That included a 6-1 start to Game 2, with the Lady Dawgs only building on the lead - Cove forced a Temple timeout with a 14-6 lead and followed with three straight points after the break.
The Tem-Cats struggled offensively, getting most of their points off Cove attack errors. Temple has couldn't find an answer for Cove's Qiana Canete.
The sophomore finished with team-high totals in kills (17), blocks (5) and aces (3). Two of those aces were part of Cove's opening run in Game 2.
The kills came throughout the match, including a number down the left side of Temple's defense.
"I was on fire," Canete said.
Added Rosenbaum: "Qiana butters my biscuit. If I set her and she gets a kill, then we both win. I can just get the ball to her and I know she's going to put it down."
In Game 3, the Tem-Cats stayed with Cove, even taking a late lead on an Abby Goodman dump over the net off a bad pass from the Temple back row. The point put Temple up 24-23 and forced a Cove timeout.
Rosenbaum went back to Canete after the break, and she tied the game with another kill. Canete then followed with a tip that fell in after nearly stepping on the line in trying to cut a ball across Temple's defense.
The tip gave Cove match point, with Canete and Rosenbaum blocking Temple's Taylor Valentin to end it.
"That last little hit that she made when she tried to cut it, I said 'Why are you trying to cut it? Nobody's touching anything. Just keeping swinging,'" Lowery said. "But my goodness, can she hit the ball."