By Alex Byington
Killeen Daily Herald
FAIRFIELD - Copperas Cove seniors Amy Rosenbaum and Claire Taylor weren't anywhere close to their best on Monday.
Rosenbaum, the Baylor-bound setter, had a fever nearing triple-digits and Taylor, the scrappy libero, only had one good eye, with the other sporting a pretty nasty infection.
But none of that was going to keep either from unveiling their new "victory" uniform tops, as the dressed-for-success Lady Bulldawgs responded with a commanding 25-8, 25-19, 25-21 victory over Tyler Lee in their Region II-5A bi-district playoff game Monday.
"I have a philosophy where if you look good, you play good," said Rosenbaum, who contributed 37 assists, six kills and two blocks despite entering the game with a 99-degree fever. Taylor led the defensive effort with 21 digs.
"So if you need to get your nails done to play good ... and its always good to bring out something people haven't seen
before. OK, we're bringing out uniforms they haven't seen, we're going to bring a team they haven't seen."
The new look clearly paid off - especially early - as Cove opened Game 1 with a 7-0 lead behind the steady serving of sophomore Qiana Canete.
"The new uniforms, I love them, we all do," Canete said. "We were very excited to play in them and I think it did give us a boost, actually."
The new digs have become a yearly present this time for the Lady Bulldawgs (33-9), courtesy of their coach, Cari Lowery.
"Girls like stuff, kids like stuff (and) there has to be some reward for earning a trip to the playoffs, so that's it," Lowery said of the new uniforms. "(Something) to get them excited about what they have on."
After trading a few points, Cove continued to pile it on in the first game, as a set-kill from Rosenbaum-to-Canete made it 11-4 and started a scoring run as the Lady Bulldawgs struck gold on 13 of the next 14 points for a 23-5 lead following a push-tip by Rosenbaum.
Prior to her quick tip, Rosenbaum had set four straight kills as junior Carlie Tuiasosopo bookended a pair of shots by Canete, who led Cove with 12 kills on the night. Five-foot-7 senior Andrea Hurt added a team-high eight blocks.
"I think that was very important. We always have to play up, we have to start the game off with a lot of fire really," Canete said of the quick start. "It's always good to start off really fast, I think."
But Lowery wasn't of the same philosophy.
"It's kinda scary when you just blow somebody out in the first game, because that's the inevitable rebound effect that comes back," she said.
Fueled by the hard hitting of junior Mallory Kuechle, who had a game-high 18 kills, Tyler Lee (25-16) mounted several comeback attempts in Game 2, including pulling within 11-8 on an ace from senior Kalloway Hudson.
But even with a rising temperature, the hot-handed Rosenbaum put together a service run of five straight points to double up the Lady Raiders 16-8, a lead Cove was able to maintain throughout in the 25-19 win.
Riding the confidence they got by staying with the Lady Bulldawgs in Game 2, Tyler Lee only improved in Game 3, taking a 6-4 lead - its first of the evening - following a stuff block by Kuechle.
Cove rallied quickly, scoring the next four points to retake the lead, but the Lady Raiders weren't done, taking back the advantage 18-17 following a kill and an ace by Kuechle.
But after a timeout by Lowery, the Lady Bulldawgs responded with four straight points, capped by a Rosenbaum kill to lead 21-18.
A couple of Cove errors allowed Lee to pull within one, 21-0, but a pair of set-kills from Rosenbaum-to-Canete bookended a 4-1 closing run to seal the sweep and a trip to the area round, with the winner between Richardson Lake Highlands and Garland Naaman Forest waiting this weekend.
"We all had to come to the game, drop everything on the sidelines and just play volleyball, and I think that's all that mattered," Rosenbaum said. "You can have a 106 fever but if you're there for your team and you play through it ... it's a state championship team, you know?"