Coming fresh off a split in its first two games of the season, the Copperas Cove Lady Dawg volleyball team was back on the practice court early Wednesday.
The Lady Dawgs are under the direction of new head coach Christy Thompson. Former coach Cari Lowery, whom Thompson had coached with for a total of 12 years, was promoted to the district’s athletic director position earlier this year.
Thompson acknowledged that Lowery left “big shoes to fill.” Despite saying that, Thompson seemed confident in her ability to succeed the legend of Lowery.
“If anybody can do it, it’s going to be me, because I tell her she trained me well.” Thompson said as her team practiced in the gymnasium Wednesday. “I’ve had a lot of experience underneath her and learning how to deal with different situations and different strategies.”
Thompson will attempt to guide the Lady Dawgs to their 17th consecutive playoff experience. So far, early in the season, the new coach said she likes what she sees from the team as far as its ability to make necessary adjustments.
“You know, yesterday in our first match, we changed a bunch of stuff right there on the fly, and they handled it easily,” Thompson said referring to the five-set loss to Brentwood.
The quick adjustments and ability to work as a team is what has senior setter Jakhi Smith excited about what she has seen from the team from a player’s perspective.
“For one, we worked really well together,” Smith said of summer workouts. “Even if somebody’s down, we’re picking each other back up. And even if we’re down as a team, we know how to keep fighting instead of staying down, so that’s really good.”
Smith is one of a handful of returning varsity players that Thompson will look to for leadership on the relatively inexperienced team.
“Being a leader is a lot because you have new people come on the team and you have to really talk and lead so they know what to do, where to be and all that,” Smith said.
One of the newcomers to the team this year, senior middle blocker Olivia Martinez, said she is soaking in what Thompson and the returners are pouring out.
“I’ve learned how to communicate better because I’m not the loudest person, but they helped lift me up and they help make sure I’m doing my job and everything,” Martinez said.
Martinez has played volleyball for much of her life but is new to the Lady Dawg squad after having moved to Copperas Cove with her family recently. In the opening loss to Brentwood, Martinez notched a team-high 10 blocks along with Chloe Tuiasosopo.
As a middle blocker, Martinez said communication is key.
“When blocking, (we are) making sure we’re talking so we know when to go up together and all that stuff. And if there’s a ball coming over at the top, (making sure) you don’t run into people,” she said.
Constantly learning is not something unique to the players, however. Just like Lowery, Thompson said as a coach she will continue to be a student of the game.
“Even though I think I may know how I want to do it, I can always improve it by continuing to study,” Thompson said.
Due to realignment, the Lady Dawgs have some new opponents in their district this season.
Despite the changes in opponents from previous years, Thompson remarked that she wanted the Lady Dawgs to continually dictate the pace of play when they’re on the court.
“We’re trying to make our game our game, the best that we can (to) control the controllables and play our game so well that other people have to change what they’re doing,” she said.
As of the time of this publication, the Lady Dawgs will have already played five games to start the season. The Lady Dawgs play at home on Tuesday. Junior varsity starts at 5:30 pm with varsity scheduled to start at 6:30 pm