WOODROW — Cooper volleyball came out with the fire needed to compete for a District 2-3A championship in Tuesday’s match against Shallowater.
However, the fire threatened to go out after the second set, and the Fillies were poised to extinguish the Lady Pirates’ chances of a 4-0 district start early in the fourth game.
But thanks to some timely kills and mental lapses by Shallowater, Cooper reignited the desire to win, finishing off the visiting Fillies in four sets, 25-13, 25-15, 18-25, 25-20.
“I felt like they were just playing for a purpose tonight,” Cooper coach Courtney Pesterfield said about the hot start. “They had a fire underneath them that I hadn’t seen even in our last couple of games. Watching that from a coaching perspective, I was just completely in awe.”
The Lady Pirates (20-7, 4-0 in district) came out on an absolute tear, jumping out to a 9-3 lead in the first set, culminating in a 12-point win.
Cooper again came out hot in the second set, going up 7-1 thanks to four Torey Kay service aces in the first five points.
Shallowater (22-10, 2-2) battled back to cut the deficit to 13-11, but Cooper finished the game on a 10-2 run highlighted by five Megan Allen points. Allen would finish the match with a game-high 13 kills.
“I think we were sluggish and maybe too intense — like not focused well enough on each play,” Shallowater coach Amy Mangum said. “So we were worried already about the outcome. We just need to focus on each play early on.”
The Fillies switched their focus immediately after the second set, going on a hot start of their own.
Shallowater grabbed a 10-2 lead, punctuated by three straight Rebekah Jones aces to finish the run.
The Lady Pirates went on short run of their own to bring it to 15-13 on another Kay ace, but Shallowater went ahead 24-15 thanks to three more aces, two by Jones, to put the game out of reach.
“We wanted to win, we wanted to definitely beat them in three,” Cooper outside hitter Summer Wilson said. “I think we got a little behind and relaxed. ... We thought we could relax a little bit and (Jones’) serve got us.”
Wilson, who finished the game with six kills, an ace and 11 digs, said the team talked about the need to rebound in the fourth set, not allowing any extended Shallowater runs.
“We just decided: now or never,” she said. “We need to do this. We need to get it done. We just need to show up.”
The Lady Pirates took a little bit of time rebounding, digging themselves in an early 6-2 hole before bouncing back and tying the game at eight. The two teams traded points for the next several minutes, eventually taking an 18-18 tie down the stretch.
Cooper’s Claire Shaver, who had seven kills Tuesday, then sparked the game-ending 7-2 run with a hard spike that ended the Fillies’ comeback bid.
“I have confidence in my team,” Wilson said. “I feel like we can come out and beat any team. We have the players, we have the skills — we just have to put it all together and come out and win.”
Kay led all players with 45 assists, and Kati Macha led the Cooper defensive effort with 17 digs. Katy Headrick chipped in five kills and two aces for Cooper.
Jones finished with a team-high nine kills to lead Shallowater, followed by Hanna McCarty’s four and Kelsey Bigham’s three. Hannah Almsted and Bailey Sapieha had 10 and eight assists, respectively. McCarty led the team with a dozen digs, and libero Cheyenne Powers had eight.
While the Lady Pirates now sits at the top of the District 2-3A standings, Shallowater sits at a precarious 2-2.
“We have Levelland on Friday and that’s a big, pivotal game for us to see where we’re going to be with the top three teams getting into the playoffs or beyond,” Mangum said. “That’s a huge game for us.”
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