Cooper has an experienced, senior-laden volleyball team, and it showed in the annual Crosstown volleyball match against Abilene High.
After scoring the first 13 points in a 25-9 victory in Game 1, Cooper pulled out a pair of 25-23 wins in the next two games to sweep the Lady Eagles in the nondistrict match Tuesday at Cougar Gym.
Dazz Larkins pounded out a match-high 12 kills, and Jennika Willis added 11 as Cooper (4-0) not only remained unbeaten, but the Lady Coogs have yet to drop a game so far this season.
Cooper coach Nora Campbell said her team isn’t content with playing well. It wants to be an elite team that not only can contend for a district title playing in a tough Lubbock-area district with Wylie, but beat the state powerhouse teams from the Amarillo area it matches up with in the first round of the playoffs.
“We’ve talked about being great, but do you want to be elite?” Campbell said. “Because we know the tests that approach us in the district, and then everybody knows the Panhandle district we go against in the playoffs. That’s been burnt into our kids heads for years.”
That focus was evident in Game 1. Cooper reeled off 13 consecutive points – some of them coming on long rallies – before AHS got its first point.
“That first game was a great indication of, ‘We’re in control of the ball when it’s on our side,’ and then we react to what they’re giving us when it’s on their side,” Campbell said.
AHS bounced back from the lopsided, opening-game loss to play Cooper tough the remaining match. But the Lady Coogs played like a team that knew it was going to pull out both Games 2 and 3, regardless of what AHS threw at them.
First-year AHS coach Devron Shepherd wasn’t happy with her team’s play, despite sticking with the Lady Coogs in the final two games.
“Our discipline on the very basic skills of covering and making plays on the ball was lacking tonight,” Shepherd said. “That’s definitely something we’re going to have to focus on starting tomorrow. These guys have to got to do the basics right, if we’re going to be successful. They’ve got to commit. They’ve got to be competitive, and they’ve got to find a way to score.”
In the past, Cooper would have been content to drop the third game, knowing it only had to win two more to win the match. Not this team. Again, Campbell praised her experienced squad that is focused on winning its first playoff match since 2002 – and matches like Tuesday’s are laying the groundwork for that goal.
“It’s all them,” Campbell said. “It’s not me. I’m not doing anything different. It’s just a new batch of kids who really believe what I’m trying to do and stay disciplined. We’re still preaching discipline, consistency. They’re still kids. We still have a lot of work to do.”
Jayden Hernandez led AHS (1-3) with seven kills. Mia Cairo and Gentri Anderson had four each. The Lady Eagles, who have dropped three consecutive matches, managed to keep it close in the final two games thanks to its defense – getting 17 digs from both Maddie Perez and Sarah Cox, while Anderson had 14.
Cooper, though, got 18 digs from Mollie Davis, while Ally Morgan had four of the Lady Coogs’ nine aces. Morgan had 15 assists, and Jaycee Rhoads had 12. Allelo led AHS with eight assists.
Cooper plays Odessa Permian on Friday at Cougar Gym, before playing three consecutive road matches and four of its next five on the road – including the District 4-5A opener at Lubbock-Cooper on Oct. 13.
“We’re about to hit a really tough stretch of hard matches on the road,” said Campbell, whose team has yet to play away from Cougar Gym. “That’s the next step. We need to see if we can produce this on the road.”
Abilene High, meanwhile, won’t play again until going to Permian for the District 2-6A opener on Sept. 29. The Lady Eagles were scheduled to play Wylie in their final nondistrict tuneup on Saturday, but Wylie has canceled all of its matches through Oct. 3 because some team members have tested positive for COVID-19.
Cooper def. Abilene High 25-9, 25-23, 25-23
ABILENE HIGH – Kills: Jayden Hernandez 7, Mia Cairo 4, Gentri Anderson 4, Aven Horn 3, Sarah Cox 3, Jaclyn Allelo 2, Shea Bruntmyer 1, Maddie Perez 1, Isa Escobedo 1; Assists: Allelo 8, Anderson 1, Cairo 1; Digs: Perez 17, Cox 17, Anderson 14, Allelo 3, Hernandez 3, Biloxi Schultz 2, Bruntmyer 2, Cairo 2, Madisyn Slack 2, Escobedo 1, Horn 1; Blocks: Anderson 1, Hernandez 1, Cox 1; Aces: Anderson, Hernandez 1, Perez 1.
COOPER – Kills: Dazz Larkins 12, Jennika Willis 11, Bri Garcia 4, Alissa Montgomery 4, Ally Morgan 1, Paige Greenwood 1; Assists: Morgan 15, Jaycee Rhoads 12, Emily Devine 1; Digs: Mollie Davis 18, Larkins 9, Rhoads 5, Garcia 5, Morgan 3, Montgomery 1, Kaleigha Kemp 1, Lexie Fernandez 1; Blocks: Garcia 1, Larkins 1; Ace: Morgan 4, Garcia 2, Davis 2, Rhoads 1.
RECORDS – Abilene High 1-3; Cooper 4-0.