One thing is clear – the Decatur Lady Eagles are on a mission.
After an emotional five-game win over No. 1 Argyle last week, Decatur turned in a dominating performance at the Region II Class 3A Tournament at Mesquite Poteet High School over the weekend.
The Lady Eagles swept aside both opponents, closing out the tournament Saturday with a win over Longview Spring Hill to qualify for the state tournament for the first time in school history.
Decatur (39-7) took down Spring Hill 25-22, 25-15, 25-18.
“This program has come a long way. The girls have fought and bought into what we needed them to buy into,” said a tearful Decatur coach Claire Benedict. “Players in previous years have set a big tone for this group.
“It was going to take some time to get to this point. They are a special group. We still have two more matches and we are going to get after it this week.”
Last season Decatur knocked on the door of the state tournament but fell in the region final to Argyle. This season everything the program has worked toward for so long, finally became reality.
“I think it will sink in when state comes, but right now I’m just excited to have won,” junior Cooper Martin said.
Decatur will take on Big Spring in the state semifinal Friday at Garland’s Curtis Culwell Center. Gametime is 1 p.m.
The Lady Eagles were brimming with confidence throughout the regional tournament. After a dominating performance on Friday they faced their only real adversity of the weekend in their first set on Saturday.
Spring Hill jumped out to a 4-2 lead, before Decatur responded with a 5-0 run. The Lady Panthers came storming back, taking a 13-10 lead midway through the match.
“We were a little nervous going into this match, because this is where we were knocked out last year,” Benedict said. “In they end, they wanted it, they fought for it, and I’m proud of them.”
Makayla Mayfield had three kills to give Decatur a 20-17 lead, but Spring Hill wouldn’t go away. The Lady Panthers went in front again 22-21, before Mayfield tied it again with another kill.
Martin sealed the deal with an ace, to give Decatur their most hard-earned set of the weekend.
“Game one was a crucial set for us because it was going back and forth so much,” Benedict said. “To pull that one out took a little of the pressure off our shoulders.”
The first-set win calmed the Lady Eagles down, and they were never really threatened the rest of the match. They never fell behind in the second game and pulled away for an easy victory.
“We came in thinking we were going to walk all over them, and that wasn’t the case,” Stormi Leonard said. “Obviously teams that get this far are doing something right and we have to be prepared for every team to be just as good or better than us.”
The Lady Panthers didn’t go away easily. They broke out to a 6-3 lead in the third game, before Decatur flexed its muscle. A 14-5 run followed as the Lady Eagles took control of the match.
Spring Hill climbed back to within 22-17, but two kills by Martin and one by Caroline Lowery sealed the deal.
“Compared to the excitement of Tuesday [Argyle] to now, we knew we were supposed to come to the regional tournament and win,” Leonard said. “Today wasn’t the best game we’ve played so it’s kind of hard to get super excited. I think we are all calm because we feel this is our year and this is our time.”
Mayfield finished with 17 kills and 22 digs. Lowery added 13 kills and seven digs. Martin recorded five kills, 12 digs and two aces.
Serena Estrada had 15 digs. Leonard notched 37 assists, 12 digs and a kill.