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There was no doubt that fourth-ranked Decatur’s regional quarterfinal match against top-ranked Argyle would go five games.
This is the way it was supposed to end.
Two 3A heavyweights, meeting before they should have, put on the show everyone paid to see, slugging it out for five games, trading blows, momentum shifting and in the end – this time the underdog won.
Decatur (36-7) slipped past Argyle (32-10) Tuesday in the Region II Class 3A regional quarterfinal at Byron Nelson High School, 25-22, 18-25, 21-25, 25-19, 15-11.
Erasing the demons that have haunted them since Argyle defeated Decatur in the region final last season, and twice more since then, the Lady Eagles stormed the court Tuesday, celebrating what may be the biggest win in program history.
So far, anyway.
“When the ball hit the floor for the final time, it felt like everything was right,” junior setter Stormi Leonard said. “It’s like that’s what we were meant to do.”
Senior Katie Isham added. “It was like a dream. Everybody just dogpiled on top of us and it was great. I would have to scream to describe what it feels like.”
After a tense back-and-forth match with plenty of highs and lows, Decatur coach Claire Benedict was happy her team stayed with the plan.
“I was lightheaded. I was overjoyed,” the coach said about the clinching win. “The girls worked hard, they adjusted and they listened to what the game plan was. They stuck with it even when it got tough.”
Down 2-1 heading to the fourth set the Lady Eagles found themselves in another pressure situation against the state’s best. There was no room for error when they stepped out on the floor for the fourth game.
Benedict relayed to her team one bit of advice, words her team has lived by the past couple of years. ‘Remember you hate to lose more than you like to win’ she told them one last time.
The words echoed through the Lady Eagles minds. They never trailed again the rest of the night.
Decatur jumped out to a 4-1 lead on a Cooper Martin kill and when Argyle rallied to tie it 5-5, junior Makayla Mayfield delivered one of her 20 kills on the night, giving the Lady Eagles the lead for good.
The Lady Eagles advantage grew to 17-12 in the fourth set forcing an Argyle timeout, but there was no answer. The determined Decatur bunch kept pounding away. A Leonard kill put things away at 23-16 and Katie Isham’s kill made it official forcing a fifth game.
“When we didn’t get the second or third game we knew we couldn’t give up,” Leonard said. “When we won the fourth one we were yelling ‘we can’t give up, this is our time.'”
Three straight Mayfield kills started the fifth set, and a Martin kill followed to give Decatur an early 4-1 lead in the deciding game.
Argyle fought back with a 6-3 run to tie the game, 7-7. Caroline Lowery responded with a kill, followed by an ace to force another Argyle timeout.
Out of the break the Lady Eagles kept the throttle down with a 4-0 run to take a 12-8 lead. Argyle stormed back to within 14-11, but Lowery ended the match with another kill to begin the celebration.
“This was one of the best matches for a regional quarterfinal,” Benedict said. “They [Argyle] are a fabulous team. I don’t discredit them one bit. It’s unfortunate that we have to see each other now than in the regional finals, where we should have met.”
Lowery ended the night with 16 kills, 18 digs and four aces. Martin finished with 15 kills, 10 digs, three blocks and an ace.
Serena Estrada notched 16 digs and an ace. Isham put down seven blocks and five kills.
Leonard added to her season record assist total with 53, and recorded 15 digs.