Decatur volleyball is getting ready to sail on uncharted waters.
The program has enjoyed an amazing amount of success, but after their win in the regional final they have a chance to do what no team before them has done – win a state championship.
The final leg of the journey begins Friday afternoon at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland.
Decatur (39-7) battles the Big Spring Lady Steers (32-13) in the state semifinal at 1 p.m. The winner will face the winner of Bellville and College Station Saturday at 2 p.m.
“It’s still pretty surreal that this is the point that we are at,” Decatur coach Claire Benedict said. “I can’t imagine that there are programs that do this year-in and year-out and what that would feel like.
“We’re not trying to be satisfied with this. The girls have goals in mind and the desire in their hearts.”
After an emotional win over No. 1 Argyle and a dominating performance in the regional tournament, the Lady Eagles are only two wins away from their most coveted goal.
“After Argyle, I felt like we could do it because that was our biggest match,” junior Caroline Lowery said. “We just need to stay humble and know that anyone can beat anyone. There have been plenty of upsets, and we are not unstoppable in any way.”
Decatur’s semifinal opponent will be one of the hottest teams at the state tournament. Big Spring is coming off a five-set win over Abilene Wylie in the Region I final.
They finished third in District 4-3A, but they started peaking at just the right time. The Lady Steers rolled through the first two rounds of the playoffs before taking both Monahans and Wylie to five games.
“They [Big Spring] are charging forward at the right time,” Benedict said. “They have two exceptional players that are going to be hard to contain. It’s a program that has been to the state tournament before, and this is Decatur’s first time.”
A trip to the final four is something few kids get to experience.
“As we’ve progressed, the thought of state became more real and at the beginning of this year it was a possibility,” senior Darci Billmire said. “Being able to carry it through has been awesome.”
Benedict knows there is a fine line between the experience and also preparing for the task at hand.
“It’s a hard balance to have,” the coach said. “How do you enjoy this while you still have work to do? Hopefully what they’ll get in the end will be much more exciting and much more worth it.”
This is Benedict’s first participation at this level, too, although she has reached a region final as both a player and a coach.
“I’m probably a lot more excited than I will ever show them I am, because I have to stay focused,” Benedict said.
Her calm demeanor helps Benedict keep her kids grounded, too, as the weekend approaches.
“We come in here with a game-plan, and we start attacking the game-plan, to prepare for anybody we might face,” she said. “They’re going to have to make adjustments, they are going to have to listen and they are going to have to be focused every day this week.”