Over the first three weeks of the season, the defending state champion Decatur Lady Eagles have tested themselves against some of the state’s best 6A and 5A programs.
Over their first 20 matches, the Lady Eagles (14-6) have played five teams that are in, or have spent time in, the 5A and 6A top 10.
“It’s been really hard, but we knew the beginning would be hard and wanted it to be,” said senior outside hitter Cooper Martin. “That is what it’s going to take to get us back to state.
“We realize if we get beat, we can still finish well and can compete with the top teams.”
The tough slate dropped the Lady Eagles from their top spot in the 4A Texas Girls Coaches Association poll. They’re ranked second now, behind Bushland.
The Lady Eagles continued their tough road Friday at the PSA Lone Star Circle of Champions Tournament in Murphy. Decatur played Allen, Prosper and Sachse in pool play. Allen is ranked fourth in 6A. Prosper was previously in the 5A poll.
“It’s probably one of the toughest tournaments in the United States, with the top 28 teams in the state,” said Decatur coach Claire Benedict-Gay.
With the tough teams on the schedule and three straight tournaments – the Adidas Texas Volleyball Invitational, Northwest ISD and now the Circle of Champions – Benedict-Gay knows it’s been a challenging few weeks.
“It’s been extremely humbling to play against the best of the best,” she explained. “When we put three tournaments in the first weeks of the season, we knew it’d be tough. It wears on you. Our starters get a lot more swings than the teams we are playing. We lost a match at Pearland because ran out of subs. Playing the big schools, numbers come into play.”
Because of the hectic schedule and a few nicks and bruises, Monday was the Lady Eagles’ first practice with all 12 players available, according to Benedict-Gay. After this weekend’s tournament, Decatur will settle into a normal schedule, playing twice per week.
“After this, it slows down,” Benedict-Gay said.
But the schedule doesn’t get any easier with matches against Fossil Ridge, Keller Chisholm Trail, Denton Ryan and Coppell coming up. The Lady Eagles will close non-district with anticipated showdowns with Abilene Wylie and Argyle at home Sept. 19 and 23.