SPORTS HEADLINES

Lady Eagles knock off Melissa, advance to 4A final

By Reece Waddell | Published Friday, November 16, 2018.
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With a chance to sweep Melissa in the Class 4A semifinal and waltz into the championship match, Decatur took a late 23-22 lead in the decisive third set Friday morning.

The Lady Eagles had already rallied from down 20-17 and looked poised to quickly send the Lady Cardinals home. Melissa burned its final timeout, and after talking things over, regrouped to briefly extend its season.

The Lady Cardinals rattled off three straight points to force a fourth set, denying Decatur of its bid for a sweep.

Messenger photo by Joe Duty.

“They didn’t have any quit in them,” said Decatur coach Clark Oberle. “They fought hard, and at the state tournament you expect that. They made plays when they had to and forced a fourth set.”

As the two sides traded points in the fourth frame, the Lady Eagles turned to Trinity Vinzant to put the game on ice.

Her 12th kill gave Decatur a 14-13 lead and her 15th kill gave the Lady Eagles a 21-15 lead they would not relinquish. Behind Vinzant’s team-high 16.5 points, the Lady Eagles knocked off Melissa 25-16, 25-16, 23-25, 25-19 at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland.

Decatur will play defending champion Needville in the 4A final at 1 p.m. Saturday.

“[Vinzant] was big today,” Oberle said. “We knew that their biggest kids were their outsides. I knew we were going to have to rely on our middles and outsides today. Trinity definitely came through when we needed her to. She had some huge points when we really needed them.”

The Lady Eagles started the match on an 11-1 run, immediately silencing Melissa’s massive crowd. The Lady Cardinals hit minus .087 in the first set and made 26 errors in the match.

“It was pretty important to [start fast],” Vinzant said. “They obviously had a way bigger crowd than us. We had to kind of rely on our energy on the court.”

Messenger photo by Joe Duty.

Melissa eventually settled in by the end of the second set, as junior hitter Caroline Kasson shouldered the offensive load. Kasson buried a game-high 20 kills for the Lady Cardinals.

Melissa coach Frank DePaola said he felt the nerves got the better of his team at the beginning of the match. It was the Lady Cardinals’ first trip to state.

“I think we were a little nervous in set one and set two towards the end, I felt like we were able to do some things that are what we call Lady Cardinal volleyball,” DePaola said. “In set three we made smart plays and were making better decisions. Our front row did a better job blocking and I felt like that frustrated them.”

Senior Satasha Kostelecky and freshman Jentry Lamirand tied for second on the team with six kills. Kostelecky also made a block and served an ace.

Freshman Kota Hartman landed five kills and junior Madison Lowery made two blocks. Decatur’s two setters — Makenna Gantt and Bayli Miller — combined for 28 assists.

For Kostelecky, Friday’s win was four years in the making.
“Especially it being my senior year, it’s a huge deal for me,” Kostelecky said. “[This] has been an amazing experience and there’s no other team I’d want to share that experience with. I love these girls so much.”

The Lady Eagles will meet Needville (41-8) Saturday afternoon for the chance to win their third state title. Decatur won consecutive championships in 2013 and 2014.

The Lady Eagles had to fend off a furious Melissa comeback attempt to advance Friday, but Decatur has grown accustom to rising to the occasion.

“Overcoming adversity is something we’ve had to deal with a lot this year,” Oberle said. “While that adversity is not fun at the time, when it comes down to times like this we know we can rely on each other and when things get tough, get the job done. The whole team believes in each other and trusts each other. All that adversity early on makes this possible.”

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