Underclassman shine as Lady Eagles advance to regional tournament

By Reece Waddell | Published Tuesday, November 6, 2018.
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With a trip to the regional tournament on the line Tuesday night, Decatur freshman Jentry Lamirand rose up and buried a kill to clinch the first set for the Lady Eagles.

A few minutes later, fellow freshman Kota Hartman got in on the action, sparking a 5-1 run to help Decatur take a commanding 2-0 lead over Stephenville.

Messenger photo by Mack Thweatt.

Then in the decisive third set, the young duo helped the Lady Eagles put the Honeybees away for good.

Decatur jumped out to an 11-3 lead in the final frame and never looked back, sweeping Stephenville 25-20, 25-21, 25-13 in the 4A Region I quarterfinal at Mineral Wells High School.

“For freshman, being the first time in a playoff atmosphere like this, I thought Jentry and Kota both played outstanding,” said Decatur coach Clark Oberle. “Very few errors tonight, and you usually don’t say that in the third round of the playoffs.”

Lamirand and Hartman combined for 12 kills. They each hit over .300. Twenty-seven of the Lady Eagles’ 38 kills were from freshmen or sophomores.

Lamirand led the team with seven kills and has tallied 15 kills in Decatur’s three playoff matches. Sophomore setter Makenna Gantt dished out 16 assists, with several of them going to Lamirand and Hartman.

“It’s very impressive, especially as freshman,” said Gantt of Lamirand and Hartman’s performance. “They haven’t been in these kinds of situations before. It shows a lot of maturity that they can pull through it.”

Gantt recorded six kills of her own, helping the Lady Eagles overcome several Stephenville rallies in the first and second sets. The Honeybees used a 6-1 run to take an 11-10 lead in the second set, but Gantt rejected a Stephenville shot to flip momentum back to Decatur.

Messenger photo by Mack Thweatt.

She hit .417, made three blocks and served an ace.

“[Gantt] had some big points, hitting and attacking the ball, as well as some big blocks when we needed them,” Oberle said.  “She had some clutch serves when we needed her to. She played really well.”

The Lady Eagles never trailed in the third set, forcing Stephenville to burn its two timeouts early.

Oberle said he told his team in between sets to keep the pressure on the Honeybees with Decatur on the verge of the sweep.

“They were down and between a rock and a hard place,” Oberle said. “I felt like if we kept the pressure on them and didn’t make a lot of unforced errors, they would make the errors. And that’s what happened. They started pressing at the end, especially their seniors. They didn’t want their season to come to an end and started trying to do too much.”

With the win, Decatur advanced to the regional tournament for the first time since 2015. The Lady Eagles will take on Hereford in the 4A Region I semifinal at 2 p.m. Friday at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene.

Decatur is now 35-11 overall on the season and two wins away from the state tournament. They have yet to lose a set in the postseason.

“I’m really excited for these kids that we get to go to Abilene this weekend,” Oberle said. “At this point in the season, if you can live to play another day, it’s a good thing.”

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