Fantastic Four: Decatur senior quartet tries to lead  Lady Eagles to second crown

Fantastic Four: Decatur senior quartet tries to lead Lady Eagles to second crown

The statistics, accolades, wins and titles tell a story of unparalleled success for the quartet of Caroline Lowery, Cooper Martin, Makayla Mayfield and Stormi Leonard.

But it’s friendship that powers the success of Decatur’s “Fantastic Four.”

“We’re so close. We’re best friends on and off the court,” Lowery explained. “They’re like a security blanket. We’ve played club for years. I’ve been honored to get to play with them.”

Cencter of the Action

CENTER OF THE ACTION – The Decatur senior quartet of Makayla Mayfield, Stormi Leonard, Cooper Martin and Caroline Lowery have helped the Lady Eagles to four straight district titles and a second state tournament berth. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

Friday the four will don the Decatur blue and white for the Class 4A semifinal at Garland’s Curtis Culwell Center at 1 p.m. to play for a spot in the University Interscholastic League championship on Saturday – the opportunity to win a second state title.

The four know that Friday or Saturday will be their last time together on the floor.

FIRING AWAY – Senior Cooper Martin and the trio of seniors she’s been on varsity with four years will try for a second state title this weekend. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

“It didn’t hit me until yesterday when Makayla tweeted out this was the last weekend of volleyball,” Leonard said. “This will be the last time we play together and put on this jersey. It’s sad to think it’ll be over. But it’s also exciting because we really want to win it again.”

The quartet first came together in fifth grade during intermediate school. Since then, they’ve been inseparable.

“We’ve been on the same club team, then played together in middle school and high school,” Mayfield said. “I’m either with them for volleyball or hanging out.”

Sometimes that spills over into the night for impromptu slumber parties.

“I’ve had them stay over on a school night,” Leonard said. “They are my family. My grandparents consider them their grandchildren. I see them more than my family.”

And like family, their relationships thrive on their vastly different personalities – ranging from goofy to intense.

“I’m the goofy outspoken one that is willing to do anything,” Leonard said.

Lowery is on the opposite end.

“I’m the serious one,” Lowery said. “People say they are scared of me off the court.”

Mayfield is the shy one in the group.

“I don’t talk much. Stormi does enough talking for all of us,” Mayfield jokes.

“The four of us keep each other accountable. We know what to say to each other and who will take it the best.”

Martin is the balance of all of the personalities.

“I’m the mix of Stormi and Caroline,” Martin explains. “It’s what helps us get along so well; we are so different.”

Decatur coach Claire Benedict-Gay agrees.

“They all bring something different,” she said. “At different times one personality is needed, and other times they need to be serious. Sometimes it’s best when nothing is said.

“With them being so different, they’ve been able to gel,” she said. “And with them being such friends off the court, it’s what kept them together and made them into a fierce group.”

After a successful middle school run, the four were identified quickly by Benedict-Gay as future cornerstones of the program. All four made the varsity as freshmen to play reserve spots behind the talented cast of seniors that included Kortney Tompkins and Joey Redwine.

“From the beginning, we knew this was a class to be reckoned with,” the Decatur coach said. “Their freshman season, they played some in different roles. But they were there and learned the system.”

Their sophomore year, the keys were handed over to the quartet to become the team leaders. They guided Decatur to its first region final before falling to Argyle.

At the end of the year, Leonard earned Wise County MVP and Martin the Offensive Player of the Year. Mayfield and Lowery earned all-county spots, and the quartet swept the superlative awards in 9-3A.

As juniors, the team was on a mission – win state. After sweeping their district, they dispatched Argyle in the playoffs in another five-set classic before taking the region title. They then cruised through the state tournament to capture the program’s first state title last November.

“It didn’t hit us what we accomplished until we saw it on TV,” Martin said. “We just did that. Then on the bus ride home, we said doing it twice would be pretty amazing.”

The Lady Eagles battled through an early schedule filled with state-contending 6A and 5A schools, finishing with a winning record. With the quartet leading the way, Decatur swept its district again, extending the program’s league winning streak to 56 games.

“It’s crazy when you think about what they’ve accomplished,” Benedict-Gay said. “They’ve never lost a district match or set. It’s hard to see them go. They’ve definitely set a high bar for the future of Decatur volleyball and will leave large shoes to fill.

“They’ve been like children. I’ve seen them grow not only through volleyball but life.”

After high school, Mayfield is headed to play at Texas Woman’s University with former Lady Eagle Redwine. Martin is going to Dallas Baptist to continue playing. Leonard is planning on playing on the next level, and Lowery has made the decision not to play in college, foregoing several opportunities.

“It’s crazy this is the last one,” Lowery said.

After four years have flown by one win at a time, the foursome has just one fantastic ending in mind – winning a second state title.

“It feels like our freshman year was last year,” Mayfield explained. “It’s crazy we’ve already spent four years playing. Hopefully we can end it on a good note.”


at Curtis Culwell Center in Garland


Friday, Nov. 21
Decatur vs. Robinson, 1 p.m. Argyle vs. Liberty Hill, 3 p.m.


Saturday, Nov. 22
4A Final, 2 p.m.

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Volleyball: ELATED STATE – Lady Eagles claim clash of champs

In the clash of defending state champions, the Decatur Lady Eagles absorbed the first body blows from Bushland and middle blocker Anna Graham.

But the Lady Eagles (39-10) quickly got off the canvas after dropping the first set, making adjustments and beginning to land their own punches. Behind the clutch hitting of Caroline Lowery and Makayla Mayfield, they took the final three sets and the Class 4A Region I Final at Western Texas College’s The Coliseum in Snyder.

Decatur won 19-25, 25-20, 25-16, 25-17.

Jumping for Joy

JUMPING FOR JOY – Decatur libero Maclaine Lowery jumps in celebration after the Lady Eagles beat No. 2 Bushland in four games Saturday in the 4A Region I final at The Coliseum in Snyder. Decatur will take on Robinson in the 4A semifinal at 1 p.m. Friday in Garland. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

“They came out with fire, and we were a little nervous because we knew it was only one game to state,” said Lowery, who was named the 4A Region I tournament MVP after putting down 16 kills in the final. “We worried too much about what they were doing [in the first set] instead of what we needed to do. After that, we started to play our game.”

Decatur returns to the University Interscholastic League volleyball championships at Curtis Culwell Center in Garland for a second straight year. They will take on Robinson in the 4A semifinal at 1 p.m.

“This has been on my mind the whole year,” said setter Stormi Leonard, who dished out 42 assists, earning a spot on the all-region team. “To make it back my senior season is all that I wanted.”

Argyle and Liberty Hill will play in the other state semifinal.

ON THE ATTACK – Decatur’s Caroline Lowery hits the ball during the Lady Eagles’ win over Bushland in the 4A Region I final. She was named the MVP of the regional tournament. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

“It’s easier to get to the top of the mountain. It’s hard to stay there,” said Decatur coach Claire Benedict-Gay. “Setting up the preseason matches I did – and we were struggling mentally through them – but they were necessary for us to get where we wanted to be. We knew this team was in our region.”

Bushland (37-5), last year’s 2A champions, had the Lady Eagles on the ropes early behind Graham, who buried 17 kills from the middle of the floor.

“Their middle blocker was phenomenal. That’s something we’ve not seen,” Leonard said. “That’s not the game we play, and it’s something we’re not used to.”

Decatur also struggled to handle Bushland’s serving and to get a good pass to get into its offense.

“They served very well. That’s something we work on is siding out quickly,” Benedict-Gay said. “They kept us out of our system that first set. We finally settled down and started passing better and were able to run our entire offense.”

Bushland took the lead 13-12 on the first of two Decatur service errors in the opening set. That started a 6-0 run for the Lady Falcons.

Bushland captured the set on another Decatur service error.

After dropping their first set in a while, Decatur rebounded quickly.

“From our tough preseason, we played some really tough teams that pushed us ,and we knew what it was like to be in the situation – to be down and have to come back,” Lowery said.

Mayfield put Decatur up 6-3 with a big swing in the second set. The Lady Eagles then got their two middles, Courtnie Roberts and Emily Oxford, involved in the offense, putting down kills around another from Mayfield to put Decatur up 10-4.

“Making sure all our hitters were available was big for us,” Benedict-Gay said. “When they had to defend everyone, it left some 1-on-1s and some open shots.”

Mayfield finished the second set with a kill.

Decatur jumped out to a 5-0 lead in set three and took a 16-7 advantage on a Mayfield kill that bounced off a Bushland defender and nearly made it into the stands.

Mayfield finished the set with one of her 18 kills.

With a state berth in sight, Decatur took a 12-6 lead in set four on a Roberts block. A Roberts kill made it 19-10.

Lowery increased the lead to 23-16. Two Bushland hitting errors closed the match – and sent the Lady Eagles back to state.

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Volleyball: Serious power – Competitive Lowery fuels Lady Eagles

In the Class 4A Region I semifinal, Caroline Lowery swung her powerful arm and spiked the ball off a Big Spring player, who took several seconds before being able to get off the court.

The Decatur senior’s fury unleashed on a volleyball can be a terrifying sight to even her teammates.

“She gave me a concussion my sophomore year during a drill,” Decatur setter Stormi Leonard recalled. “I had a pad up as a blocker and the ball went by it and I took the hardest hit straight in the face.”

Destructive Force

DESTRUCTIVE FORCE – Decatur’s Caroline Lowery blasts a ball over Big Springs defenders during the Class 4A Region semifinal. Lowery put down 12 kills in the win. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

Lowery’s power and skill has turned her into one of the state’s top hitters. Entering Friday’s Class 4A semifinal against Robinson, she has a team-high 471 kills, averaging 3.9 per set. Her hitting percentage on 1,107 attempts is .319.

“She’s had a great year and been a great leader,” said Decatur coach Claire Benedict-Gay.

Lowery generates her jaw-dropping power despite being far from the tallest player on the floor. Instead of relying on height, she uses strength.

“I go to the gym and JRobs and work out,” Lowery said. “I’m always working the muscles in my legs.”

Another Honor

ANOTHER HONOR – Decatur’s Caroline Lowery accepts the Class 4A Region I tournament MVP award. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

Benedict-Gay added: “She’s just strong. She works out in the gym and our offseason program. But she also plays a lot of volleyball.”

On top of that raw strength is a competitive drive to be the best that she credits her father Chris, a former football player at Oklahoma State, with giving her.

“He’s always been part of the reason. He’s pushed me – but I wanted to be like him,” Lowery said.

That competitiveness doesn’t stop when she steps off the volleyball court.

“I’ve always been competitive. I hate losing so much,” Lowery said. “That’s why in training I work so hard. My goal is to win everything.”

That strong desire to win gives her a near-stoic and intimidating demeanor between the lines, in sharp contrast to some of her light-hearted teammates.

“I don’t laugh for smile,” Lowery said. “Some of it is to intimidate the other team.”

Sometimes that intimidation carries over off the floor.

“People say they are scared of me off the floor,” Lowery admits.

While her demeanor intimidates some, her coach identifies with it.

“It is almost scary at times. She’s just extremely competitive,” Benedict-Gay said. “I appreciate it. I was that way when I played.”

While her ability to kill the ball has helped the Lady Eagles become a terrifying force, Lowery has turned into a complete player. She has a team-high 87 aces from the service line, and her 426 digs are second on the team.

Last year for part of the season, Lowery fought through a shoulder injury and wasn’t available to hit. She only played on the back row.

“It killed me, especially when we played Argyle at a tournament,” Lowery said. “I knew I could help. I hate sitting out more than anything.”

But after the state tournament this weekend, Lowery plans to stop playing volleyball. Despite inquiries from scouts about playing on the next level, she has decided not to pursue any college volleyball opportunities.

She plans to go to Oklahoma State, like her father.

“I could go somewhere else, but I don’t want to go to a college that I don’t want to just for volleyball,” Lowery said. “I want to study abroad.”

While she admits there’s a little burnout after playing club volleyball for many years, Lowery knows it will be a tough transition.

“It’s a huge part of my life,” she said. “It hasn’t hit me yet.”

But she could have at least two matches to take her own shots at anyone on the other side of the net.

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Volleyball: Decatur faces Robinson for spot in finals – Rockettes beat Bellville to reach state tourney

After recording 38 wins, the Decatur Lady Eagles are just two more away from the prize they covet – a second state title.

But to get that opportunity for a second state crown, the Lady Eagles (38-10) must get past Robinson in the 4A semifinal at 1 p.m. Friday at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland.

Robinson (39-11) earned its spot in the state tournament by beating Bellville – who lost to Decatur in the state final last year – in the Region III final. Robinson won the match 25-23, 16-25, 25-23, 25-22.

The Rockettes, who are making their first state appearance since 1971, are led by outside hitter Bailey Meggs, who was the Region III tournament MVP.

She had 36 kills over two matches at the region tournament.

“They have one really good hitter,” said Decatur coach Claire Benedict-Gay. “We have to be smart, make adjustments and pass the ball well.”

After facing the strong attacks of Big Spring and Bushland, the Lady Eagles feel they are prepared.

“We just need to focus on the gameplan and take care of stuff on our side of the net,” said Decatur senior setter Stormi Leonard.

Of teams at the state tournament in all classes, Decatur has faced four – League City Clear Falls, Argyle, Aledo and Brock.

The Lady Eagles are 3-2 against them, including a split with Aledo.

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Larry Bisidas

Larry Bisidas

Larry Bisidas, 67, a water well driller, died Monday, Nov. 17, 2014 in Denton.

Funeral is 2 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 19 at the First Baptist Church of Decatur. Dr. Bill Hughes will officiate.

Pallbearers will be Kenny Grantham, Rodney Quinn, Dillon Quinn, Jayme Bisidas, Buddy Harris and Randy Griffeth. Honorary pallbearers are Robert Hilton, Charles Harris, R.D. Bishop and Tim Whitehead.

Burial will be in Oaklawn Cemetery under the direction of Coker-Hawkins Funeral Home of Decatur.

Larry was born Feb. 24, 1947 to Tony and Ruth (Pope) Bisidas in Coleman, Ala. He married Janice Reed July 3, 1964 in Lovington, N.M. Larry was an owner and operator of Bisidas Water Wells B&B for 45 years. He enjoyed spending time with his family and friends.

He was preceded in death by his father; brother Tony Edward Bisidas and sisters Reba Whitehead and Shelba Roberts.

Survivors include his wife of 50 years, Janice Bisidas of Decatur; daughters Tresa Quinn of Decatur, Janette Flake of Decatur and Sherry Grantham and husband, Kenny, of Decatur; grandchildren Ashtin Dominguez and husband, Dustin, Dillon Quinn, Chloe and Lexi Flake, Madison and Tyler Grantham; great-grandchild Axel James Dominguez; sister Bonnie Kemp of Decatur; his mother, Ruth Bisidas of Decatur; numerous nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.

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Ronald Thomas Gettys

Ronald Thomas Gettys

Ronald Thomas Gettys, 66, of Decatur, died Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014, at Baylor All Saints Hospital in Fort Worth, following a brief illness.

Funeral is 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 19, at the First United Methodist Church in Decatur with Brian Bosworth officiating. Burial will be at Oaklawn Cemetery under the direction of Coker-Hawkins Funeral Home in Decatur.

Pallbearers will be Martin Woodruff, Mason Woodruff, Murray Cude, Melton Cude, Derrick Boyd, Chance Overton, James M. Brummell, William Klose and Cliff Moon.

Ronny was born Sept. 1, 1948, in Decatur to Charles Thomas and Janice (Mann) Gettys. After graduating from Decatur High School he attended the University of Texas in Austin where he majored in architecture. Austin became his home. He married Janci M. Goodson in 1969, and they had two daughters, Shauna and Eryn.

During his career, Ronny worked with various architectural firms as a supervisor of architectural construction on buildings at the university in Austin, a Holiday Inn in New York and others. He also worked for Motorola in Austin. He was an associate with Graber, Simmons and Cowan Architect and worked with the Veterans Administration supervising the construction of veteran retirement homes in Texas.

Following the completion of the program, he joined Jay Barnes Architects of Austin as construction administrator. After his retirement, he returned to Decatur, where he lived with his friend from childhood, Nancy Brummell Boyd. She and Ronny sang in the choir at the First United Methodist Church in Decatur. Ronny was also an accomplished pianist and worked with various civic and state committees in Austin.

He was preceded in death by his parents.

Survivors include his daughters, Shauna Tomme and husband, John, of Watauga, and Eryn Gettys of Austin; grandson Matthew Tomme of Watauga; sisters Charlotte Meador and husband, Frank, of Decatur and Leisa Waylett and husband, Manshadow, of Decatur; partner Nancy Boyd of Decatur; and numerous nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends.

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Melvin Lester Vickers

Melvin Lester Vickers

Melvin Lester Vickers, 76, owner of Vic Printing, died Monday, Nov. 17, 2014, in Decatur.

Funeral is 11 a.m. Friday, Nov. 21, at the Decatur Church of Christ with minister Rick Ross officiating. Burial will follow at Oaklawn Cemetery under the direction of Coker-Hawkins Funeral Home in Decatur.

Visitation is one hour prior to the service at the church building.

Pallbearers are Mark Jordan, Kevin Downe, Mark Smith, Dwayne Martin, Lyle Jones, E.W. Dodd and Glen Vickers.

Melvin was born May 10, 1938, in Seymour to Addison and Shirley (Nix) Vickers. He married Janis Darlene Smith July 16, 1966, in Seymour, and they moved to Decatur in 1967 to manage the commercial printing operations for the Wise County Messenger, which was then owned by Gene and Rose Carter, with whom Melvin had worked at the Baylor County Banner in Seymour.

In 1992, Melvin and Jan purchased the commercial printing division of the Messenger and established Vic Printing. They were later joined in business by their son, Jason. Melvin was a commercial printer for more than 60 years.

In addition to his printing business, Vickers was a professional photographer for many years.

He and Jan were married 47 years until her passing, Nov. 26, 2013. Melvin was a member of the Decatur Church of Christ.

He was preceded in death by his father, Addison Vickers; and his wife, Janis Vickers.

He is survived by his sons, Keith Vickers and wife, Donna, of Decatur and Jason Vickers and wife, Jennifer, of Roanoke; grandson Jackson Vickers of Roanoke; brother Glen Vickers of Seymour; sisters Helen Hammonds of Bowie, Gayle Smith of Moore, Okla., and Linda Davis of Wichita Falls; his mother, Shirley Vickers of Wichita Falls; and many nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.

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James Marshall Warden Jr.

James Marshall “Jimmy” Warden Jr.

James Marshall “Jimmy” Warden Jr., 44, of Decatur, died Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014, in Austin.

Funeral was Nov. 18 at Crossroads Church in Decatur with Darren Embree officiating. Burian followed at Mountain Home Cemetery in Daisy, Okla.

Pallbearers were David Warden, Luke Warden, Robert Fulton, Justin Porter, Eric Fulton, Matt Warden and Cody Warden.

Jimmy was born Feb. 3, 1970, in Weatherford to James Marshall and Brenda Burleson Warden.

He is survived by his wife of 21 years, Stephanie Warden of Decatur; sons Cody and Matt Warden of Decatur; mother Brenda Porter and husband, Larry, of Weatherford; father Jim Warden and wife, Linda, of Haines City, Fla.; brothers David, Luke, Robert, Eric and Justin; sisters Jaime Thomas and Pam Porter; and aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and friends.

Memorials may be made to the Matthew Warden Education Fund at Wells Fargo.

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Terry Franklin Wood

Terry Franklin Wood

Terry Franklin Wood, 68, died peacefully at home, on his ranch in Decatur, Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014

Funeral is 2 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 20, at the First Baptist Church in Decatur with burial at East Side Cemetery in Bridgeport.

Pastor Ken May will officiate, assisted by Berl Pedigo and Mike Wheat.

Visitation is 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 19, at the church.

Pallbearers are Mike Wheat, Carey Williams, David West, Jeff Horn, Asa Johnson, Robert Baker, Clay Ellerbee and Gary Cooper.

Terry was born Aug. 16, 1946, in New Orleans to Bennie Ray and Bennie Wayne Johnson Wood. He shared a birthday with his mother, which has been a joy for her. He and his brother Walter spent their lives virtually inseparable and were the closest of friends.

Terry graduated from Decatur High School in 1964 and went on to play basketball at Sam Houston State University. He served in the U.S. Army during Vietnam, earned the Purple Heart and was honorably discharged.

Terry came home from Vietnam to join his dad, Walter and Uncle James Wood in the car business at Bennie Wood Motors in Fort Worth. He married Jane Winder in 1966 and was blessed with a son, Terry Kenton (TK) in 1971. Terry went on to open his own business, Terry’s Motors, in Fort Worth and spent many years turning that into a successful operation.

Later, his grown son TK proudly followed in his grandfather’s and father’s shoes, joining Terry’s Motors in 1992. Terry has long been considered the industry standard as a wholesale and auto dealer.

In 1998, Terry built a home on the family ranch in Decatur and went full speed ahead pursuing his lifelong passion – the horse racing industry. He married the love of his life and his best friend, Patricia Burks (Trish), in 2001, and while Trish held down the home front, Terry went on to become a renowned quarter horse breeder. Some of his horses were Andthebeatgoeson, A Stone Runaway, Illegally Special, Winninginthebuff, Dasher Winner and On The Map – most descendants of Cautious Winner, who was one of the premier quarter horse dams of her generation.

Those horses won or qualified for such big races as the Ruidoso, West Texas, and All-American Futurities, as well as the Ruidoso, Rainbow and All-American Derbies. They were, and continue to be, at the forefront of the industry.

Terry went on to breed pedigreed quarter horses over the next 15 years, building and enforcing his racing name with the same integrity that he lent to life. Only in the last years, with his health declining did Terry scale back with Wood Racing, keeping only his younger stock at the ranch.

This did not mean Terry slowed down; quite the opposite, he began breeding Charolais cattle with the same zest and passion he put into his horses and at last count had some 60 head of the prettiest white cows and calves grazing on those green pastures. Terry lived and breathed “livestock” and was as much at home in a barn or pasture as he was driving in his truck, lazing by the fireplace watching football, playing cards at the trailer with his buddies, or wetting a crappie hook at the ranch lake.

Business aside, Terry was an avid sportsman, card player and horseman in the true sense of those words, tackling each of those endeavors as seriously as he did his car business – with knowledge and honesty. Terry was a man of his word and defined integrity with his life.

Terry loved his family beyond anything else, especially his wife Trish, his mom, his brother and his son and their families. The lights of his life were his grandchildren, whose various activities filled his days. He attended ballgames regularly, and many times when he should have been at home, you would find Terry in the stands or on the bleachers rooting for his boys, come rain or shine.

His largest form of entertainment was to gather the entire family for the holidays. If one was missing, he took it to heart. Terry found contentment with his large and loving family close by his side. Birthdays called for cake and balloons, Easter called for an egg hunt, Thanksgiving was all about the turkey and literally, being thankful, and Christmas promised a visit from Santa Claus and gifts galore.

Being in the Wood household for any one of these magical events meant going home with love and a deep sense of family in your heart.

Terry was a large man, with an even larger personality. His value in life lay in giving as much as he could give each day, working as hard as he could work, loving as hard as he could love, being a good friend to all. He pursued every moment of life with a passion and strength that was enviable.

Those who were lucky enough to be close to Terry will walk with the knowledge that he took life in his stride, in his own time, in his own way and he is at peace with his Lord and Savior.

Terry was preceded in death by his infant brother, Bennie Ray Wood Jr.; his father, Bennie Ray Wood; and aunt and uncle, Lorene and Wayne Garrett.

He is survived by his wife, Patricia of Decatur; son Terry Kenton Wood and wife, Amber, of North Richland Hills; mother Bennie Wayne Johnson Wood of Haltom City; brother Walter Ray Wood and wife, Cindy, and their daughter, Ali, of Kirkland, Wash.; grandsons Landry and Riley Wood and Tanner and Kale Burks; Patricia’s sons Mark Burks and wife, Teresa, of Decatur and Michael Burks and wife, Shari, of Haslet; numerous aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews and friends. Further, Terry will be missed by the entire family of employees at James Wood Motors.

Memorials may be made to a charity of choice.

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Volleyball: Lowery lifts Lady Eagles to regional finals – Hitter buries 12 kills in win

Volleyball: Lowery lifts Lady Eagles to regional finals – Hitter buries 12 kills in win

The Decatur Lady Eagles struggled to break out of an early slumber Friday afternoon against Big Spring until Caroline Lowery delivered a wake-up call late in the first set.

Lowery punished back-to-back kills to put Decatur (37-10) in front 18-17. The Lady Eagles never trailed again on the way to a sweep of Big Spring in the 4A Region I semifinal at The Coliseum in Snyder.

One Step Closer

ONE STEP CLOSER – The Decatur Lady Eagles show a road map of their victories and are now heading to the region final Saturday. Decatur defeated Big Spring in three sets to win the semi-final round and will play Bushland 2 p.m. Saturday for a ticket to state. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

“We weren’t expecting them to come out with as much fire. We knew they wanted to beat us after last year,” said Lowery, who finished with 12 kills, two aces and 1.5 blocks. “Once we got calm, everything came together.”

Decatur won 25-19, 25-13, 25-14, making a region final for a third straight year. They will play for a spot in the state tournament Saturday at 2 p.m. against Bushland or Abilene Wylie.

“I’m so excited. It’s hard not to look ahead,” Lowery admitted. “We have to keep focused.”


VICTORY – Cooper Martin pumps her fist as her teammates cheer in the background. Martin downed a dozen of the Lady Eagles 39 kills Friday. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

Decatur defeated Big Spring last year in the 3A semifinal in three sets. Big Spring looked determined early for a different outcome behind the hitting of junior middle blocker Erin Pollard, who put down three early kills. She finished with eight.

Decatur also helped Big Spring early with three service errors and four hitting errors.

With her team down 14-12, Decatur coach Claire Benedict-Gay called a timeout.

“This team feels pressure like they have a statement to make,” said Benedict-Gay. “It took them a second to calm down and realize that they can control their side of the net.”

Even after the timeout, Decatur trailed until Lowery buried a kill with a big swing. Decatur setter Stormi Leonard immediately went back to Lowery for another kill to put the Lady Eagles in front.

“She definitely stepped up and made some great shots,” Benedict-Gay said. “She’s just a fighter. It’s been a few matches since I’ve seen that level from her. It’s good to see.”

Decatur ran off nine of the final 11 points in the set. Makayla Mayfield’s kill put the Lady Eagles at game point. Lowery’s ace finished off the set.

Lowery started the second set with a kill and then extended the Lady Eagles’ lead to 4-1 with a blast to the center of the floor.

“Our mentality was to crush them,” Lowery said. “We wanted to keep pushing them down and didn’t want them to come back.”

Two Courtnie Roberts blocks and one from Lowery stretched Decatur’s advantage to 15-8.

A Leonard ace made it game point. Mayfield then finished off the set with one of nine kills.

Sensing a chance for the sweep, Decatur jumped to a 10-3 lead in the third set on a Roberts ace.

Decatur finished with eight aces and served at 87.8 percent.

The Decatur advantage grew to 10, 24-14, on a Cooper Martin kill. Martin put down 12 of the Lady Eagles’ 39 kills. Decatur hit .330 for the match.

Stormi Leonard dished out 31 assists.

Her final assist on the left side allowed Lowery to appropriately end the match with a kill off the Big Spring block.

Now, just one more match to get back to Garland and continue the title defense. The Lady Eagles take on Bushland 2 p.m. Saturday.

“It’s not going to be easy,” Benedict-Gay said.

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Volleyball: Defense spurs Lady Eagle to win – Decatur makes 52 digs in sweep

Tested at the net by Stephenville hitters, the Decatur Lady Eagles simply refused to let the ball hit the floor.

The Lady Eagles made 52 digs, turning aside Stephenville shots. Decatur then finished points with near-pinpoint accuracy from multiple hitters to sweep the Class 4A Region I quarterfinal, 25-17, 25-12, 25-14, at Weatherford High School.

Net Advantage

NET ADVANTAGE – Cooper Martin and Emily Oxford go up for a block against Stephenville Tuesday. The Lady Eagles swept to move onto the semi-regional round. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

“We knew we’d have to play our ‘A’ game, and we tried to be as scrappy as we could,” said Decatur senior Cooper Martin, who put down 14 kills, blocked two shots, made seven digs and served four aces.

Decatur (33-10) moves on to the 4A Region I tournament Friday to play Big Spring at 1 p.m. at West Texas College’s Coliseum in Snyder. Big Spring rallied to beat Dalhart in five games Tuesday to advance to the region semifinal.

The Lady Eagles will be making their third straight regional trip.

“We still get so excited about every match and every win,” Martin said.

Decatur responded to a strong Stephenville attack led by Morgan Gibson, who registered a team-high 10 kills, with solid blocking at the net and determination to keep the ball in play. Emily Oxford made five of the Lady Eagles’ eight blocks. Makayla Mayfield led a trio of Decatur players in double figures in digs with 14. Maclaine Lowery had 11 and Caroline Lowery 10.

“They were very aggressive and had some good hitters who were putting the ball in some spots we weren’t used to playing,” said Decatur coach Claire Benedict-Gay. “We adjusted to their hitters and played good defense.”

The Stephenville defense had few answers for the Decatur offense that put down 48 kills and hit .433 for the match. Six different Lady Eagles registered kills, with Mayfield and Martin finishing with 14 apiece. Caroline Lowery added nine and Courtnie Roberts five.

“Everyone across the net stepped up,” Benedict-Gay said. “That’s our strength – having several people who can put the ball down. Stormi [Leonard] did a great job spreading the ball around.”

Leonard handed out 38 assists and called her own number three times.

In the first set after Stephenville had rallied to cut a Decatur six-point advantage to two at 15-13, Leonard called Caroline Lowery’s number to put the end to the run. Martin then put down four of her six kills in the set to put the Lady Eagles up 21-16. Martin wore Stephenville’s defense out, hitting down the line.

“That’s my favorite shot,” Martin said.

Mayfield and Lowery tips ended the set.

Lowery landed back-to-back aces to get Decatur out to a 7-3 lead in the second set. Decatur finished with nine aces on the night and served at a 90.3 clip.

Three kills from Martin in four points put the Lady Eagles up 19-10. Mayfield then finished off the set with a kill.

Decatur fell behind in the third set 6-4 on a Codi Beyer ace. Mayfield landed back-to-back kills to even the game and send Decatur on a 13-2 run to build a 17-8 advantage.

After Roberts’ kill put the Lady Eagles at match point, Mayfield finished it off and sent the Lady Eagles west for their next opponents.

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Volleyball: Mayfield lands at TWU

Over the past four years, Makayla Mayfield has punished opponents at the net with her hitting.

Next year, she will be looking to do the same at Texas Woman’s University in Denton.

Breaking the Trail

BREAKING THE TRAIL – Makayla Mayfield is joining the Settlers at Texas Woman’s University. She will play volleyball. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

The Decatur senior signed a letter of intent Wednesday to play volleyball at TWU.

“I really liked the school and the campus and thought I’d fit in with the team,” Mayfield said about her choice of TWU.

“I’m excited to get the chance to play at the next level and try to do as good as we’ve done here.”

Mayfield picked TWU over Cameron and Southwestern Oklahoma.

“I thought TWU was the best fit,” she said.

In her four years on the court for the Lady Eagles she’s been a dominating outside hitter, especially as a junior when she helped Decatur capture the program’s first state title. Mayfield earned 9-3A, Class 3A and Wise County MVP awards. She was also named Wise County Female Athlete of the Year.

This season, Mayfield has 432 kills, averaging 3.5 per set. She leads the team with 478 digs.

“Sometimes teams don’t look at her as a threat, but she’s definitely a threat on defense and offense,” said Decatur coach Claire Benedict-Gay. “She’s savvy with her ability to find shots, which along with her natural ability makes her effective.”

At TWU, Mayfield will join former Decatur standout Joey Redwine, who is a setter for the Pioneers.

“It’ll be good to play with Joey again,” Mayfield said. “I got to play with her when I was a freshman, and now I’ll get to play with her for her senior year of college, too.”

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