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Volleyball: Argyle's improbable title run falls short in state final

GARLAND — Despite playing in its fourth straight state final Saturday, Argyle made no secret of the fact it didn't have many girls on the court who were used to leading the charge. 

But there they were, looking to finish an improbable run that suddenly looked like it could happen.

Needville, another state tournament vet, had other ideas. The Lady Blue Jays racked up 10 team blocks while getting 15 kills from senior Hayden Smyers to sweep their way to a 25-14, 25-18, 25-12 win in the Class 4A state final at the Curtis Culwell Center.

Argyle (27-19) shot a dismal .028 and watched Needville (41-6) close the match with a  15-4 run.

"It was a bigger block than we were used to, and we didn't adjust as well as we should have," Argyle coach Megan DeGroot said. "I am a believer that anyone can win in the state tournament. We have been fueled all year by energy and momentum, and we couldn't get that today. Had we been able to get that momentum, I know it would have been a different match.

"It's a shame we couldn't give them a better battle. Things just fell apart at the wrong time."

Argyle, the 2015 champion and last year's state runner-up, came into Saturday's final with more losses than any team competing during championship weekend — regardless of classification. But the Lady Eagles were peaking at the right time and had won 12 of their previous 13 matches. 

That run included a thrilling five-set win against Glen Rose (48-2) in Thursday's semifinals.

Argyle had only 19 kills in its three sets Saturday, mostly because of 22 errors. But even when the Lady Eagles put together a solid attack, Needville wasn't letting anything drop.

As a team, the Lady Blue Jays had 59 digs and 36 assists. Sydney Sacra finished with seven kills while Anna Gadway added six. Peyton Sulak had five of her own. Gadway had 21 assists.

Argyle was led by Mariah Hesselgesser's five kills. Danielle Davis added four. Kassidy Reeves chipped in 15 assists, and Alyssa Wallace finished with 13 digs.

"Needville is a good team. They did a great job adjusting their block to where we were swinging, and they had the timing," DeGroot said. 

Argyle trailed from the very beginning. Needville jumped out to a 10-2 lead in the opening set and didn't trail in the match until very early in the second frame when Argyle took a slim 4-3 lead. The Lady Blue Jays answered with a 10-2 run and eventually took a 2-0 match lead.

Argyle again jumped out to a 5-2 lead in the third set and trailed by only two midway through that frame when Needville went on its final 15-4 run. 

Davis, one of only two seniors on Argyle's roster, said Saturday's loss hurt. But she added she wouldn't change a thing with how her team battled to get to this point.

"It's definitely been a season of unexpectedness," Davis said. "We proved a lot of people wrong with the amount of talent we lost and still being able to make it back to state. I wish we could have ended on a better note, but I'm so proud of this team for making it as far as we did."

Sophie Betzhold, who has won four state titles at Argyle between volleyball and basketball, agreed.

"I've never felt more excited to be here at state and having to fight that hard with this team," Betzhold said. "Everyone gave it their all."

STEVE GAMEL can be reached at 940-566-6869 and via Twitter at @NewspaperSteve.