Tonight’s matchup between Argyle and Decatur has the makings of becoming one of the best playoff matches of the entire postseason.
The Texas Girls Coaches Association ranked both teams highly all season. Last year, the Lady Eagles defeated Decatur in five grueling sets in the regional final before advancing to the state tournament, where they lost to Abilene Wylie in the semifinals.
Tonight’s game at 7 p.m. at Trophy Club Nelson pits two of the state’s top 3A teams.
But it’s only the Class 3A Region II quarterfinals.
It is the third meeting between the two teams this season, and the top-ranked Lady Eagles will try to top No. 4 Decatur for the fourth time in two years.
“We know each other pretty well,” Argyle head coach Clark Oberle said. “There’s definitely a rivalry between the two of us, going back to when we were in the same district and played each other.
“We’ve both been quality programs, so we both try to play each other when we’re not in the same district, just for good competition. It seems like a lot of the times we go four, five sets and it’s usually a close game, and it’s good for the fans to watch.”
The winner of tonight’s meeting advances to the 3A Region II tournament at Mesquite Poteet on Friday to face either Rains or North Lamar in the regional semifinals.
Argyle (31-9) won the first match between the two teams in five sets at the Ryan tournament in September. Later on, Argyle defeated Decatur (36-7) in four sets in a nondistrict match at home.
Claire Benedict, who is in her seventh year as head coach at Decatur, said last year’s regional final appearance was the team’s deepest playoff run in school history. She had everybody back from last year’s team.
Both head coaches lamented the draw of the bracket.
“It’s an unfortunate thing for both of us, that we have to face each other this early,” Benedict said. “Being two of the best teams in 3A, it’s unfortunate that one team will get knocked out [tonight].”
The winner of tonight’s match could face third-ranked Longview Spring Hill in the regional final.
Oberle said based on the TGCA rankings, Region II is 3A’s best region. Benedict said it’s just a nature of the draw, and this year’s toughest challenge happens to be Region II.
Oberle said it’s tough to beat a good team three times in a season. He said his team was able to vary its offensive attack in the previous two meetings with Decatur this year while focusing in on Decatur’s primary threats.
“We’ve got a lot of weapons offensively, and I think were able to spread out our offense a little more so we’re not as predictable,” Oberle said. “I think we just took advantage of that fact.”
Behind the strength of sophomore outside hitter Eighmy Dobbins and Angelo State-bound senior outside hitter Brooke Robertson, Argyle hasn’t dropped a set in its previous two playoff matches against Gainesville and Nevada Community.
Decatur junior Makayla Mayfield had 12 kills in the team’s bi-district sweep of Aubrey before the District 9-3A team swept Bonham in the area round.
Benedict said containing Argyle’s key players could help Decatur open up its offense.
“We hope to pass well enough to run our offense,” Benedict said. “And when we pass well enough and have all our options available at the net, we’re pretty hard to defend because we do have a lot of areas that the ball can be coming from.”
Oberle told his team that beating Decatur back in September didn’t mean much and probably might have been a negative, as it may have added extra motivation to a team that’s looking to avoid four straight losses to the Lady Eagles.
“They’re sick and tired of losing to us, and I’m sure they’re going to be ready to go [tonight],” Oberle said. “I’m sure they are highly motivated. They would like nothing more than to send us home [tonight].”
BEN BABY can be reached at 940-566-6869 and via Twitter at @Ben_Baby.