TROPHY CLUB — The tension in the gym at Trophy Club Nelson was released only when the final point landed in Tuesday night’s Class 3A Region II quarterfinal.
Decatur’s bench and bleachers exclaimed. They got the win they had wanted for so long.
Decatur defeated Argyle 25-22, 18-25, 21-25, 25-19, 15-11 to advance to the regional semifinals. After getting within one set of moving closer to a second straight state tournament appearance, Argyle was eliminated.
Argyle coach Clark Oberle said the match was full of momentum-shifting runs, with Decatur’s final surge pushing the District 9-3A team further into the postseason.
“Every point was a fight, it seemed like,” Oberle said. “I knew that’s what it was going to be like. I think, in the end, they played better than we did. It’s the bottom line.”
The gym was packed on both sides, each school with students teetering over the railing separating the bleachers from the court. There were many instances when commands from the benches fell on ears deafened by the noise.
Argyle (31-10) eliminated Decatur from last year’s postseason and also won two matchups this season. Argyle entered the match ranked first in 3A by the Texas Girls Coaches Association, while Decatur (37-7) was ranked fourth.
Argyle junior middle blocker Katy Keenan had a team-high 20 kills, while sophomore Eighmy Dobbins added 15 kills. Senior Laine Lowery notched 24 digs.
Decatur was led by junior Makayla Mayfield’s 20 kills.
In the fifth set, Decatur junior Caroline Lowery drove the ball into the hardwood for the match’s final point. Decatur immediately piled on top of Lowery, and Decatur coach Claire Benedict had to peel her players off the court to partake in postgame handshakes with Argyle.
Argyle had not lost since before district play, where the District 9-3A team went through eight matches without losing a set.
Decatur jumped on Argyle and won the first set 25-22.
“In previous matches they’ve attacked the line and gone down the line from their outsides,” Oberle said. “Tonight, they worked the right side a lot more and they basically hit more to the other corner than what we were expecting.”
Oberle made adjustments and his team recovered. With the Argyle fans standing, Keenan provided the block that gave Argyle the second set, 25-18. Dobbins slammed a kill down the middle of the court to hand Argyle the third set, 25-21.
Decatur rallied in the fourth set, as the team held leads of six points on multiple occasions.
“We served a little bit tougher, a little bit deeper,” Benedict said. “We forced them to pass the ball and we just played hard. We just hit the ball.”
When Argyle needed a key point, it usually turned to its middle blocker. Keenan had a .741 hitting percentage on the night. Oberle said a .300 percentage is usually considered pretty solid, and her teammates knew where to send the ball.
“That’s what I told my setters — ‘Give Katy the ball,’” Oberle said. “She was the only one of us that was really having consistent success tonight. She’s hard to stop, so we tried to give her the ball every chance we got. But she only played three rotations, and we needed her to play six tonight.”
After the match, Benedict went through a long line of hugs as her team avoided a fourth straight loss to Argyle over a two-year span.
On a night with so much on the line and in a state tournament-like atmosphere, Benedict’s team finally picked up the win it had sought for so long.
“It was awesome,” Benedict said of the atmosphere. “You see this at a lot of the 4A and 5A levels. This was one of the best matches in regional quarterfinals that I think will ever exist in 3A volleyball.”
BEN BABY can be reached at 940-566-6869 and via Twitter at @Ben_Baby.