AUBREY — It was a tall order, facing Argyle’s Lady Eagles — the No. 1 Class 4A volleyball team in Texas — in a regional-quarterfinals match on Tuesday, Nov. 8. But the Melissa Lady Cardinals met the challenge at Aubrey High head-on, scrapping and clawing for each point, before falling to the defending state champions in three sets, 25-17, 25-20 and 25-16.
Afterward, Melissa head coach Frank DePaolo noted that each set featured one decisive run by Argyle (37-10).
“Set 1 we were winning 13-12,” he said. “I had to call a timeout at 13-16 and had to call another timeout at 13-19. But we answered the second timeout, came back and scored four quick points. The second set there was a run and third set there was a run. It was just one run each time that cost us. And against a good team, you can’t do that. You can’t let them get a run on you ever.”
He said to emerge with a victory, his team had to do two things.
“Every rotation, they had a least one or two hitters up there that were really, really powerful. … Our goal was to not them hit down-line — force them into our defense — and not let them get on a run. Those were the two key things. We did one out of the two.”
Argyle head coach Clark Oberle said he had done his homework before the game.
“I knew they were a good team,” Oberle said. “And I knew they had a couple of offensive weapons that we would have to keep an eye on and try to control. I think, for the most part we did a pretty good job of executing our game plan.”
Melissa’s serve-receive passing leader was freshman Caroline Kasson, who earned a perfect 3.0 rating. Senior Alli Boedeker and sophomore Susan Blake led Melissa with two stuff-blocks each, while sophomores Sophia Davis and Charley Lane produced 14 and 11 assists, respectively.
Senior Amanda Kocsis collected a team-high 15 digs for the Lady Cards and Blake was again Melissa’s top kill-getter with nine. She also tallied at .294 hitting percentage.
“We knew when No. 15 (Blake) was back-row, we needed to take advantage and score then,” Oberle said. “And when she was front-row, we needed to have a body in front of her all the time, because they’re going to set her a lot. … That was our game-plan: know where No.15 was.”
The Lady Cards fell to Argyle in three sets on Sept. 9 as well, but this time it was closer. DePaolo said he reminded his team before this match that Melissa had had a real shot at winning Set 1 in that first meeting, even though the team was short-handed.
“The last time we played them we were down a player,” he recalled. “And we were in a rotation that we had only played twice. We were at 19-21 and lost, 19-25 — but it was possible. They saw it going in (tonight).”
Melissa started Set 1 with two big blocks by junior Abby Christian and Boedeker on a pair of howitzer-like kill-tries and led, 2-1. But the Lady Eagles soon moved ahead, surviving ties at 10-10 and 11-11, before the first of Argyle’s aforementioned runs. The Lady Eagles had surged to a 21-13 lead when a Christian kill stemmed the tide momentarily. Blake’s third kill of the set pulled Melissa to within 24-17 before Argyle closed it out.
In Set 2, junior Brittany Melcher got the Lady Cards off to a good start, serving to a 3-0 advantage. Argyle again rallied, taking the lead for good at 11-10 after five ties. Back-to-back kills by senior Gill Gray and Christian cut the Lady Eagles’ margin to 19-16 before Argyle ran to 22-16. Kocsis would then serve four straight points, highlighted by a Kasson block and another Christian kill, but 22-20 was as close as the Lady Cards got.
Argyle opened Set 3 with three early kills in sweeping to an 8-3 lead. Melissa’s deficit moved to 17-9 before the Lady Cards mounted a comeback: a Kasson ace followed by three kills by Blake, Fink and Boedeker to trail, 18-13. Successive well-placed tips over the net by Blake and Lane made it 22-16, but they were Melissa’s final points of the season.
DePaolo said he reminded the Lady Cards after the match that Argyle provides the template for near-future Melissa teams.
“I talked to the freshmen, the sophomores and juniors and I said, ‘Look, you now know what it’s going to take. You know where we have to get to. Are we going to be in this gym in the third-round of the playoffs next year? That’s what we need to be shooting for.’”
For now, the Lady Cards’ season has ended with a 28-13 record and a trip the regional quarterfinals — and that’s a fine foundation for 2017.