In a battle of number one teams, Melissa — the 12-3A district champion — took on Argyle — the 10-3A champion — in Little Elm with the regional quarterfinal championship on the line. The Lady Cardinals defeated Celina in the Area championship to advance to the game.
Argyle started strong, winning the first two games handily but Melissa did not give up and rallied back to force a fifth and final game. The Lady Eagles won the finale 15-4, but the Lady Cards and their young lineup proved that they are, and will be in upcoming years, a force within the 3A league.
Melissa graduated just two seniors — Mary Beythan and Olivia Bennett — and have a powerhouse lineup returning with Whitney Taylor and Ashley Henger, who will be seniors next year, hard hitting sophomore Connar Newberry and freshman phenom Riley Duzenack.
A successful season is usually denoted by high marks on the all-district team.So it goes then with the Lady Cardinals as they saw 10 players tabbed for honors. Additionally, Melissa coaches were recognized with the Coaching Staff of the Year honor after the squad’s 28-11 season and showing in the regional quarterfinal round of the playoffs.
The top honor, Most Valuable Player, went to sophomore Connar Newberry. Defensive MVP was awarded to junior Whitney Taylor. The Libero of the Year was senior Mary Beythan, and freshman Riley Duzenack was recognized as Newcomer of the Year.
Three of the four Melissa players who received a superlative award are coming back next year, a sign of possible great things to come.
"I am very proud of the girls this season," Melissa coach Whitney Nelson said after the final playoff game. "We have had some great times and they have a lot of accomplishments to be proud of. We would like to thank all of our fans that rallied around us during the playoffs. Having the support of the whole town of Melissa was a blessing."
Senior Olivia Bennett and junior Courtney Cottrell were recognized on the all-district first team, and Madison Rose and Amber Melcher received second-team honors. Ashley Henger and Sophie Bennett were honorable mentions.
Argyle 3, Melissa 2
Melissa drew first blood and then went up 2-0 on a kill by freshman Riley Duzenack. The Lady Eagles responded with four straight points as they briefly took the lead. An ace by Duzenack knotted the game at four.
Argyle scored four unanswered points but could not break away from Melissa and a kill from Ashley Henger helped the Lady Cardinals close the gap 10-13.
Argyle was finally able to extend its lead to five after a kill put it up 16-11 and forced Melissa to take its first timeout of the game.
An ace by Amber Melcher kelp Melissa within five but two straight kills by the Lady Eagles forced the Lady Cardinals to call another timeout, trailing 14-21. The teams traded points from there and Argyle put the opener away 25-17.
The Lady Eagles went up 2-0 early in the second game but a kill by Whitney Taylor got Melissa on the board. Connar Newberry knotted up the score at 4-4 with a kill but Argyle responded with three straight points to recapture the lead.
Down 11-6, Melissa took its first timeout of the second game but it did not slow Argyle who built a 20-10 lead. Duzenack landed a well-placed kill to stop a run, but two quick points by the Lady Eagles led Melissa to take a timeout with the score 22-13.
Argyle finished out the second game 25-16 and put Melissa in a do-or-die situation.
A Kill by Taylor gave Melissa an early 2-1 lead, and an Argyle error helped Melissa keep the lead at 4-3. An ace by senior Olivia Benett put Melissa up 8-5 and then a kill from Newberry forced Argyle to call a time out trailing by four. Melcher landed a tip that put Melissa up 12-7 but the Lady Eagles came charging back after a questionable line call. With Melissa’s lead cut to two, Nelson called a timeout to regroup.
The Lady Cardinals came out of the break hot, extending its lead to six before Katy Keenan responded will a kill followed by a block for Argyle.
A Newberry kill gave Melissa a 22-18 advantage before the Lady Eagles closed the gap to two and with Melissa holding onto a 23-21 lead the Lady Cardinals called a timeout. Nelson eventually closed the game with a acrobatic kill to give Melissa a 25-23 win and keep their playoff run alive.
Melissa scored the first point of the fourth game but Argyle responded with four unanswered points to take control and force a Melissa timeout. The Lady Cardinals stayed close though and a kill by Mary Beythan cut the Argyle lead to three.
Argyle had the lead throughout but a kill by Sophie Bennett cut the lead to one and an Argyle miscue knotted up the contest at 19. Melissa took the lead shortly after and then went up 23-21 on an ace by Henger.
Taylor put Melissa up 25-24 with a kill and on the next play a hitting error by Argyle gave Melissa the point they needed to get the win and force a winner-take-all game five.
Taylor continued to be unstoppable, landing a kill early in the fifth set to put Melissa up 2-1. The Lady Eagles responded with a 6-1 run, and Melissa took a time out to regroup.
Argyle continued to pull away, building an 11-4 lead that forced another Lady Cardinal timeout.
Argyle went on to get the win, 15-4, and take the match.