They came up one match shy of fulfilling the ultimate dream, but the Peaster Lady Greyhounds are, without question, definitely back.
Once a powerhouse program under former longtime coach Diana French, they are now that under current coach Autumn Threet, who just wrapped up her fifth season at the helm.
The Lady Greyhounds finished 43-8 this season, advancing to the Class 3A state championship match, falling to Goliad 25-21, 25-11, 25-20. It was also Goliad who shocked them in the state semifinals in 2015 as Peaster finished 46-2.
"We went one round farther this season. That's progress," Threet said. "We played on the very last day you can play."
Over the past three seasons the Lady Greyhounds are 122-19 under Threet with back-to-back district and regional championships.
The 2014 squad finished 33-9 and reached the regional quarterfinals after finishing second in district behind another state power, Brock.
This season's team featured just four seniors, McKenna Ballard, Addy Bratcher, Markelle Hasty and Rachael Gustafson. They will return five juniors, four sophomores and a pair of freshmen.
"I'm real excited about next year already," said junior Kennedy Warren, who has already committed verbally to play for the University of Idaho in 2018.
"We were on the court 24-7. We showed the players what it takes to win," Gustafson said.
Never was that more evident than in the state semifinals. Facing 46-0 defending state Jewett Leon, which brought a 64-match winning streak in, Peaster won in four games.
"We knew were capable of it. We wanted to prove we could do it," Gustafson said.
Goliad was also the only team in Class 3A to defeat Peaster this season. Threet put together an extremely challenging schedule that included many 5A and 6A programs, along with participating in the Pearland Tournament, one of the nation's toughest.
"I can't give enough to this lady," Ballard said, nodding to Threet. "She taught me so much.
"Coach always says it's family. We're blood out there. It is family."
Threet said the community played a major role in motivating this team, which joined the 1993 team as the only ones to reach a state championship match. Featuring virtually the same roster as a year ago, they also became the first from the school to advance to state in back-to-back seasons, Threet said.
"The Peaster community, we are blessed," Threet said. "There's a lot of little Lady Greyhounds in Peaster America."
The Ladycats finished 39-9 and advanced to the Class 5A Region I finals, falling to eventual state champion Amarillo. It was the seventh regional finals appearance under coach Kathy Goings, who has led them to state three times, most recently in 2012.
The Ladycats, who shared the District 6-5A championship with Boswell, will lose six seniors, Lyxi Blaker, Emily Smith, Maddie Goings, Brecken Roquemore, Erin Weiss and Amanda Norman. Goings has committed to play for Oregon State, Roquemore has signed with Oklahoma Baptist, and Smith with Harding.
Weatherford Lady Kangaroos
The Lady Kangaroos enjoyed what is believed to be the best regular season in team history. They shared the District 10-2A championship with Keller and finished 33-6, getting upset by Arlington Lamar in bidistrict, dropping the final three games after taking a 2-0 lead.
It was the first playoff appearance since 2009.
Coach Natalie Gonzales returns every player on her team, including juniors Lond Austin-Roark and Kaitlyn Rogers, both of who have verbally committed to Texas A&M.
Brock Lady Eagles
The Lady Eagles finished 19-19 and once again advanced to the postseason, falling bidistrict to Holliday. Coach Mallory Daniel returns every player on her roster.
It was the 12th consecutive playoff appearance for the Lady Eagles.
The Lady Bulldogs (22-11) returned to the postseason for a second straight year after years of missing out since 2000. They fell in bidistrict to Bowie.
Coach Denise Lee's team loses one senior from its roster, Kylie Nelms.
Coach Kendal Bracy's Lady Monarchs posted a 22-10 record and were the top Class 2A team in their combined 1A/2A league. They also handed 1A powerhouse Graford its only regular-season loss.
Poolville received a bye in bidistrict before falling to Bells in a thrilling five-game area match. They lose seniors Brenlee Jones, Kallee Cumbie and Mackenzie Maxwell.
It was the second straight playoff appearance and sixth in seven seasons for the Lady Monarchs.