It’s hard to get much closer to the playoffs without actually making them than the Euless Trinity volleyball team did this season.
After losing their final three district matches of the season, the Lady Trojans found themselves mired in a three-way jumble for the fourth and final postseason berth from District 5-6A. The result was a three-way play-in between Trinity, Flower Mound and Flower Mound Marcus.
First, the Lady Trojans had to play Marcus on Friday, with the winner advancing to play Flower Mound on Saturday. The winner of that match would qualify for the playoffs.
Trinity took care of Marcus, sweeping the match 3-0. On Saturday, The Lady Trojans and Lady Jaguars battled through a five-set thriller that ended with Flower Mound on top in Game 5, 16-14.
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“The girls really wanted to make it to playoffs,” coach Mia Langi said. “Even though we didn’t make it, [they fought] even to the last point.”
For a handful of seniors, including Elli Merchant, it’s the end of the high school chapter of their volleyball careers.
“It was kind of disappointing, obviously, but looking back at the whole season, we did so many things well that it was hard to be completely disappointed,” she said. “We fought hard in our last match; we fought hard.”
For fellow senior and longtime teammate Margaret Dean, it’s easy to see the value in a season that didn’t reach its playoff goal.
“I grew up with Elli and Amanda [McDowell],” Dean said. “We’ve been playing together since we were 7. So just being able to play my senior season with them, since they were there when I started, it’s just sort of a cool place to end with them. That’s the perspective I have on the season, is that I got to spend it with people who really inspired me to keep playing.”
Langi was disappointed for her seniors but also had a positive outlook on the 2016 campaign.
“It was heartbreaking because we know we couldn’t get the seniors to playoffs like we wanted, but I just told the girls I loved them and appreciate their efforts,” Langi said. “They gave it their all. Looking in their eyes, you could see them thinking, ‘Dang, I can’t believe we didn’t make it,’ but at the same time there wasn’t any crying. You could tell they were upset, but I think they were proud of how they performed.
“I would honestly say this season was a blessing because of all the adversity the girls had to overcome, especially with my health issues,” she added. “I’m very grateful for the girls and their will to fight with me and fight together to get as far as we did this season.”
Merchant and Dean will be heading their separate ways after graduation next summer, with Merchant headed to Mercer to play beach volleyball and Dean off to Stephen F. Austin to play volleyball there. Dean offered one last perspective on the season.
“It does stink that we got so close, but we accomplished more than anyone in this district expected us to do,” she said. “Coming into this season everyone considered us underdogs, but we really were a dark horse and surprised everyone getting to where we were.”