SNYDER - The team that told everyone they believed that they would win did just that with a gutsy comeback in the regional semifinals before a valiant effort came up just short in the regional final.
Stephenville (30-17) ran its longest win streak in nine years to 19 with an inspiring comeback Friday, when they were down two sets and trailed the third 12-4 before outscoring Lubbock Cooper 61-39 the rest of the way for a 18-25, 23-25, 25-22, 25-19, 15-10 victory.
The win moved the Honeybees from the Sweet 16 to the great eight in their first regional tournament appearance since winning the 4A state title since 2003, but the run would end there.
Abilene Wylie used a string of nine straight points to wipe out an 11-6 deficit and win the fourth set 25-19 after the Honeybees had taken a set from the No. 1 Lady Bulldogs in the second. The big run came after Stephenville used an 8-1 run to grab a commanding early advantage in the set.
Wylie then dominated the fourth for a 25-18, 21-25, 25-19, 25-14 victory and the 3A Region I championship Saturday afternoon. All the action unfolded at The Coliseum, where Wylie swept Springtown in its regional semifinal Friday.
Wylie advances to its second straight state tournament and will face Region III champ Tarkington in the semifinals next Friday.
Stephenville seniors Kristin Kaiser and Dani Huckabee were named to the all-tournament team, which was headlined by MVP Tucker Smith of Wylie.
Kaiser and Huckabee are two of the eight seniors Stephenville will lose to graduation, and they all went down swinging.
Kaiser had 16 kills, 11 digs and an ace against Wylie after posting 10 kills, 19 digs and an ace against Lubbock Cooper. Huckabee had 10 kills, 11 digs and six aces against Cooper and racked up 20 digs against Wylie.
Senior Natalie Tiner was also strong with 10 kills and nine digs against Cooper and six kills and 11 digs against Wylie. Like Huckabee, she also had a host of blocks in both.
Brooke Harvick made eight kills and had the match-winning block against Cooper. She also had the match-winning point in the regional quarterfinal sweep of Gatesville.
Sheridan Stokes had five kills and 10 digs against Cooper and six kills and 15 digs against Wylie. Leslie Billings, Hailey Morales and Morgan Croslin are the team's other seniors.
The Honeybees won an outright district championship for the first time since 2003 after sharing a league title last year. They also won an area title by sweeping Kennedale after a bye through the first round of the playoffs.
The resolve shown by the Bees in the regional semifinals summed up their 19-match win streak that included three playoff victories.
"There's nothing to lose when it's possibly your last game," said Natalie Tiner moments after the regional semifinal win. "You play for each other and you play for your seniors."
The Bees will return just two varsity regulars in junior setters Chrislyn Wells and Tiara Green. Wells had 21 assists against Cooper and 12 against Wylie, while Green registered 16 and 13, respectively.