(Charles Chappell, ccimages.photoshelter.com / CCN Contributing Photographer)
However, following two five-set losses to two of the top three teams this week, the Lady Bobcats are faced with the reality that they may be on the outside looking in come playoff time.
After pushing conference leader Gravette to the limit in a five-set loss on Tuesday, Berryville missed the mark again Thursday night with a five-set setback to Farmington, a tough pill to swallow considering the Lady Cats continue to compete at the highest level.
"They are a strong team. I am not going to take anything away from them," Berryville coach Kristin Whetham said after the loss to Farmington. "But we should have won. We should have put that one away in the fourth game."
Berryville opened the match with a 25-21 win in the first game before dropping a 25-17 decision in the second. It eased to a 25-19 win in the third before falling 25-23 in the fourth, a setback that appeared to rob the Lady Cats of momentum.
"I feel like we just quit," Whetham said.
Farmington (9-4, 6-3 in 1-4A) took the final game 15-10 to seal the win as Berryville dropped to 10-9 and 3-6 in the division. More importantly, the Lady Cats are now in fifth place behind Pea Ridge, which improved to 5-4 with a win against Gentry Thursday night. Gravette leads the pack with Prairie Grove and Farmington following in second and third, respectively.
The top two teams in the conference receive a bye to the state tournament while the remaining teams battle for the two remaining positions. Being in the top four at the end of the season means a less obtrusive path to state.
The loss to Farmington was the second straight heart-breaker as Berryville fell to Gravette on Tuesday, an outing that could have gone either way. But Gravette found a way to win with two outstanding hitters in the middle of the floor.
"We changed our rotation where we could hit the ball better and set it up," Berryville sophomore setter Misty Rhymer said following the Gravette game. "I guess we just kind of fell apart. We didn't have the student section or the fans screaming out. We didn't have the intensity we needed. But that shouldn't have stopped us."
The Lady Bobcats proved they belong in the same conversation as the conference elite by pushing Gravette and Farmington both to five sets
Against Gravette, Hannah Noble led the inspired squad with 26 digs, 20 kills and eight aces, Aleksei Smith followed with 21 digs and 11 kills, Hannah Needham had 11 digs, five kills and two aces, Taylor LaCour added three aces, four kills and three blocks, Emily Trowbridge had eight digs, four kills and three aces, Kayleigh Johnson tallied 20 digs and five aces and Morgan Pondo chipped in four kills.
Gravette was led by Monica White with 17 kills and Tori Key with 13. White added five blocks.
Noble recorded 19 kills, five aces and five digs against Farmington, Trowbridge had six digs, three kills, two blocks and an ace, Smith had a double-double with 13 digs and 10 kills, adding a a pair of aces, Needham had nine kills, six digs, five aces and three blocks, Pondo added four digs, three kills and a block, Johnson had 15 digs and an ace and LaCour had four aces.
Berryville plays at Gentry on Tuesday and hosts Lincoln the following Tuesday with a road date at Pea Ridge slated for Thursday. Gentry and Lincoln both have fairly new programs and have struggled to compete, making Thursday's game against the Lady Blackhawks even more important for playoff seedings.