(Trevor Tegley / CCN Contributing Photographer)
The Lady Bobcats finished the week 3-0 after handling 1-4A Conference foe Valley Springs on Monday and toppling division mate Lincoln Tuesday evening. The wins completed a five-game winning streak dating back to a home loss to Farmington on Sept. 27.
"I think we finally figured out a good rotation," Berryville coach Kristin Whetham said. "We have different people in different spots. We have a good team. I just don't think we were meshing together very well at the beginning of the season."
The new and improved lineup showed its teeth this week, culminating in the three-set win against Alpena as the Lady Bobcats cruised to 25-22, 25-16 and 25-18 wins in the three games.
"We played them earlier in the year at the Slamfest in Harrison," Alpena coach Shannon Hudson said of Berryville. "Tonight, I thought they played very well, much better than what we saw last year. They were very consistent."
Sophomore hitter Hannah Noble led the Berryville offensive attack with 11 kills and completed a double-double with 12 digs. She also added a trio of aces and five blocks. She closed out Game 2 with a kill and served all but the final point in the decisive third game.
"She served the ball very well tonight," Whetham said. "And Aleksei Smith has really stepped up late in the season. Hannah (Noble) was our go-to girl at the beginning, and she still is. But Aleksei has joined her. That takes some pressure off Hannah."
Smith, also a sophomore, followed Noble in double-digit kills with 10, adding three blocks, six digs and an ace while Emily Trowbridge recorded three aces, three kills and seven digs. Junior libero Kayleigh Johnson played well in back, recording 13 digs while blasting an ace on serve. Junior outside hitter Hannah Needham had 10 digs and six kills, providing the Lady Bobcats with a triple threat at times at net.
Sophomore setter Misty Rhymer showed strong presence at the net with nine blocks. She added three digs and three kills. Sophomore Morgan Pondo had a pair of kills and a block.
Berryville also blanked Valley Springs with game scores of 25-15, 25-7 and 25-13. Trowbridge had four aces, two kills and three digs, McKenna Gerster added three aces, a kill and seven digs and Needham registered five kills, a block and eight digs.
Noble paced the Lady Cats with five aces, 13 kills and 16 digs. Smith followed with five aces, 11 kills and six digs. Needham contributed with five kills, a block and eight digs, Pondo added a pair of kills and a block, junior Taylor Lacour had three kills and four blocks and Johnson chipped in with an ace and 10 digs.
The Lady Cats continued the shutout fashion with a 25-7, 25-14, 25-14 win over Lincoln. Gerster had three aces, two kills and two digs, Trowbridge added two aces, three kills and a block, Noble had an ace, six kills and two digs, Smith had three aces, eight kills and six digs, Needham contributed eight aces, two kills and three digs, LaCour had four aces, a kill and three blocks, Johnson added five aces and 11 digs and Pondo registered two kills and a block.
The Lady Cats improved to 15-9 overall and finished even at 6-6 in conference action, leaving them in a battle for fourth and fifth place. Regardless of seeding, Berryville opens post-season play against either Pea Ridge or Farmington, depending on the results of Thursday's final games. The Lady Cats will play at 4 p.m. Monday at Pea Ridge. Berryville and Pea Ridge have tangled three times this year with the Lady Bobcats winning all three matches.
"Pea Ridge is a good team,"Whetham said. "We went three sets in a best-of-three match at a tournament. Then we went four sets at home and five sets at their place. So, it has not been a gimme game. We are going to have to bust our butt and really have to work to win. We can't over there and take it lightly."
Whetham said the Lady Cats were entering the playoffs with confidence.
"It depends on how they come out Monday," she said. "They've got their part figured out. I think it will show up. I'm pretty sure they have the confidence in themselves. They know what is working for them right now."