(Chan Davis / CCN Sports)
Those hopes were dashed Monday night in Prairie Grove as Berryville suffered a 3-1 loss to Pea Ridge in the play-in game, ending Trowbridge's prep volleyball career and the Lady Bobcats season with a 15-10 record.
"I had really high hopes this year," Trowbridge said after the loss, fighting back the tears. "I've never been this big into any sport, except for track. But the girls I played with last year made my love for volleyball grow a lot. I really wanted to go to state, obviously, especially being the only senior."
The Lady Cats opened the match in dominating fashion, upending the Lady Hawks (16-11) 25-12. But Pea Ridge, which had lost three consecutive matches to Berryville during the regular season, bounced back to claim the final three games 25-23, 25-16, 25-22.
Berryville coach Kristen Whetham painfully watched from the bench after being yellow-carded in the second game, witnessing the season coming to a close as the Lady Cats couldn't respond after the third game, a deflating nine-point setback.
"That was hard to watch from the bench," Whetham said. "We came out strong, serving the ball great. We didn't make mistakes. We passed the ball well, had great sets and killed the ball. And, then, all of the sudden, we changed. We couldn't receive a pass. Nothing was going to the front row. Our setters were having a hard time getting the ball to the net for us to hit. And if you can't hit there is no way to win."
Trowbridge, a setter, said it was her responsibility to provide those sets and that failure to do so resulted in the loss.
"It's my fault," she said. "I feel like I let my team down. That's how I feel after every game we lose. I'm the one that has to set up the ball. If I can't set it right then they can't hit it right. If they can't hit it right we can't win."
But Trowbridge may have assumed too much of the burden. The Lady Cats failed to serve efficiently in the final three games and Pea Ridge found openings when Berryville lapsed on defense or had miscommunication between them.
"They were giving us opportunities to take it," Whetham said. "But every time they gave us a point we would serve into the net, or give them a point right back. When they give you points you have to capitalize."
Pea Ridge took advantage of Jerika Schooley's size at the net to earn several key points in the match. But the Lady Hawks made enough unforced errors to allow Berryville ample opportunities.
"They are going to get some of those," Whetham said. "But we should get some of those too. And I don't think we got enough of those because we couldn't field a serve and get our passes to the front."
When Berryville did get the ball to the net, sophomores Hannah Noble and Aleksei Smith earned points with nine kills each. The duo also combined for 25 digs with Smith leading the way with 14. Smith also added four aces while Noble recorded three.
"I think Lexie (Smith) played really good," Trowbridge said. "Hannah (Needham) hit really well and so did Hannah Noble. She always hits really well though. We just struggled at receiving. Those girls are going to be the best team in their conference next year. There will be two seniors and a bunch of juniors. Usually you have to grow. They won't have to grow. They are already there. I think Lexie and Hannah (Noble), and even Morgan (Pondo) exceeded what I ever thought they could have done."
And while Trowbridge now uses a short off-season to prepare for softball and track, the rest of the squad refocuses on next year.
"I think Lexie has the ability to be one of the best team leaders ever," she said. "And Hannah (Noble) could go Division I if she wanted to. I think they will be simply amazing if they work at it and keep their heads in shape."
Trowbridge wrapped up her career with three aces, three kills, 11 digs and a pair of blocks.
Pondo added a kill, four blocks and a dig, McKenna Gerster, also playing her final game, chipped in with one kill. Junior Hannah Needham had five aces, five kills, five blocks and three digs while classmate Kayleigh Johnson contributed an ace and 13 digs and Taylor LaCour finished with two aces, one kill, three blocks and a dig.