Lady Bobcats embrace big expectations

Friday, November 9, 2018
Senior Baylea Smith is one of four returning starters for a Berryville team that went 32-3 last season and reached the state semifinals for the third consecutive season.
Charles Chappell /

By Scott Loftis

The Berryville Lady Bobcats won 32 games last season and advanced to the state tournament semifinals for the third consecutive year — with one senior on the roster.

To say expectations are high for this year’s team would be a bit of an understatement. And that’s just fine with the Lady Bobcats.

“There’s definitely some pressure, but I don’t think it’s any more than what we already put on ourselves,” Berryville coach Daniel Cornelison said Monday. “We definitely expect to compete at a high level.”

Berryville will open the season Wednesday in the second round of the Queens of the Court tournament at Green Forest. The Lady Bobcats will face the winner of Monday’s game between West Fork and Bergman. Tipoff is scheduled for 4 p.m.

This year’s team is loaded with experience, including six seniors. Two of those seniors — 6-1 Hannah Morrell and 6-0 Kelcee Hopper — give the Lady Bobcats a dominant presence on the inside. Morrell has played especially well in preseason practice, according to Cornelison. Another senior, all-state point guard Baylea Smith, returns to provide perimeter scoring and run the offense. Kelsey Smith has also been a standout in practice, Cornelison said. Guards Alexis Steele and McKayla Hussey round out Berryville’s senior class.

Berryville should get a boost soon with the return of junior guard Lexy Anderson, another returning starter who is recovering from a knee injury. Anderson tore an ACL while playing AAU basketball in May but Cornelison said her recovery has gone well and she is expected to be back by early December.

Morrell, Hopper and Anderson each were all-conference selections last season.

Another Lady Bobcat who has been battling an injury is 5-7 sophomore Abby Thurman, who missed most of the volleyball season with a hamstring injury. Cornelison said Thurman was cleared to play on Monday and should see significant playing time for Berryville.

With their combination of size, talent and experience, the Lady Bobcats seem poised for another big season. And Cornelison is eager for the challenge.

“To shy away from that would probably be lying,” he said. “We’re not afraid to say it.”

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