The Berryville Lady Bobcats aren’t quite starting from scratch as their 2021 volleyball season begins, but they’re close.
Berryville returns just one starter from last season’s team that fell one set short of reaching the state tournament.
“I’m kind of rebuilding,” said veteran coach Kristin Whetham, whose program is a perennial contender to reach the state tournament. “Last year pretty much all my starters were seniors, so I graduated pretty much a whole starting group of seniors. Minus two. I have Faith Kelley coming back this year. She started as a junior. And then I have Mia Thurman coming back. She started as a sophomore setter.”
With so many new faces, the Lady Bobcats have been trying to find the right combination.
Aug. 19 At Rogers*
Aug. 23 Springdale
Aug. 24 Pea Ridge
Aug. 30 Blue Eye
Aug. 31 Gentry
Sept. 2 at Harrison
Sept. 7 Prairie Grove
Sept. 9 at Gravette
Sept. 13 Shiloh Christian
Sept. 14 Farmington
Sept. 16 at Huntsville
Sept. 20 at Green Forest
Sept. 21 at Pea Ridge
Sept. 27 at Gentry
Sept. 28 Harrison
Sept. 30 at Prairie Grove
Oct. 5 Gravette
Oct. 7 at Shiloh Christian
Oct. 14 Huntsville
Oct. 18-21 District Tournament**
* Benefit game
**at Shiloh Christian
“We’re trying to figure out who can play what,” Whetham said. “That’s kind of where we’re at right now. We think we have a rotation or a starting lineup figured out, but you can never really tell until you play that first game.”
Berryville will play a benefit game Thursday at Rogers before opening the season at home on Monday, Aug. 23, against Class 6A Springdale.
“We’re going to have to fight tooth and nail,” Whetham said. “But I think we can come out and pull off some wins and I think we can get better as the season goes.”
Berryville has just three seniors on its roster — Kelley and classmates Madison Beck and Emmory Morris.
“We’re pretty young,” Whetham said.
Unlike last summer, the Lady Bobcats got to participate in some team camps over the past three months. Whetham said the emphasis was not on winning, but simply getting better.
“We didn’t win a whole lot,” she said. “But going into it, I told them: ‘We’re not here to win. This isn’t life or death. It’s camp. We want to improve ourselves, improve ourselves as a team and get better so that we can take that back and figure out what we have to work on going into our season.’ And we’ve done that. We had some setbacks here and there. But I think all in all, we’ll see. We’ll see what happens.”
Entering her 16th season at Berryville, Whetham said this is her first true rebuilding season.
“I’ve had a good run,” she said. “And so this will be an interesting year. It’ll be fun and I’ll learn a lot. The kids will learn a lot and just see how much we improve and see how far we can go.”