BELLS — The final preparations for district play are about to be made as teams can now count on one hand the remaining matches until they begin next month.
There are plenty of obstacles to deal with during this season in particular but it hasn’t affected the competitive nature or the long-term goals.
"I think we have a good mindset. We’re really working together," Bells head coach Lisa Johnson said. "We still have things to work on and things we need to do to make it back to the postseason."
Facing a team in a similar position with district play starting on Sept. 8 was a benefit for both programs as Bells defeated Tom Bean, 25-18, 25-20, 21-25, 25-22, in non-district action.
"Consistency is something we knew was going to an issue this year," Tom Bean head coach Dene Adams said. "But we have a group of fighters, You see it every day in practice. There’s four seniors that are definitely a group of leaders and they want to make history again this year."
Jaiden Tocquigny had 10 kills and three blocks, Gabby Smith added nine kills and seven digs, Carson Gafford put down five kills, Cheznie Hale handed out 17 assists and Mia Moore collected nine digs for Bells (4-2), which plays at Anna on Friday afternoon.
Chloe Farrer had 17 kills, 20 digs and three blocks, Kyndle Selman added seven kills and five digs, Laramie Worley chipped in seven kills, 22 digs and three aces, Raylynn Adams handed out 31 assists to go with eight digs and three kills, Delaney Hemming finished with 18 digs and Morgan Stroud collected 12 digs for Tom Bean (3-4), which plays at Howe on Saturday morning.
The Lady Tomcat seniors are trying to reach the playoffs each year of their careers, which would be a first for the program. It didn’t help that against Bells the Lady Tomcats were missing one of their top hitters in Kaitlyn Lind.
"You have to adjust right there," Adams said. "Getting that right rotation is so important. We have got to get our hits down; there were too many errors."
Bells knows how tough a playoff race can be after dealing with a three-way tie for third place in order to advance last year and reach the postseason for the sixth time in seven seasons.
"We put ourselves in a position last year where we had to fight tooth-and-nail and we did," Johnson said. "Learning from that is going to help us."
The Lady Panthers never trailed in Game 4 but it didn’t mean finishing off the victory was easy. It started to look that way as Bells notched the first four points and was quickly up 6-1. Later Tom Bean had some service errors and allowed the home team to extend its lead to 17-9.
The Lady Tomcats were facing a 19-11 deficit but Farrer led a charge as part of a 6-1 spurt and Game 5 looked to be within reach as Tom Bean was down just 22-20.
Tocquigny’s block was answered by one from Selman and then Gafford overpowered a block attempt to put Bells a point away. Clinging to a two-point lead, Tocquigny’s kill helped Bells avoid the deciding game and clinch the victory.
Tom Bean extended the match by holding on to claim Game 3. Bells managed to lead for just a single point — 6-5 — and after Bailee Dorris’ kill pulled the Lady Panthers even at seven, a service error had the Lady Tomcats up on the scoreboard the rest of the frame.
Bells made its push and Smith’s kill had the gap down to just two at 17-15. Worley answered with a kill to provide some breathing room. The Lady Panthers were later down 23-21 but it was too late and Tom Bean held on for the final two points to reach Game 4.
The Lady Panthers dominated the middle section of the second stanza for a 2-0 lead in the match. Tom Bean was in the process of bouncing back after dropping the opener when Bells made its move.
Worley, Selman and Farrer helped the Lady Tomcats get out to a 12-7 lead and that was the turning point. Tocquigny and Kayton Arnold put down kills which sparked a 12-1 and turned the deficit into a 19-13 advantage as Bells went in front for good.
Tom Bean had consecutive aces from Worley late which trimmed the margin to 22-18 but it was as close as the Lady Tomcats could get in the final moments.
Bells used a 5-0 burst in Game 1 when the score was tied at two and maintained the lead for the rest of the frame. A couple of Tom Bean service errors and then four straight points from the the Lady Panthers extended the advantage to 19-11 before the Lady Tomcats regrouped during a timeout and reeled off four quick points as the start of a 7-1 run to get within two points at 20-18.
But Bells was able to halt the momentum there and scored the final five points of the game to close it out.