The teams will take the court and feel a different kind of pressure, because the schedule is starting to get light on games and the opportunity to make a move is shrinking.
Both the Sherman Lady Bearcats and the Denison Lady Yellow Jackets have not had the seasons they wanted. Sherman was hoping to put together a third straight playoff appearance. Denison was trying to reach the postseason for the first time in three years.
There is still time for either of those things to happen. But after losing to every other district opponent, the road in the final three weeks will not be an easy one after Sherman (5-30, 0-4) travels to Denison (13-22, 0-4) to close out the first half of 10-5A action at 5:30 p.m. on Friday.
The winner will emerge just one game back of a playoff spot but will need to find a victory somewhere else to at least remain in position for a play-in match.
“In this district, one or two wins is going to put you in the middle of things,” Denison head coach Jana Kelly said. “Anything can happen. We’re certainly not out of the playoff hunt. We’ve got to keep pushing along.”
As the district hits the midway point, both defending 10-5A champ Lovejoy, which was the state runner-up last season, and McKinney North enter their match-up Friday at 4-0. Princeton and Wylie East are both sitting in third place with 2-2 records as they square off, with the loser sitting just ahead of the Sherman-Denison winner.
The Lady Bearcats are coming off a loss in three games to McKinney North while the Lady Jackets were swept by Wylie East on Tuesday.
While Denison had better success earlier in the season, the Lady Jackets have lost nine of their last 10 matches.
Sherman picked up back-to-back wins in early September against Denton Braswell and Gainesville before losing its last seven matches.
Denison nearly knocked off Princeton at home last Friday but the Lady Jackets, who welcomed Madison Chambless back to the lineup after missing almost a month with an ankle injury, were unable to pull out the match, which went the Lady Panthers’ way at 25-13, 16-25, 25-16, 24-26, 19-17.
“I told them, ‘If you play like that the rest of district we’ll be in the hunt the rest of the way,” Kelly said. “Princeton was Madison’s first game back and I think that had a lot to do with the team’s energy and morale. It was the first time we’ve had all 11 players healthy and in the rotation.”
The two teams will close out the regular season at Bearcat Gymnasium on Oct. 29 and the hope is that something more will be on the line than just pride. The first step to making that happen comes Friday, regardless of who wears maroon and white or black and gold.
“Sherman always plays different against us and we play different against them because of the rivalry. The rivalry always make it fun,” Kelly said. “We know it’s going to be a good game. It will come down to who makes the least mistakes. The girls are excited about it but they always are when it comes to Sherman.”