It was a stepping stone for the Barton volleyball team this season. Unfortunately the Cougars ran out of stones to step on Sunday at the Sports Arena in Hutchinson.
Barton saw its season come to an end with a loss in the Region VI semifinals to top seed Hutchinson. The Blue Dragons won on their home court, 25-17, 25-22, 26-24.
Barton season ends at 24-10. Seward County won the Region VI title, rolling by Colby in the semifinals in three sets then beating Hutchinson, 27-25, 25-23, 23-25, 25-13 in the title match. It was Seward’s first region title since 2003.
It wasn’t as if the Cougars didn’t have their chances Sunday against Hutchinson.
Barton struggled in the opening set as Hutch. The set was tied at 11-all when the Blue Dragons went on a quick 3-0 run then extended that run to 8-1 for a 19-12 lead. From there Hutch would coast to the set win.
But the last two sets, Barton had its opportunities. The Cougars used a 7-1 run to take a 13-9 lead. But Hutch answered with an 8-0 run sandwiched around a Cougar timeout for a 17-13 lead in the second set
“The first two sets we had a middle of the set lull,” Coach Stephenson said. “In the second set we brought Micaela Jellison in and she provided some spark for us with a key block.”
Barton rallied with four straight later in the second set to cut the lead 21-19. Hutch was able to hold them off for the 25-22 win.
The third set was an even bigger opportunity for the Cougars to turn the tide of the match. Barton used a 7-0 run to take a 12-7 lead on the Blue Dragons. Barton was still in control of the set with a leads of 18-10 and 21-13.
“We came out and play like there was no pressure,” Coach Stephenson said. “I told the girls there is no tomorrow and we played with some confidence.”
Then it came apart.
Hutch went on a 7-1 run to make it 22-20 and force Barton’s second timeout of the run.
The Blue Dragons added three more to overtake Barton at 23-22 and cap an 8-0 run. Barton would battle back for a set point at 24-23 but the Blue Dragons scored the final three for the 26-24 win and end the Cougars’ season.
The 24 wins for Barton were the most since 2011 – the last time Barton won the Region VI title. It was only the fourth time since 2007 – also a Region VI title campaign – that Barton had a winning season.
“The girls bought in this season,” Coach Stephenson said. “The sophomores really helped lead this team this year. They figured out the right mindset and led the way.
“Right from the start, we had several alumni come back and tell the team what it meant to be part of Barton volleyball. That is part of the right mindset.”
Region VI Playoffs
First round, Nov. 1 and 2 at higher seed
1 Hutchinson def 8 Garden, 25-18, 25-16, 25-12
4 Barton def 5 Cloud, 25-15, 25-23, 25-18
2 Seward def 7 Dodge, unavailable
3 Colby def 6 Butler, 25-7, 25-16, 25-22
Region VI Championships
Nov. 5 at Hutchinson
1 Hutch def 4 Barton, 25-17, 25-22, 26-24
2 Seward def 3 Colby, 25-15, 25-22, 25-17
2 Seward def 1 Hutch, 27-25, 25-23, 23-25, 25-13