The offensive part of the Booneville Lady Cats’ volleyball team seems to be hitting on most, if not all, cylinders. However, the defense has not caught up yet. The result has been two surprise losses to Atkins and Union Christian.

Both opponents beat the Lady Cats at their own supposed strength, defense. While the opposition was getting a lot of volleyballs back that seemed unlikely, Booneville’s own digging has been subpar. The dig percentage for the Lady Cats in both matches was in the mid-60s, and Coach Robert Dean wants that number in the lower-to-mid 70s.

The road back won’t be easy. The Lady Cats host Paris tomorrow before playing in the Mena tournament Saturday. In pool play they will take on Jessieville, Waldron, Camden Fairview and Mansfield.

Atkins def. Lady Cats

(26-24, 16-25, 20-25, 25-22, 18-16)

The first game went back and forth with neither team able to make a long run until the very end. A Whitney Weaver kill and two Atkins errors put the Lady Cats in position to take the first game, but Booneville let that one slip through errors of their own as Atkins racked up the last five points. The second one saw the Lady Cats play like they are capable of playing as they steamrolled to an 11-4 lead through four kills by Hiley Sage Catlett and two aces from Ashdon Ross. The advantage grew to 18-6 later in the game and the Lady Cats easily put that one away.

Atkins took an early advantage in game three and led 15-8 until Ross got to the serve line again. Her first two serves were aces and Catlett added two kills in an eight-point run that put BHS back ahead. Raylynn Scott served an ace and Grace Farmer had two kills as the Lady Cats grabbed a 2-1 lead in games. Booneville grabbed the upper hand early in the fourth game, taking an 8-5 lead on a Hannah McClung kill. But a tenacious Lady Red Devil team refused to throw in the towel and fought back to lead 18-15. It became 23-19 later on and despite a couple of kills by Scott, AHS hung on to force the fifth game.

A Catlett kill gave the Lady Cats an early lead but Atkins erased that and led 12-8 before Nicole Wallace’s ace started a comeback. Ross added two more unreturnable serves and gave BHS a match point, but a hit went long. The Lady Cats also squandered another chance to win at 15-14 before saving one on a kill by Weaver. But Atkins forced a side out and got the next point to win it.

The loss overshadowed a great statistical night for Catlett; the senior had a team-record 14 kills and added 13 assists and 11 digs, a volleyball version of a "triple-double". McClung racked up 17 assists, while Ross had 19 digs and did not miss any of 25 serves, six of which went for aces. Scott also had a good night, missing only one serve in 17 tries and collecting 17 digs.

Union Christian def. Lady Cats

(25-23, 15-25, 25-17, 25-19)

Booneville stumbled out of the blocks as the Lady Eagles scored the first five points, but it was not long before the Lady Cats caught up. Hiley Sage Catlett recorded two kills, then set Hannah McClung up for a spike before serving up an ace for an 8-7 Booneville lead. Two more McClung kills kept any Union run from happening in the middle of the game, and Catlett ripped another shot before Raylynn Scott fired an ace. Kills by Whitney Weaver and McClung, plus a Weaver ace, made it 22-18, but Union then took advantage of uncharacteristic Lady Cat errors to score seven of the last eight points.

Errors by the Lady Eagles led to a decisive mid-game run by the Lady Cats in the second game. Catlett and Taylor Bauer each had a pair of kills and Scott hit a perfect push to the corner to highlight the run. The second Bauer spike made it 23-12 and Booneville was able to coast home. But the Lady Cats fell behind again early in the third game and were down 12-10 before Catlett unleashed a couple of kills to help put BHS back on top. But mistakes then hit Booneville again as several spikes went long or into the net; Union took advantage with a 13-4 run to seal the game.

Booneville jumped on top early in game four as Catlett ripped two more kills and McClung and Ross added another. The Lady Cats led 12-7 after another Ross spike but then the roof fell in. The Lady Eagles ran off six in a row to take the lead; Booneville went back up 15-13 but then more errors on defense spelled doom. Union closed out the match on a run of 11-4.

Again, the result overshadowed some good efforts. Catlett had 12 kills and 13 assists while Ross had a very impressive line: no serves missed in 16 attempts, no attacks missed in 15 tries, and 23 digs. McClung added seven kills, Scott was 19 for 20 serving, and Loran Lopez racked up 17 digs.