It's understandable if the Fatima volleyball team is ready to be done with this portion of its schedule.
The Lady Comets began defense of their Class 2 state title by ripping off 11 straight wins to open the season.
They've since dropped three of their last five, with the kicker being the fact all three of those defeats came at the hands of teams ranked in the Top 10 in Class 4.
After suffering its first loss of the year to Jefferson City (ranked ninth), the Lady Comets have since lost to Rock Bridge (eighth) and now Helias (10th), as the Lady Crusaders beat the Lady Comets 25-18, 25-18 on Thursday at Rackers Fieldhouse.
"Scheduling three ranked Class 4 teams might have been bad scheduling, but you've got to play good teams to get better," Fatima coach Mark Bockstruck said. "I'm glad Helias, Rock Bridge and J.C. are willing to play us and I hope that we can give them a good game.
"All three of them are very good programs. We learn a lot from it. That's what I tell my girls every day - we're here to improve, we're here to learn and our job is to get ready for the postseason."
But when you're playing teams of that caliber, there's little margin for error, and that's what cost the Lady Comets on Thursday.
In the first game, Fatima committed nine early errors to help Helias jump out to an 18-9 lead. Middle hitter Molly Sandbothe had three kills and one block during that span for the Lady Crusaders.
"We did a much better job in the first game of getting our middles involved more," Helias coach David Harris said. "We moved them around more to make (Fatima's) middles move."
Bockstruck said his players looked a little shell-shocked early on.
"They were very hesitant at the beginning," he said. "When they started realizing, "We can actually compete with them if we play,' things started to turn around.
"I saw girls waiting for somebody else to do something. That made me angry, that was the reason for the first timeout - I saw girls standing instead of going out and working for the point. I would rather see two girls run into each other to keep a ball alive than stare at each other."
Fatima clawed its way back into the match and eventually got to within 22-17, but the hurdle proved too large to overcome.
In the second game, the rough patch that cost Fatima came at the end. The game was tied seven different times and Fatima was still within 17-16 before Helias' Tory Wiley put down a kill. The Lady Comets then had four straight errors to help the Lady Crusaders pull away.
"It's a good win for us, Mark always has them well-coached and they're going to play hard," Harris said.
Lindsey Griggs led Helias (11-2) to the win with five kills and four blocks, while Sandbothe and Erica Haslag had four blocks each. Ashley Dudenhoeffer handed out eight assists, Blake Berhorst had 10 digs and Haslag had two aces.
Shelby Thoenen had six kills for Fatima (13-3), while Bailey Berhorst and Kenadi Huhn had four each. Emily Keilholz dished out 15 assists, Angela Keilholz and Berhorst had eight digs each and Ashlynn Harmon had two aces.
Helias returns to action Monday when it hosts Ozark at 6:30 p.m., while Fatima will play Saturday in the Sedalia Smith-Cotton Invitational.
In Thursday's JV match, Helias posted a 25-15, 25-8 win.
Heidi Strobel had eight service points and eight assists for the Lady Crusaders (13-1), Hannah Eynard had five kills, Jazmine Luebbert had six digs and Liz Adam had two blocks.
Helias notched a 25-20, 25-17 win in the freshman match.
Morgan Fischer had 12 service points for Helias (13-1), Abby Shepard had eight assists, Ella Ward had six kills and Laura Vanderfeltz and Mia Millard had nine digs apiece.