It's a rivalry. A rubber match. An area championship.
Tonight, all three are rolled into one.
Stephenville (22-16) looks to end its streak of three straight area-round playoff defeats when the Honeybees battle No. 8 Aledo for the third time this season at 7:30 p.m. at Burleson High School.
The winner meets either Granbury or Springtown in the Region I quarterfinals next week.
"I'm tired of losing in the second round," Stephenville head coach Fran Metzger said. "We've lost in the second round three years in a row and we're tired of it."
Seniors Brooklyn Moody and Kensie Colegrove couldn't agree more.
"A win would be great because we haven't (won area) in three years," said Colegrove, the Bees' libero and digs leader. "It would set a new trend and break this second-round curse that we've had."
"It would mean a lot to us," added Moody, an outside hitter and setter who has routinely racked up double-doubles with her kill and assist totals. "They've always been our rival and it would mean a lot to beat them and move on in the playoffs."
Metzger said the rivalry aspect stems from the mutual respect between the programs.
"It's a respectful rivalry, one that I think is good for everyone," Metzger said.
Metzger, who has directed Stephenville to the playoffs 13 times in the last 14 years including a run to the 2003 state championship, says her relationship with Aledo head coach Kathy Goings, who celebrated her 400th win recently, is also built on respect.
"It's about mutual respect with us," Metzger said. "And she's easy to deal with. We've had to set up a few of these (playoff matches) and it's never any problem with her."
Aledo eliminated Stephenville in a five-set thriller in the 2008 area final. The Lady Cats won the first two sets then held off a furious Honeybee rally in five. The teams also met in the regional quarterfinals in 2006, with Aledo advancing then falling to Dumas in the next round.
Stephenville also lost to Denton Guyer in the area round in 2007 and to Birdville in the same round last year.
Aledo ran its streak of regional tournament appearances to three in 2007 and 2008, losing in the semifinals to Canyon Randall each time. The Lady Cats were eliminated by The Colony in their postseason opener last year.
That's a lot of recent history coming to a head when the teams clash tonight.
"Everyone says 'Hey you made it out of district,' and I say, 'Yeah, but we still have to play Aledo,'" Metzger said. "We know a lot about each other. We know what they like to do and they know what we like to do. As long as we don't get too emotional and just play our game without letting (the rivalry) take over, we'll be fine."
Colegrove believes it will come down to little things.
"It's all about who makes less mistakes," she said. "(As a leader) I tell the girls around me to just smile. It's just another play, and we've been making them all season."
Moody knows nobody on the court will hold anything back.
"We have to play our hardest and lay it all on the floor," she said. "That's what it all comes down to."