Sariah Robinson’s scoring shot that put Montezuma-Cortez up 14-13 in the third game Tuesday normally wouldn’t have been much cause for concern to Bayfield volleyball coach Terene Foutz.
But because the visiting Lady Panthers had already capitalized on Bayfield mistakes, and Foutz wanted to avoid being swept 3-0, the Bayfield boss called a timeout to refocus her players in a much calmer manner that she had at the match’s outset.
“The third set was crucial; I didn’t want to let Cortez walk through ‘the door’ when we had some unforced errors,” said Foutz. “Really, in the first, Cortez’s first seven points ... six of those were unforced errors. That’s when the clipboard went down.”
Down and, like two clipboards earlier this fall, very much out of commission.
Fortunately, the Lady Wolverines took well Foutz’s calmer approach. After Bayfield returned to the floor, junior Kenasea Byrd scored two kills and fueled a 6-0 burst to put the Wolverines ahead 19-14 lead and send M-CHS coach Caroline Glover into a timeout.
Glover would burn her second of the stanza after Bayfield senior Annie Fusco landed a tip shot to put serving specialist Karyssa Gosney behind the line with a 23-19 lead. It would be to no avail; though able to stave off game point once and get senior standout Avery Wright on serve, Montezuma-Cortez couldn’t prevent Fusco from terminating a Sage Killough set to seal a 25-23, 25-16, 25-20 win in the team’s first outing since a five-game loss Sept. 18 at Farmington, N.M.
“They did respond,” Foutz said. “Not because I broke a clipboard, but because they knew that it didn’t feel right – how we were playing. So we worked hard to speed things up on our side of the net, to play at a pace we like and feel good about, and not to play the slow ball – that’s what they’re (M-CHS) accustomed to this particular season; that’s how they run their ball.”
“Running a quicker net game inside to prevent the double-block ... we earned those one-on-ones,” Foutz said. “Kenasea was up and made a difference at the end of the match; Sage was very coachable, made that adjustment and suddenly our middles were hitting and not just our pins. I thought that really disrupted the match at the end.”
“Our set scheme is pretty fast, so we’re really able to get some open net for our hitters,” senior Payton Killough said. “Sage does a really good job about working hard and getting her hands on the ball ... and our passes seemed pretty great.”
“We played our game on our side of the court ... the best we could,” said M-CHS senior setter Dez Boeckman. “We limited our mistakes a lot more than we did the first time; we were looking at stats and saw ... a bunch of unforced errors, and tonight I just didn’t feel that.”
“We figured out our defense more, and our blocking and our serve-receive,” Wright said. “I think we put up a better fight than we did last time.”
Entering BHS Gymnasium having won three consecutive matches, the Lady Panthers rushed out to an early lead. But Fusco landed an ace to tie Game 1 at 8-8, and Bayfield (7-6, 3-0 IML) then expanded their newfound advantage to 12-8 on back-to-back kills by senior Emily Nelson. A later Wright attack went wrong, and the Lady Wolverines’ lead grew to 17-11 before the guests stormed back to equalize at 21-all.
And M-CHS would do so again at 23-23, with Robinson downing a crosscourt kill and Byrd then sending one wide. But Nelson drilled a kill to bring up game point and Byrd made perfect amends for her error by smashing down an M-CHS over-pass.
Again somewhat slow starting Game 2, the Lady Wolverines tied the score at 5-5 with a Kori Jenkins ace, and then pulled ahead when Robinson netted an attack. Montezuma-Cortez would get no closer than 18-13 before Fusco fired a deep-corner ace. Junior reserve Kaydence Hunter would put down a ball to bring up game point, 24-16, and Nelson smacked a kill off the libero to win the set and put Bayfield up 2-0 in the contest.
“I definitely think their blocking improved from last time,” Fusco said. “But it honestly depended on who was at the net; when Dez was up front I could hit line but when their other right-side was up front I’d hit cross. And once we finally got them … and just kept hard-driving it was good; we could start tipping – it opened that up for us.”
“We tend to be a little bit slow warming up, and as soon as we get warmed up we come out hard,” Boeckman said. “And we’ve definitely grown as a team together; our communication’s a lot better, we’ve picked up our energy a lot more.”
Fusco logged an 18-kill, 11-dig double-double in the victory. Nelson totaled 11 and nine. Sage Killough also recorded a double-double with 34 assists and 10 digs. Junior libero Myrah Abdallah-Boehm logged 11 digs and four assists while Byrd finished with seven kills.
Numbers for Montezuma-Cortez (9-5, 1-5 IML) had not been fully compiled as of press time.
“I think we were a little nervous coming in; it’s been a while since we’ve really had to put the heat on and compete,” Foutz said. “And it was a good lesson for us, to not start slow. I’m glad we were home … playing a familiar opponent and, you know, we started getting better and better as the match wore on.”
And the victory’s timing couldn’t have been better, with Bayfield now facing four matches in six days – beginning Saturday at Alamosa. AHS will then visit BHS Monday, with Pagosa Springs in town the next night and Centauri visiting on the 14th.
BHS was also originally scheduled to play at Centauri on Friday, but that game has been postponed until Oct. 22.
Prior to introductions of BHS’ players, Kori Jenkins stood in front of the scorer’s table and explained the five white roses lying on the home team’s bench.
And in a sense, the solemn speech and subsequent honorary moment of silence were held at an appropriate time; five Wiley High School students – one a sophomore defensive specialist on WHS’ highly-ranked squad – died in a car crash Sept. 8 – the day after Bayfield had prevailed at M-CHS, or about as far west as one can be from Prowers County in the Eastern Plains without crossing the state line.
“Even though most of us didn’t know them, they were still part of the community – still part of the student-athlete community – so I just wanted to make it special for them,” Jenkins said. “I was actually pretty good friends with one of the kids in the car accident … and I’d wanted to do it right after they’d passed away but we didn’t have a home game until….”
“When you come from a small town, and you know small-town things and everybody knows each other, your heart absolutely breaks when you hear of any kids in that community who lose their life – and we’ve had that in Bayfield,” Foutz said. “But to lose five in one moment is overwhelming; we can’t imagine the pain of their friends, their family, their whole community.”
The Colorado High School Activities Association 2021 Girls’ Volleyball Bulletin shows Wiley with an enrollment of 63.
“We can’t fix terrible things, but we can let people know that they’re not alone while they fight through them,” Foutz said, “and I really commend Kori for … bringing that message into our program. I thought it was a really great thing to do.”
“I think Bayfield volleyball, and Bayfield schools as a whole, we’re a really tight community,” said Jenkins, a junior. “We expect a lot from each other in terms of support with that special culture Bayfield has. ...It was important just to honor (Wiley), and show Bayfield cares.”
Ranked No. 5 in this week’s CHSAANow.com Class 1A rankings, the Wiley proudly stood 11-1 overall. It’s only loss was to No. 1 Briggsdale.