Although not wanting to have to battle back and erase a large Game 3 deficit against the CHSAA Class 3A’s No. 10 team, the Bayfield Wolverines showed that they could.
And prevailing 25-20, 25-14, 25-23 Tuesday over Intermountain League rival Montezuma-Cortez, they did.
“Yeah, we had a slow start in that third set and kind of became a little error-prone,” said Bayfield High School head coach Terene Foutz. “But they remained steadfast ... plugging away – I think we were down 10 to 3 (9-3, actually) – and just kept working. That’s our culture in the gym, so I was happy that it worked out for them.”
And with perfect timing leading into their next test: the Lewis-Palmer Invitational Saturday in Monument.
With play to begin at 8:30 a.m., BHS (4-2, 1-0 IML) will start in Pool B, facing 4A No. 5 Niwot and then 4A No. 4 Windsor. Once pool-play concludes, all 12 teams will then be reseeded based on results for a series of ‘“crossover” matches (the first-, second- and third-place teams in Pools A and B will then play their counterparts from, respectively, Pools D and C).
Outcomes of the crossover clashes will then determine each team’s spot in the final-round placing matches. All will be best-of-three in format, with tiebreaking third games being played to 15 points. There will be no scoring caps on any game.
Besides L-PHS – winners of four straight 4A State Championships prior to the COVID-altered spring 2021 season – teams also entered in the frenetic one-day tournament are 5A No. 4 Arvada Ralston Valley, 5A No. 9 Parker Legend, 5A Pueblo West, 4A No. 3 Loveland Thompson Valley, 4A No. 8 Montrose, 4A Colorado Springs Coronado, 3A Kersey Platte Valley and even Intermountain rivals Centauri.
“You know, we were absolutely surrounded by 4A and 5A, and the top 3A teams at the Eaton tournament,” Foutz recalled, “and we’re expecting nothing less of this upcoming tournament. It’s going to be just as tough, if not tougher, I think.”
“Just a massive test of resolve, you know? That’s why we go … to push ourselves to play the best games we can. And come home the better for it – that’s the goal.”
Having more or less run away with Game 2 – punctuated by a Kenasea Byrd block on Montezuma-Cortez senior Avery Wright, two unplayable Emily Nelson serves and an Annie Fusco clinching kill – and taking a 2-0 lead in Tuesday night’s match, Bayfield inexplicably struggled in Game 3 and fell behind when M-CHS broke a 2-2 tie with a 7-1 run.
“We had, like, five unforced errors,” Fusco said. “So immediately we were saying ‘Serve into the court,’ ‘Hit hard,’ things like that to eliminate those.”
And though the visiting Wolverines wouldn’t actually lead until match point, 24-23, after M-CHS senior Sariah Robinson netted a defensive free ball, they first drew level at 12-all when senior Emily Nelson zipped an unreturnable serve.
Her next offering, however, snagged in the strings and Montezuma-Cortez (4-1, 0-1 IML) reseparated out to a 17-13 lead, pressing Foutz into calling her first –and only – timeout of the night. M-CHS’ next four points would come only via BHS miscues, while two Fusco kills, one by Payton Killough, a Nelson stuff of a Wright tip, and a Byrd tip away from blockers combined to bring the guests back to 21-20.
On fire most of the match from the service line, Nelson then served a cruel ace to effectively complete the comeback, though Caroline Glover’s capable crew continued to fight, taking leads of 22-21 and 23-22.
But Fusco smashed the 16th of her match-high 17 kills (at a .355 clip), tying the score one last time prior to Robinson’s failed free ball, and the Bayfield senior would then – after Glover took a timeout to try icing Bayfield server Myrah Abdallah-Boehm – bring the night to an end with one final spike.
Fusco also logged 14 digs to finish with a crucial double-double. Nelson was credited with eight kills (at .240) and as many digs, and also totaled six aces. Senior setter Sage Killough racked up 27 assists and also came up with eight digs while sister Payton booked nine.
“They’re becoming those seniors they’ve always wanted to be, and it’s exciting to watch that develop,” Foutz said. “They are very hardworking, very humble – don’t take for granted that they can play – and it’s one of the things I love about this class.”
Byrd put down five kills at .363, while fellow junior Abdallah-Boehm, BHS libero, logged 10 digs.
Wright downed 15 kills at .235 and Robinson four at .105 as Boeckman totaled 16 assists, but the Panthers were limited to .060 hitting for the match while Bayfield struck at a collective .241. Robinson and Wright each came up with six digs, trailing only Boeckman’s eight for the team lead.
M-CHS will also return to action on Saturday, hosting No. 9-ranked Pagosa Springs (6-0, 0-0).