Contacted last week, less than a day prior to leaving with about a dozen motivated players for Fort Collins and the Colorado State University Volleyball Team Development camp, Danica Frost indicated a hope that her prospective Wolverines would again display a rediscovered passion for the sport.
Even if that happened through something as elementary as merely seeing former Bayfield High School stars Kirstie Hillyer and Maddi Foutz both donning CSU green-and-gold. THe BHS alums are not only NCAA Division I Rams, but instructors ready to help refine their alma mater's abundance of returning talent.
"We had New Mexico State University come up and do a camp with Bayfield, exclusively," Frost said, recalling a baseline instance earlier this summer as she began her first off-season as head coach. "It wasn't so focused on skill as much; it was more about the team, getting those girls revved up and just having fun with volleyball - I kind of saw the 'light' come back on for a lot of them."
"That was a game-changing camp for us.... Got them excited for what they're capable of doing this year."
Which again, could lead them to the Denver Coliseum and the CHSAA Class 3A State Championships.
Assuming 2016 underclassman reserves Mavis Edwards and Tymbree Florian both return this fall, Frost beamed at the potential of a varsity core also counting front-liners Jade Pascale, Kylee McCoy and Ashley Mottin, libero/defensive specialist Sydney Gabbard, and setter Courtney Bayles-all seniors in 2017.
"We've had some good showings at some stuff this summer, figuring out what we need to work on and what our strengths are, and I see really good things with this team," Frost said. "I have five stellar seniors that are going to get a lot of court time; it's going to be a senior-led team. Being completely honest, I think we are going to be very dominant in the Intermountain League."
"I'm a first-year head coach, have huge shoes to fill, so I would be doing my girls a disservice - and myself, and the whole program - if I didn't acknowledge strengths in all the other coaches around me," she stressed, addressing the gravity of taking over a decorated program most recently maintained by predecessor Terene Foutz.
And having worked under Foutz as BHS' junior-varsity coach last fall, then as head coach of Four Corners Volleyball Club's 14s through the winter and spring, the former Danica Tarkington admitted becoming a varsity-level leader was something of a dream come true.
"You know, when I was working at the Strater (Hotel in Durango), I was on salary and full-time-I was the banquet manager, putting in a lot of hours-and I really wanted to coach. And I made it a point, 'O.K., I need to meet Terene. She is the volleyball person in this area, and I need to know her.'"
"And in kind of a funny way, like through a dog-sitting job, I met Terene, and she contacted me about the middle-school coaching position," Frost continued. "And then it was club, and then it was JV! So I have put myself in a place, personally and career-wise, that I could take on a coaching job. Because it's a lot of time, a lot of work!"
Already employed by Four Corners Point-of-Sale and Norton's Catering, as well as being a personal trainer on the side, it would seem that a large workload isn't something over which Frost will fret in '17.
After all, she'd seen firsthand the results of such dedicated ethics as a player and 2005 graduate of Gadsden High School in Anthony, N.M. As a top-ten grad in her class, she was a North/South All-Star Game participant her senior season under Ben Wallis, who coached at Gadsden from '02-04.
Now associate head coach at Las Cruces-based NMSU, Wallis was one of the clinicians inside BHS Gymnasium this summer.
"I was ready to hang up the kneepads and focus on basketball!" she recalled, of playing for a program hardly impacting the New Mexico Activities Association's Class 5A ranks during a decade dominated by Rio Rancho and iconic coach Toby Manzanares, who also imparted knowledge to the Wolverines at the aforementioned NMSU camp.
"But Coach Wallis came, turned the program around. And I put all my eggs into a volleyball 'basket!'"
Originally hailing from Chamberino, N.M., not far from El Paso, Texas, Frost's drive was rewarded with a chance to play collegiately at Western New Mexico University and turnaround maestro Jim Callender.
As a middle blocker/outside hitter from 2005 to 2007, she enjoyed plenty of success.
WNMU went 26-5 overall her freshman season, then followed up a Heartland Conference title and NCAA Division II Southwest Regional appearance with a 28-7 mark, Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference crown, and return to the NCAAs her sophomore year.
As a junior in 2007, the Mustangs went 17-12-boosting the program to an excellent 71-24 during her time in Silver City-but Frost was unfortunately lost before the campaign ended in the RMAC Tournament quarterfinals.
"I went to cut a ball, and something wasn't right," she said, of a shoulder injury which cost her all but a tournament or two and, for all practical purposes, ended her collegiate career...sort of.
A former WNMU Student Regent, she then switched sports to golf in the 2008-09 year and graduated in 2009 with a psychology/kinesiology-rooted movement science degree and 3.54 grade-point average.
"It was humbling," she laughed, calling herself 'often the worst out on the course.' "But I learned a lot; I got a lot of great coaching out of it."
And Frost is eager to now give as much such coaching as possible, just as her most recent mentor did.
"I'm feeling incredibly blessed," she stated. "Terene really developed my varsity squad, put in a lot of effort and I've been so grateful to work under her. One of the best technical volleyball teachers I've ever met."
"One thing I'm trying to develop, is that it's a 'team-led' team," Frost added, noting Tom Jensen will return as varsity assistant coach and Pam Ludwig, who coached under Foutz predecessor Kelley Rifilato, will guide the JV. "And I feel confident that I will have six players on the court - at all times this year - that are capable of really dominating. So that's a unique thing; you don't see that on a team very often."
"I'm excited, you know? I think this is the year for Bayfield."
ONE PIECE MISSING (MAYBE): At the time of the writer's interview with Frost, she pointed out that a C-team head coach was still needed, apparently to take over for last year's leader Mari Mauzy.
"As far as I've heard, we have not hired one yet," said Frost.
BASHING WITH THE BEST: One moment Frost will likely never forget from her Western New Mexico volleyball days would have to be an engagement with Nebraska-Kearney early in her sophomore season. She logged 11 kills on .409 hitting as the Mustangs dropped the defending D-II National Runner-up Lopers.
UNK would gain a measure of revenge later, ending WNMU's 2007 season (Frost's last, as it turned out).
DID YOU KNOW: While Frost dressed up for WNMU Women's Golf as a senior, the volleyball crew finished a numerically-appropriate 20-8 in 2008, winning the RMAC-West before losing to Colorado Mesa University and BHS alumna Whitney Howard (then a sophomore libero) in the RMAC Tournament's first round.
The Mavericks had also ended Frost's first season in the aforementioned '05 NCAA Southwest Regional.
According to WNMU records, Frost's best low round on the links was a 90 shot at the Mustang Intercollegiate, part of her lowest two-round tourney score of 181 (37 over par, on pace with a +36.41 season norm).