For the near future, Jade Pascale, her left knee seriously hurt at last weekend's far-off Lewis-Palmer Invitational in Monument, may not be a piece of Bayfield's on-court puzzle.
Fortunately for the depth-blessed Wolverines, she's not the entire puzzle.
With their sidelined senior still encouraging her teammates from the bench, the Wolverines showed little structural weakness Tuesday night at shell-shocked Aztec's expense.
"Jade is just a super-big leader, and I think no matter what, she's always going to come with a smile and good attitude," said senior setter Courtney Bayles. "She's not going to be.'Feel sorry for me'; she's going to be out here like, 'You guys go kick butt!'"
Added senior Sydney Gabbard: "We've all realized we need to step up. Like, we had a big conversation about 'It's time for everybody to lead,' and 'It's time for everybody to do their job. We definitely did that tonight; everybody did what they needed to."
And with extra heat seemingly propelling every shot, extra hustle to every straying ball, and extra volume in every cheer, BHS-bumped up to #6 in this week's CHSAANow.com Class 3A poll-needed just 40 minutes, 15 seconds of court time to trounce the Tigers 25-16, 25-10 and 25-13.
AHS never led in the match, and the Tigers managed to pull even only three times as Bayfield sped away rapidly and viciously in each phase: In Game 1, a bomb of a kill by senior Kylee McCoy gave the guests a 3-2 lead, and longtime head coach Anna Strauss was forced into a timeout after three consecutive Gabbard kills and an overpass disposed of by sophomore Tess Phelps increased the margin to 9-3.
Seconds after smashing a violent overpass-kill, and almost immediately after Phelps scored with a tip, senior Ashley Mottin doubled Bayfield's lead to 20-10 and Gabbard ended the game with yet another left-side kill.
Game 2 began with Aztec's Reigan Weaver netting an attack, putting Gabbard on serve for a four-point run. Weaver then blocked Mottin, but Bayles scored dumping a set and then aced both libero Liz Cox and Savannah McCarthy. Going for a third straight, she netted her serve, but after AHS' Felicia Urias did likewise, Mottin zipped one and Strauss paused play with the Tigers (3-4, 0-0 NMAA Dist. 1-5A) down 10-3.
After Mottin fired another unplayable gem, the Wolverines' advantage swelled to 18-7 after putaways by Bayles and Gabbard. McCoy soon smacked down game point only 10:25 after Game 2 began.
"We had a lot of free balls, so we were able to run our free-ball plays," Gabbard said.
"The 'rowdy crowd' was trying to mess with me over there, trying to get to me," she continued, asked about Bayfield's outstanding serving, "but we've learned that serving, first-contact volleyball is the most important part. So as long as we're keeping our serves in and hard, then we've got the game."
Led by Bayles' serving, Bayfield (4-2, 1-0 3A Intermountain) raced out to a 7-1 lead in Game 3, and after Strauss called time with the scoreboard showing 12-3, McCoy mashed a kill and sophomore Mavis Edwards followed with two untouched aces splitting Aztec's back row.
Bayles then placed a free ball perfectly into the deep corner and McCoy downed yet another kill, giving BHS their largest lead - 14 points - in the contest. And appropriately, Bayles landed one last ace on match point.
"This weekend we had a lot of service errors," she said, recalling the Invitational, "so yesterday we really pounded it into our heads: We cannot miss serves! We really worked on locating serves, trying to get our best in and not miss any two times in a row."
"And our hitters...we've been doing a lot of shot work in practice lately, and I think that the hitters really pulled the block for each other. And then jump-setting really helped pulling that block, and our hitters were just finding those open gaps, slamming the ball!"
Official statistics for the Wolverines had not been totaled as of press time. About the lone highlight for the Tigers, as tallied by Strauss, was Weaver's five solo and seven total blocks. Senior Taley Ferrari totaled four (2s, 2a) and also came up with three digs, two behind Cox and Urias for the team lead.
Imbued with a revitalized group identity, Bayfield will next make their BHS Gymnasium debut this Saturday, Sept. 16, hosting IML rivals Monte Vista at noon and Pagosa Springs at 3 p.m., with the two foes slated to battle each other in between.
"We're starting to mesh," Bayles said. "Even without Jade, we're starting to find rhythm again."
"We've realized that we do have a bunch of amazing offensive and defensive players," Gabbard said. "And when one goes down, we all come together-I want (the town of) Bayfield to know that!"