Aware of the Lady Wolverines' recent five-game epic against their own 4A Southwestern League arch-nemesis, Montezuma-Cortez knew they had a tough act to follow against a team not seeking a third full pull in as many outings to start its season.
But as it turned out, the Lady Panthers proved themselves the tough act-and a needed one at that, given their opponent's upcoming resistance tomorrow out in Monument-despite Bayfield backing up their road triumph over Durango with a 3-0 victory Tuesday night inside BHS Gymnasium.
"Bayfield's always good competition," said M-CHS senior Naomi Pinnecoose. "The crowd certainly helped with them; I just wish we didn't let it get to us, if they were screaming at us or whatever."
"I think they did really well," BHS sophomore Maddi Foutz (7 kills, 12 digs, 3 service aces) said, "but we were just expecting them to come out really strong this year."
And indeed junior setter Laurel Chappell did, firing a service ace, and Pinnecoose followed with a kill. But Foutz responded with a scoring tip and senior middle Kirstie Hillyer then crushed the first of many devastating kills, and the Lady Wolverines (2-1, 0-0 3A Intermountain) were off towards a 6-2 advantage-later mirrored by a 7-2 start in Game 2 and a 7-3 burst in Game 3.
"I think the Glenwood tournament kind of prepared us for it," M-CHS' first-year skipper Andi Pickens said, of the possible effects Bayfield's authoritative beginnings could have had. "But not like anything we're going to see of Kirstie-she's huge and she's good, and.I think we did really well as a team being prepared for her."
Coming off a season-opening 3-1 showing at the Glenwood Springs Demon Invitational, Pickens' youth-heavy [counting just two seniors] squad made sure to make things interesting, especially in Games 1 and 3 when Montezuma-Cortez fought back to take respective leads of 15-14 and 14-13. Consistency ultimately failed the visiting Panthers. A netted Pinnecoose back-row swing gave Game 1 to the hosts, a netted Kristin Pierce serve did so in Game 2 and a netted Pierce tip try conceded Game 3.
And in the end the performance paced by Pinnecoose, Pierce and Chappell wasn't enough. BHS prevailed 25-18, 25-18, 25-18, powered by Hillyer, Foutz and senior Caitlin Phelps.
Coming off the bench initially, classmate Jessie Roukema pounded nine kills. And like Phelps, senior setter Suzie Rhodes was particularly potent on serve, in addition to directing a fast-moving attack originating from each new inception.
"We just wanted to focus on our passing and serve-receive. Because first contact is probably the most important of the game," said Foutz. "That and starting the game off strong and not slow."
In making ready for Saturday's Lewis-Palmer Invite in Monument, the Lady Wolverines found an extra source of mental readiness in freshman Jade Pascale, given a starting nod by boss Terene Foutz. Sophomore Emily Bauer was out due to a concussion sustained in last Thursday's 13-25, 25-18, 25-17, 25-27, 15-10 match against Durango.
"We just did everything we could to get everyone prepared for this," said Pascale, whose kill midway through Game 1 was key in dulling enemy momentum gained by Pierce's long stay on serve. "I have big responsibilities, and I love to.test myself-take the opportunities when I have them. It's great."
Saturday's tournament should provide plenty of opportunities for the Wolverines: 3A schools New Castle Coal Ridge and Gilcrest Valley; 4A's Berthoud, Montrose, Pueblo West, Johnstown Roosevelt, Loveland Thompson Valley and Windsor; and 5A's Broomfield and Northglenn are scheduled to compete.
"We are beyond excited!" stated Foutz. "It's going to be so fun.the opportunity to play with 4A and 5A teams all weekend.it's going to be exciting!"
"It should be a great journey," Pascale added. "We're going to be challenged, but it'll be good."