CORTEZ - Five points from a 3-0 sweep Tuesday night after a putaway by senior Jannika Pope, Bayfield head coach Terene Foutz shouted: "It's a whole new game to five!"
She clearly didn't mean a fifth game in the best-of-five with Montezuma-Cortez.
And she most definitely didn't intend to motivate the opposing Panthers into battling for five consecutive match-saving points, but on their home floor that's more or less what happened as five straight BHS errors helped the 3A Intermountain League fight's underdogs stay alive long enough to force a Game 4 before falling 25-15, 25-21, 24-26, 25-20.
"I don't think we should have dropped that third set - that's something we can't be OK with doing," said senior setter Tymbree Florian, who recorded 23 assists offensively while providing some high-rise blocking on defense. "It was a much-needed win, but there's so much more that Bayfield can do."
Kills by senior Lanae Dragswolf and freshman Avery Wright secured Game 3 for the home team, but the visiting Wolverines took control for good at 5-4 in the fourth. They then shot up to 12-7 via smashes by Florian and junior Mavis Edwards and maxed their advantage out at both 17-11 and 23-17. The BHS girls clinched the victory when Edwards viciously split a double-block.
"Everything we've learned in practice the past couple weeks, everything we've went over, we were putting it to use and putting balls down how we should be," said Florian.
"Our attitude got the best of us, and we didn't play as we should have," Dragswolf said of the Cortez team.
BHS knew how well M-CHS could have actually played, knowing the Panthers had stunned reigning IML champ Centauri in five - in La Jara, no less - just three days before.
A failed free-ball pass gave Bayfield's Rachel Bauer the serve at 5-2, and the senior unleashed no fewer than three aces before a Dragswolf spike took the ball out of her hands with the guests up 16-3. And though Montezuma-Cortez (4-3, 2-2 IML) staved off game point three times, BHS junior Tess Phelps stuffed down libero Amber Wood's freebie offering for a 1-0 lead in the contest.
"That's just what we expect out of Rachel," Florian said, of Bauer's 11-point stay behind the line. "When she's on, she's on; she's our best server. We see that every day in practice, and we were so excited to see her finally come to her full potential in a game."
Incredibly forgetting almost completely their initial performance, M-CHS pushed the pace in Game 2 and led 12-4 before the Wolverines clawed back to tie at 20-20.
Panther sophomore Devon McHenry then hit long, Florian rejected senior Chloe Seaburn at the strings, and Bayfield freshman Annie Fusco crushed a kill through the middle, prompting M-CHS' Maddie Wright into taking a timeout.
A netted swing put BHS up 24-20, and Bayfield (3-6, 2-2) went up two-love on a kill by senior Tessa Heydinger off a perfect cross-court Florian set.
"We have been working hard on serve-receive passing to protect the offense, and we have been seeing progress the past couple of weeks," Foutz stated. "Tonight the team held on SRP, which was a breakthrough for us."
Edwards led the way offensively with 13 kills and Pope followed with nine. Tested at times by M-CHS' underrated attack, libero Lana McKee still came up with 24 digs.
"Digging a hole at the beginning and constantly trying to 'dig' out-I think that's almost kind of what they're comfortable with," Coach Wright said of her squad, tongue-in-cheek. "That's what they did, and tried to do, but Bayfield's a good team and we were unable to pull through this time."
Bayfield lost Sept. 15 in Pagosa Springs to circuit rivals Alamosa (8-25, 13-25, 13-25) and PSHS (25-27, 24-26, 23-25).
Up next, BHS takes on 5A Farmington on Thursday, Sept. 20, then BHS will host 4A Durango on Tuesday, Sept. 25, during Homecoming Week.
"I know we can beat both teams. It's just a matter of self-confidence," Florian said. "They're home games so we'll have the 'advantage,' but we have to show up, like we did today. Can't get nervous, can't force errors on ourselves."