Disposing a Pagosa Springs over-pass on the first exchange in the fourth game Tuesday night, Bayfield's Tess Phelps accomplished something which had been tough to do up until that point: Bump Pirate sophomore Brighid Parken off the service line.
Taking the 1-0 lead as well as the ball, the Wolverine junior then stayed on serve for an incredible 14 consecutive points, putting BHS up 15-0 before PSHS junior Taylor Lewis managed an exasperated kill.
"Going back there thinking 'This serve is for all us girls; this is for the team,' and having that point run...it made us all feel great," Phelps said. "Even the coaches were, like, cheering their butts off; we were all just one big unit. And I loved it."
Senior Jannika Pope scored six points herself, including what was likely the hardest kill yet seen, during Phelps' run. Freshman Annie Fusco also came alive with a pair of strong putaways through the middle, and each pounded another in forcing PSHS' Caitlin Forrest to burn her second timeout down 18-2.
"Terene told us to not be afraid to swing on the ball, just put it down, go for all of it," said Fusco, recalling coach Terene Foutz's instructions following a rickety Game 1 which ended in the guests' favor, 25-21, when Bayfield sophomore Melissa Roberts netted an attack.
"And I wanted to put the ball down!" Phelps said, alluding to the Wolverines' Game 4 dominance. "I didn't want mistakes; I just wanted it to be done. It was all good energy out there."
Foutz used both of her allotted Game 4 timeouts as well, the latter coming with Pagosa Springs having crept back to 23-16 with a five-point burst. But time wasn't in the Pirates' favor, and BHS senior setter Tymbree Florian secured a 21-25, 25-23, 25-18, 25-17 victory with a well-placed set dump into vacated central space.
"This was really important because we'd just lost to Pagosa a couple weeks ago," said Pope, who recorded Bayfield's first double-double this season with her 16 kills and 10 digs. said. "We needed a confidence-booster, you know? Our last game against Pagosa, we kind of just played 'patty-cake' with them a little bit, didn't put a ball down like we know we can. So it was really important for us to run our different sets, move our front row around a little bit. And we needed to make more serves; that was a major issue last time."
An ace by senior Rachel Bauer gave the Wolverines (4-9, 3-3 3A Intermountain) their largest Game 2 lead, 23-15, before Pagosa Springs (5-9, 2-4) fought back to 23-21 behind Parken's serving. But Pope forced a ball through the net to even the match at a game apiece. The rivals then more or less went back and forth beginning Game 3, until BHS went up 10-9 after a Fusco kill.
PSHS' Chloe Bridges tied again 12-all with an ace, but Pope struck hard again, giving Bayfield a lead they wouldn't lose again. A Bauer ace brought up game point, 24-17, and after Parken managed a scoring tip shot, Pirate Teagan Stretton sent an attack long, giving BHS a 2-1 match lead.
Fusco finished with nine kills at a team-best .412 efficiency. Tuesday's win helped Bayfield halt a three-match skid-including a 22-25, 25-18, 17-25, 22-25 setback in La Jara versus Centauri on Saturday, Sept. 29.
"Annie was awesome tonight and did not look, feel, or play like a freshman," beamed Foutz. "She is developing quickly, and will be a key competitor for Bayfield in future seasons."
Junior libero Lana McKee logged a team-high 25 digs.
"The team worked well together," said Foutz, noting her side tallied eight rejections. "Our pins set the blocks well, and our (middle hitters) closed gaps. As a result, more attacks went toward our libero."
"In practice we've been working our butts off; we really owe it to the coaches for working us as hard as they can, to push us to the point we need to succeed," Phelps said. "Our energy and the coaches'... we brought it together. All of us wanted the ball to come to us, we wanted to block the ball. We were all in it to win."
Added Pope: "That really showed us that we could actually be the team that we are."
Up next, Bayfield will host CHS and Montezuma-Cortez for an IML triangular on Saturday, Oct. 6. Junior-varsity play will begin at 9 a.m., with the varsity facing M-CHS first at around 10.
"If we bring the energy we did tonight, I think we can definitely win it," Fusco said. We've beaten Cortez, and they've beaten Centauri, so I think we can beat both teams."