Playing a tough schedule in one of if not the top Class 3A leagues along with facing three strong Class 4A opponents paid off in a big way for the Bayfield High School volleyball team.
The Wolverines were one of three teams from the Class 3A Intermountain League to earn the right to host one of eight regional tournaments Saturday, and all five IML schools made it to the 24-team regional. The winner of each regional will advance to the state tournament.
“We’re going into the regional as though we are an underdog,” BHS head coach Terene Foutz said. “That’s how we’re viewing this situation. We’re just going to play hard, simply put.”
That’s all Bayfield (9-4) has done for the better part of April. It started with three consecutive five-set wins before a 3-1 road triumph at previously undefeated Durango High School. In winning five of their final six games of the regular season, BHS also posted a 2-1 record against Class 4A squads. Along with the win against the Demons, that included a five-set victory Saturday at Montrose after going behind 2-0. The one 4A loss came Friday to Palisade in another five-set match. The Palisade Bulldogs earned the No. 3 seed in the Class 4A regionals. All three 4A foes the Wolverines faced made regional brackets, as Montrose is No. 20 and Durango was seeded ninth.
Last weekend’s road split at Palisade and Montrose filled the Wolverines with belief going into regionals, something Foutz has had since a pair of five-set league wins against Centauri and Alamosa to start the three-week run for the Wolverines.
“Usually, we go to the Palmer Ridge tournament and play three matches against 4A teams the last week of the regular season,” Foutz said. “Given the intensity of those two matches last weekend, we definitely got our money’s worth traveling up there. We felt we learned a lot in the course of two days.”
Bayfield’s only losses all season have come to playoff teams. The Wolverines were swept by Montezuma-Cortez, the champion of the IML which was awarded the No. 2 seed in the 3A regionals. Alamosa, which BHS split its two-game series with, was awarded the No. 8 seed and also will host a regional.
Also from the IML, Centauri got into regionals as the No. 14 seed going to No. 3 Sterling, while Pagosa Springs is the No. 21 seed and will travel to No. 4 Lamar’s region.
Scheduled to travel Saturday to Bayfield will be No. 11 Resurrection Christian (8-4) and No. 19 DSST Byers (11-0).
The Wolverines will open action at noon against DSST Byers, champion of the 3A/2A Confluence League. DSST Byers and Resurrection Christian will then play the second game before the Wolverines’ showdown with the Loveland-based Cougars around 3 p.m.
“We’ve spend time researching both, more on Resurrection Christian,” Foutz said. “They play in the Patriot League against a traditionally strong conference. We don’t put any weight into rankings, and we know we are gonna have to play and execute well.”
BHS has three players with more than 100 kills this year, led by senior Melissa Roberts, who has 166 with an impressive .374 hitting percentage. Annie Fusco has emerged as a killing machine with 138 after a strong weekend on the Western Slope. Macee Schulz also has 116 kills and a .274 hitting percentage.
The Wolverines have been a strong serving team all season with 112 team aces for an average of 2.2 per set. Emily Nelson leads the squad with 25 aces. She also has a team-high 208 digs.
Sage Killough has amassed 450 assists this season in 52 sets played. Last week at Montrose, Foutz switched to a two-setter formation in the third set with sophomore Bailey Martinez working into the 6-2 offense. That adaptability, no matter what Foutz does, will give the Wolverines a strong chance to survive regionals and make it to the eight-team state tournament.
“That’s unique for us this year. I have depth I haven’t seen in years past,” Foutz said. “The key is learning to manage it well, to not make it too situational. There’s always a coach on the other side of the net who can also counter when I make a change. We’ve had as many as six lineup changes this season in any given match. But our girls being able to change made a big difference this past weekend, and this team embraces lineup changes.”