With only six spaces on the floor to be filled, and all five of her seniors frequently combined in action, Bayfield head coach Terene Foutz was certainly giving her honored group every chance to shine during their final match - Monday, Oct. 15 - inside BHS Gymnasium.
So when it came down to sealing the deal against Monte Vista, there was a high likelihood that a senior would have that extra-special chance, and an even greater probability that she'd do so from the service line.
After all, a six-point run by senior Jannika Pope had given the Wolverines a vital 19-13 lead in Game 2, taking much of the wind out of the Pirates' collective sail, and after MVHS managed to tie Game 3 at 1-1, senior Tessa Heydinger then held serve until Bayfield rebuilt a demoralizing 8-1 advantage.
"Whenever our serving is on, then we're ahead. That's kind of what it comes down to; when we're playing aggressive, serving in, nobody can stop us," said senior Rachel Bauer, who secured a 25-17 win in Game 2 with a service ace.
"When we get on those runs and show how good we are, it makes other teams just kind of deflate," agreed senior April Chamblee, whose ace late in Game 1 preceded sophomore Melissa Roberts' vicious kill shot to clinch an opening 25-17 victory.
An ace by senior Tymbree Florian got Bayfield restarted in Game 3 at 9-2, and another by Chamblee increased the lead to 16-6. And by that point, it was only a matter of who'd land the final blow.
Florian, Bauer, Pope - those names would have been good guesses. But as it turned out, Heydinger - normally counted upon for her efforts as a reserve - would be the one. Able to serve aces at 22-10 and 23-10, the tendinitis-slowed role player had ball in hand at match point. But she wasn't completely thinking 'hat trick.'
"I knew I couldn't do that, but it was fun," she said, describing her thoughts prior to tossing up her final serve, with a roaring crowd all hoping for a third straight gem. "On the last serve, I was just....hoping to make it! Like, missing game point is the worst feeling!"
Heydinger's serve landed in play, but MVHS again managed to avoid disaster and regained the serve. But after adding another point, halving BHS' lead to 24-12, Pirate Larissa Medina netted an attempt, giving the Wolverines a three-game sweep and sewing up fourth place in the 3A Intermountain League.
"We've been working really, really hard all summer and all season; I feel like we've come a long way, and it was really fun winning our last home game," said Heydinger.
"They were having some troubles just getting the ball back over the net, and it was really hard to.compete as hard as we know we can when the other team isn't doing that. But I feel we did our best.
"Every time we play.anybody in our league, we're very capable of beating them; it's a matter of our focus, how intense we are, and our drive each game," Bauer said. "I think in Alamosa (a 20-25, 19-25, 19-25 loss on Oct. 13) we had that at points, but it wasn't strong enough and.while we should have beat them, tonight we found that drive, that excited-ness to play."
And knowing that only Florian would enter the 2018 season having had substantial varsity experience, that made the Senior Night victory so much more memorable for up-through-the-ranks players such as Pope, Chamblee, Bauer and Heydinger.
"It was a little hard, you know?" Chamblee said, recalling her emotions during the seniors' pre-match recognitions. "When you see Terene tearing up, you just want to tear up too. But it's something that makes you want to go out, play harder - especially when you're a senior. You want to go out with a bang. The whole night we just had this positive energy, and it really helped us take this game."
"I don't think that all the excitement around us hurt us; it helped us tonight," Bauer added. "When we aren't afraid to make mistakes, that's when we do our best. Improvement is really the most important part about anything you do, and I think volleyball has taught me some great lessons about life. And the sport itself."
Monte Vista dropped to 1-16 overall, 0-8 IML, before an Oct. 18 trip to first-place Alamosa (22-0, 10-0). Meanwhile, the Wolverines (6-12, 5-5) will have some time away from competition before traveling to 4A Durango on Oct. 23, then out to Monument for the Oct. 27 Palmer Ridge Invitational.
"We have really good passers, Tymbree's a great setter, but we all need to make it flow together and that's what we're working on," Heydinger said. "We do have this week and the weekend off, which is going to be nice to have a little break, but we're going to stay focused. Durango's a really big rival for us, so we want to be prepared."
"When we're hitting aggressively, serving aggressively, and passing to our target, the game is ours," Bauer said. "And if we can pull that together against Durango, then we have 'em."