DURANGO - Just as sidelined junior Tess Phelps needed no support to stand on a booted right ankle, neither did the Wolverines search for any excuse on why their much-anticipated trip west on Tuesday, Oct. 23, didn't work out how they'd hoped.
And match-hosting Durango took notice, even after winning 25-16, 26-24, 25-23.
"It's always unfortunate when an older player has to step down injured before they can play," DHS senior Taylor Wolf said. "But their underclassmen fought...and played very well!"
"No crutch, at all, in this match," BHS head coach Terene Foutz said in virtual agreement. "We're a 'first-year' varsity team who continues to put things together. I loved how we competed tonight, and I know we had a lot of unforced errors, but that's going to be part of our process right now. And the kids are learning, more importantly, to respond under pressure."
"The night before the Durango match, is when our starting middle-1 goes down with injury, but like I said, no crutch," she continued. "And the kids who were on the court didn't discuss it; we're not waiting for anyone to get better, we're moving forward as a team."
Forward, and nearly through the Demons (8-11, 3-5 4A/5A Southwestern), who found themselves in a Senior Night dogfight after managing to take control of Game 1 at 9-8 and build a lead of 20-11 en route to a comfortable 25-16 win.
"They are tough players, and that's what makes it fun," said DHS senior Sierra Martin, whose cross-court finish off diving BHS libero Lana McKee put Durango up 1-0 in the teams' second best-of-five this fall. "It just makes the competition even more high-level."
With 15 ties-of-score, Game 2 was all that and a tray of nachos. Bayfield senior Jannika Pope opened with a scoring tip shot, and sophomore Melissa Roberts scored with a statement-making stuff of Wolf for a 4-3 advantage. DHS countered and scrapped back to 5-5 via a no-doubt Wolf block, but BHS (6-13, 5-5 3A Intermountain) ably rode the see-saw tempo and regained an 11-10 lead when Roberts landed a bomb through the middle.
Pope followed with an ace, but with a kill by junior Millie O'Ketter and Wolf smashing down a BHS over-pass, the score stood 13-13 and remained neck-and-neck until consecutive Pope spikes put Bayfield up 18-16 and ultimately 20-16 when Martin hit long.
The Demons, however, stayed patient, re-tied the score at 20-all, 22-all, and 23-all before taking a 26-24 win when Wolverine senior Tymbree Florian didn't place a pass precisely where she wanted.
But again, the disappointment lasted only seconds as a Kira Riley ace put BHS up 2-1 in Game 3 and Roberts followed with yet another rejection. Bayfield's lead quickly grew to 7-3 and still appeared sturdy enough at 12-9 when Roberts booked another block.
Two Wolverine miscues and an O'Ketter stuff finally re-tied the score at 12-12, and O'Ketter downed an over-pass shortly thereafter to put Durango up 14-13. Given that momentum boost, the Demons would hold the upper hand all the way to 23-22 before Martin netted a softer roll shot, suddenly making the match a race to two rather than a jog to 25.
Unluckily for Bayfield, their reward for working on their skills this season would not be victory inside the DemonDome; senior Rachel Bauer uncharacteristically sent a serve long, and Riley netted a spike against O'Ketter to conclude the interleague contest.
"They're learning to make plays out of average passes, they're learning how to make an average set stronger with the third contact, so I'm OK with tonight," Foutz said. "We're at this really fun stage where we know that we're playing good, but we're frustrated that we can't quite cross the winning hurdle. And that is the motivator this week; I saw it in their eyes after the match."
Up next, the Wolverines will wrap up regular-season play at the Oct. 27 Palmer Ridge Invitational in Monument, north of Colorado Springs.
"They're not hanging their heads about this loss," Foutz said. "They're a little perturbed it didn't work out, and it drives them into this weekend. We're going to have four awesome matches up at Palmer Ridge."
NOT ANKLE-RANKLED: Not only was Phelps positive about her predicament, but so was BHS' coach in regards to the upcoming Saturday marathon of volleyball.
"She's a strong kid, rolled this ankle before, and she says this one isn't quite as bad as the first time around - she's walking on it - but she needs a few days, needs the trainer to see it through," said Foutz. "But it wouldn't surprise me if she plays this weekend!"