BHS: Queens of the Court

By Dale Strode
Herald Sports Writer

No Pepto-Bismol for the Wolverines this time around.

The rest of the Intermountain League, however, could use a giant-sized bottle.

The Bayfield High School volleyball team dominated the inaugural IML Volleyball Kickoff Classic on Saturday at Fort Lewis College, leaving the rest of the teams disoriented and dizzy.

Just as they have in winning the last six consecutive Intermountain League titles, the Wolverines swept Saturday’s round-robin tournament with identical 3-0 victories over, in order, Pagosa Springs, Alamosa, Centauri and Monte Vista.

“The consistency is something that makes us strong; it’s a challenge,” said senior captain Layne Bulwan, who played a key role in each Bayfield victory Saturday.

“Of course, we had our ups and downs, but ... we had a lot of games, a lot of plays,” said Bulwan, who helped the Wolverines to a big early lead in their final match of the day against winless Monte Vista.

Bulwan blasted two kills and added an ace serve as the Wolverines blitzed Monte Vista 25-9, 25-11, 25-6 to improve to 6-0 on the young season.

“Layne ... is very much a perfectionist all the time,” Bayfield head coach Kelley Rifilato said. “She’s court mature; she’s a quiet overachiever.”

Rifilato said Bulwan’s commitment to improving was evident in her jump serve, which she started using less than two years ago.

“Within a week of starting to jump serve, she became a starting server (as a sophomore),” Rifilato said. “She was adamant that she went through the check list (to learn to jump serve effectively).”

Bulwan was one of 10 different Wolverines to record kills in the four-match tournament Saturday that packed Whalen Gymnasium with high school volleyball players, their parents and their pals, including a few current Fort Lewis students.

Sophomore setter Suzie Rhodes quarterbacked the Bayfield offense. Fellow setter Lindsey Reinmuth, a senior, spent Saturday trying to solve ACT problems while Rhodes tried to solve blocking schemes.

“You know, I would say she (Rhodes) struggled early. But I told her, with youth and with being a setter, you can never make up your mind (on what to do) until you get the pass,” said Rifilato, herself a former NCAA Division I setter.

“I told her she needed to use the versatility of our players,” Rifilato said.

The results were immediate when Bayfield stymied Pagosa Springs 25-15, 25-13, 25-15 in the first match of the day.

Senior Jen Phelps, a co-captain along with Bulwan, keyed the Bayfield surge with a crowd-pleasing back-row kill and an acrobatic dig that led to a set from Rhodes and a loud kill from Bulwan.

“I have to say I’m proud of Suzie. She knows she’s the future. She knows she has a lot of things she has to fix,” Rifilato said of the sophomore setter. “She knows there are a lot of itty bitty things ... she’s recognized that.”

Rifilato said her setter is held accountable for every little detail.

“With Suzie, I feel like I harp on her all the time. But like I told her, last year, at the beginning of the year, Breetta (Moe) cried once,” Rifilato said of last year’s starting senior setter and free spirit.

“Breetta felt like I was ‘arrrrh!’ And I was,” Rifilato said.

“Suzie laughed. She understood. Then, she was better,” the BHS coach said after watching Rhodes lead the Wolverines past Alamosa 25-23, 25-11, 25-16.

The kill sheet, assisted by Rhodes, extended to more Wolverines – Kirstie Hillyer, Kayla J. McCoy, Micaela Knickerbocker, Tessa Powell, Jenna Sirios, Katy Funkhouser, Jordyn Harrison and Kayla D. McCoy.

“She likes to keep it interesting,” Bulwan said of coach Rifilato and her propensity to mix her lineups.

“It keeps us on our toes ... mentally tough,” said Bulwan, the daughter of James and Lorna Bulwan.

“It was nice to see Tessa (Powell) play right side. I like the size there,” Rifilato said of the BHS junior.

She said she also liked the middle production of the Wolverines, including the 6-5 Hillyer and all-everything Phelps.

“Kirstie has great hands. We’ve worked with her a lot on transitioning from blocking to hitting,” said Rifilato, who also commended her floating jump serve.

“And Jen’s a workhorse. She’ll do whatever I ask of her,” she said of Phelps, a four-year starter who never leaves the court.

The Wolverines included a repetitive 25-12, 25-12, 25-12 victory over Centauri in Saturday’s collection. They finished with the quick and spirited win over Monte Vista.

The closest the Wolverines came to a loss Saturday was the opening set against Alamosa when Bayfield trailed 23-21 before scoring four consecutive points to win 25-23. An ace from Harrison and a dig by Harrison that led to a kill by Hillyer rescued the Wolverines.

“I do feel like our kids are fundamentally sound,” Rifilato said. “The reason I said we were inconsistent the other night (Tuesday) is because that’s how we played.”

The team, she said, displayed more consistency Saturday.

“But we’re still not playing like we can,” Rifilato said.

The tournament featured three sets to 25 points in all of the round-robin matchups.

The Wolverines finished a perfect 12-0 in sets. Alamosa finished second at 9-3, losing only to Bayfield in three. Pagosa Springs at 6-6 was next, followed by Centauri (3-9) and Monte Vista (0-12).

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