BAYFIELD – Concerned the Wolverines were becoming too predictable on offense, Bayfield head volleyball coach Kelley Rifilato tweaked her lineup.
This time, right in the middle of homecoming week – and just minutes before Tuesday night’s Intermountain League match against archrival Pagosa Springs.
The result was an all-too-predictable 3-0 victory for the suddenly unpredictable Wolverines, who protected their No. 4 state ranking and their perfect conference record (6-0).
“We talked in depth about not being transparent so that everyone knows where you are going (on offense),” Rifilato said after the Wolverines beat Pagosa Springs 25-13, 25-12, 25-19 to improve to 14-2 overall.
“The biggest thing was splitting Jen (Phelps) and Kirstie (Hillyer) opposite each other for the first time all year,” Rifilato said.
That prompted a move of Kayla J. McCoy to the right side, giving the Wolverines, at times, a blocking wall of the 6-5 Hillyer and the 6-1 McCoy.
“And Jen just looks so at home in the middle,” Rifilato said of Phelps, a four-year senior starter who played extensively in the middle the last three seasons.
“I say that’s what I love about an undersized middle blocker (Phelps) is that they are so fast they make the tall people look super slow motion,” said Rifilato, who started Phelps front and center against the Pirates.
With the versatile Lindsey Reinmuth digging out of the middle back position, which she played for the first time Tuesday night, the Wolverines triggered a quick-hitting offense to complement the wall of blockers.
Sophomore setter Suzie Rhodes spread the ball in the new rotation with indefensible balance – 36 assists in all.
Phelps finished with 14 kills on 23 attacks with one error.
Hillyer finished with 12 kills on 23 attacks with two errors.
“I think the balance of having Jen and Kirstie opposite helps us,” Rifilato said.
“But it started with that right-side block. Having 6-1 and 6-5 in front of you ... alters every shot,” Rifilato said.
Reinmuth added six kills for the Wolverines, including a blast from the back row.
Layne Bulwan hammered seven kills to support the defensive digs from Jordyn Harrison, Reinmuth and Kayla D. McCoy.
Rifilato said she told the Bayfield setter she needed more than quality sets and good decisions.
“I told her your job is to get your hitters 1-on-1. There were a lot of times she did that ... in the middle and on the outside,” Rifilato said of an IML match the Wolverines never trailed.
“I definitely like having Kayla J. on the right side with me,” said Rhodes, daughter of Carl and Karen Rhodes.
“And it’s great with Kirstie and Jen in the middle,” she said.
“Jen is an awesome player. She’s always there to pick me up,” said the sophomore, who added it’s her coach that offers the most help.
“She (Rifilato) helps me a lot on the court. She helps me run our offense,” Rhodes said.
“The kids are fine with (the lineup changes),” Rifilato said. “They know I’m just trying to light a fire ... get a spark.”
In addition to the new-look offense, Bayfield tossed another unpredictable element at the Pirates midway through Tuesday’s match when a bat slipped into the BHS gym and performed high-speed aerial maneuvers through the rafters before settling in to watch the rest of the Wolverines’ victory.