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BHS volleyball going in with all-out approach

Joel Priest/Special to The HeraldBayfield junior Kenasea Byrd smashes a kill during practice Thursday, Aug. 19, in Bayfield's auxiliary gym.
State champs’ tourney a first-week destination

Terene Foutz wants to create all the excitement of a movie car chase to Bayfield volleyball this fall – a daring driver crashing through a burning barricade and heroically continuing undaunted, regardless of damage.

Perhaps while shouting, “Is that all you’ve got? Bring it on!”

Known for seeking out the toughest opponents available from the get-go, Foutz might have outdone even herself with Bayfield’s newest slate, which launches Tuesday, Aug. 24 – the first day of classes – at home versus Farmington Piedra Vista.

“We’ve loaded our schedule,” she beamed Thursday evening after practice. “Twelve of our matches are in tournament format, and 12 of our matches are against 4A and 5A teams – almost half our season! We’re putting ourselves on the line early; we want to learn to start fast, stay fast and finish strong. When you have 2-out-of-3 matches, that’s the option.”

“Yeah, I think we’re all excited,” senior setter Sage Killough said. “We’re going to get pumped. It’s the first day of school, we have our home opener, and it’s going to be a ‘Blackout.’ and we’re excited to just have everybody back in the gym.”

“Right away, we … need to stay really intense in practice,” said senior Annie Fusco, “translate what we do to a game, and … together motivate each other.”

Bayfield head coach Terene Foutz, right, works with freshman prospect Christiana Sutherlin on serve-reception technique during practice Thursday, Aug., 19, inside BHS' auxiliary gymnasium.

Just over three months since a five-set loss to Loveland Resurrection Christian in the Bayfield-hosted 3A-Region VI Tournament’s championship cut short their coronavirus-altered Spring 2021 campaign, the Wolverines (10-5 overall, 5-3 Intermountain) will resume work against Piedra Vista. The Panthers compiled a 12-1 mark during the pandemic-restricted March season, which that ended with a 3-2 loss to Rio Rancho Cleveland in the eight-team NMAA/Rudy’s Real Texas Bar-B-Q Class 5A State Championships’ opening quarterfinals.

Though graduation wreaked havoc on the Lady Panthers’ Spring 2021 roster, claiming 6-foot-2-inch force Kacee Moore, 5-foot-11 Bailey Rasmussen and 5-foot-8 Blaize Bingham, 5-foot-10 junior setter Sophia Coleman should return to run whatever offense head coach Hazel Jackson and her staff selects, with Piedra Vista seemingly never short of eager talent.

And if debuting against a perennial interstate rival wasn’t enough to test their mettle, Bayfield’s next challenge follows – an inaugural event hosted by a program scoring seven CHSAA Class 3A State Championships during the last decade.

The Wolverines’ first two opponents Saturday, Aug. 28, at Eaton’s first annual Northern Colorado Slam (moved to Platte Valley in Kersey because of construction) are known: 5A Loveland (9-6 overall last season) and 4A Mead (13-4). Outcomes of the pool-play clashes will then reseed Bayfield accordingly into one of three four-team brackets for two place-determining best-of-3s.

Should all go according to ideal plans, Bayfield could face Eaton High School in something of a rematch of their second-day state showdown in 2019, when guru Gwen Forster’s crew narrowly knocked Foutz’s out of contention, 25-22, 25-22, 27-25.

A later five-game loss to Colorado Springs Christian, however, would deny the Fightin’ Reds any shot at the title, but Eaton avenged itself in Spring 2021 by going 18-0 overall with a state run including a 3-1 win over Resurrection Christian — the unlucky Lady Cougars’ reward for escaping Bayfield gym and ultimately a 3-1 defeat of fellow Patriot Leaguers Sterling (2019 State Champions) in the grand finale.

The top “Others Receiving Votes” team in the preseason CHSAANow.com Class 3A rankings, headed by No. 1 Eaton, Bayfield’s first IML challenge — a Sept. 7 trip to defending circuit champs and preseason No. 7 Montezuma-Cortez (14-1, 8-0 IML in Spring ’21; state semifinalists) — awaits them not long after their return from distant Weld County.

Bayfield junior prospect Kaydence Hunter and others listen to head coach Terene Foutz after varsity practice Thursday, Aug. 19, inside BHS' auxiliary gymnasium.

“We want to ‘keep our eye on the ball,’” said Foutz. “We have many third-year varsity players, they have a lot of experience, but that’s not going to serve them well if they choose to stop learning. So I’m putting them in hot spots all the time in practice.”

“We’re starting to connect more, come together as a team, but I think it’s still going to take a lot of practice,” junior middle Kenasea Byrd said. “Especially if there’s new people and stuff. It’s going to be a little different but it’s definitely going to come together at some point.”

Amongst a few individuals tasked with replacing the graduated Melissa Roberts and Macee Schulz, Byrd will be part of a roster fortunate to return most of its company for Fall ’21. Having also lost outside hitter Brooke Merchant and defensive specialist Brinlee Owens to diplomas, Bayfield figures to have ready-made returning fixes with senior Emily Nelson and junior Myrah Abdallah-Boehm, though Foutz indicated nothing’s set in stone.

“Myrah offers us a soft touch of the ball, consistency at the first contact position,” she said, “but… we have DS’s on her tail. Senior Karyssa Gosney is also a third-year varsity veteran, and her strength is serve location; she can locate-serve … best on the team. Either of those kids could be libero for us on any given day, if you want to know the truth.”

“And Emily … this is her third year on varsity, and she’s been a libero for two years!” Foutz said. “She’s going outside this year – that’s kind of where it started for her, so she’s going back to that. She is a very smart pin hitter – doesn’t hit the hardest, but hits the smartest balls.”

“It’s been good, just getting to come in the gym knowing the potential of the season,” said Killough, whose twin, Payton, primarily a right-side hitter, also returns. “We’re building from last season and not starting over.”

“It’s kind of scary because … last year I was kind of, like, there but wasn’t really there,” grinned Byrd. “I was with the team but wasn’t ‘guaranteed’ time, so this year I know I need to step up my game a lot – so I can show what I can do, and play how, like, everyone else is playing.”

In addition to a full Intermountain League itinerary, a home-and-home with 4A Durango, plus an interstate test or two against 5A Farmington. (8-4 overall in Spring ’21), Bayfield reportedly will also this season travel twice out to Monument for the always-tough, early season Lewis-Palmer Invitational as well as the season-ending Palmer Ridge Invite.

Palmer Ridge, incidentally, defeated aforementioned Mead 3-1 in the Spring ’21 Class 4A State Championship match.

“We’ll have improvement throughout the season,” Byrd said. “If we do get a chance, like, (to take) the IML and everything, go to state, then we’ve already, like, played those teams and got to experience that intensity and energy – even … at the beginning of the season!”

“You know, I’m harder on them now than a year ago,” said Foutz. “We’re not going to get lackadaisical because ‘We’ve been on varsity’ doesn’t mean a thing…to anyone we play,” said Foutz, who mentioned Alamosa (10-5, 5-3) and an improved Pagosa Springs (4-10, 0-7) along with the Lady Wolverines in regards to who might dethrone M-CHS atop the Intermountain. “So we’re hoping learning and experience combine for a great season.”

“We’re going in full-force and just enjoying living,” she declared. “Masks are off, kids are in school, we get to play – there’s lots to celebrate.”

Bayfield senior Annie Fusco blocks senior Sage Killough's tip attempt during practice Thursday, Aug. 19, in BHS' auxiliary gymnasium.