Closing out their COVID-compressed spring 2021 campaign playing six five-set matches in under a month, one could say the Wolverines were simply making up for lost action – what with the Colorado High School Activities Association restricting, as a pandemic precaution, the number of regular-season matches any squad could play.
And in totaling 60 sets played, it was as though Bayfield High School had steamed through a mostly-normal 20-match slate.
But even with graduation approaching, Melissa Roberts hadn’t got her fill.
Admittedly somewhat fatigued following back-to-back five-set barnburners, the senior wasn’t against squeezing in a bonus journey between a regular-season ending trip to Palisade and Montrose before the Wolverines hosted the Class 3A Region 6 tournament a week later.Palisade/Montrose road trip and the BHS-hosted Class 3A-Region VI Tournament a week later.
Roberts’ journey took her from Montrose all the way to Cheyenne, Wyoming, for a career-extending appearance at Laramie County Community College. After a workout with the team that week, she promptly returned to Bayfield and made her decision to sign with the junior college.
“A few weeks ago, right after those matches, the next morning I was on campus doing a tour, checking out what’s what, and then I got to practice for about an hour with the girls, and it was really great,” a beaming Roberts said following a May 7 signing ceremony inside BHS Gymnasium, attended by not only family and BHS head coach Terene Foutz, but by virtually all Bayfield volleyball players, as well. “I really clicked with the team.
“It was a little chaotic, those two, three weeks or so leading up to it. But pretty much everything just fell into place – the high school season, not so much; that kind of abruptly ended – and I finally got things figured out after a really, really hard year.”
Laramie County head coach Keri Coats said recruiting has been difficult all year because of the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions on visits.
“We were fortunate enough to have Melissa join us for a short visit and open-gym training session with some team members,” Coats said. “We knew Melissa was coming off of two long, intense matches with her high school team, so we really just wanted to see her touch a ball in our gym. Already knew she was a talented player and just wanted to get a chance to interact with her in person. Having her play a little with some of our returning players was icing on the cake.”
And for good reason; Coats’ 2021 roster, showing 14 total players, included nine sophomores, meaning a reload was definitely in order following a 13-12 overall result and a third-place 5-4 in the NJCAA Region IX-North Division.
Seven sophomores were listed at a Roberts-esque 5-foot-11 or better, including Colorado’s Kyla Childers, LCCC’s kills leader with 279 this spring, and Brazilian Kalme Moncavo, who downed a third-most 205.
“We first found Melissa through a recruiting service,” noted Coats. “Through her highlight film, we could immediately tell she was the type we needed in the middle. She has size, moves well and a ton of potential to be an impact player for us.
“Her strength hitting off of one foot allows our offense to be even more dynamic and will give us the strong, balanced attack we are looking for.”
Roberts noted two other areas in which she’d noticed her own essential improvement.
“Definitely adaptability and coachability,” she said. “When I was younger, I was – and still am – very hard-headed; the coaches here – Terene, Cassie House – have been super, super helpful with that. If I’m not a 100% sure on something or if I want to ask a coach for some extra practice or a one-on-one, ever since sophomore year, Terene has been like, ‘Whatever you need, I’m here for it, stop and ask me.’
“Being able to communicate is another thing I really grew into with volleyball. But once I got it, I tried to do that for my team this year, get everyone on board and get everyone going.”
Always identifiable by her crouching, fists-clenched shout following a success at the net, Roberts helped Bayfield go 10-5 overall this season and 35-31 during her three years as a varsity player.
“Over years of wanting to go to that next level, I’ve developed a different kind of love for the game. And the fact that I’m allowed to keep going and have the opportunity – I get to go play for a coach who is really going to push me and make me better – is one of the best feelings I’ve ever had,” Roberts said. “So, I’m super excited.”
Coats has a long background coaching middle blockers and is eager to get to work with Roberts.
“can tell already that Melissa has what it takes to be successful with us, as well as transferring on to a quality four-year program,” said Coats, 24-36 overall through two seasons at LCCC. “We’re excited to see where her volleyball journey takes her and grateful she chose us to be a part of it.”
IN THE CLASSROOM: Roberts mentioned seeking an Associate of Science degree in Natural Resources Management during her time in Cheyenne, as a means to a future end of pursuing a degree within an outdoor recreation/education field.
“There’s a few kind of, like, ‘halfway’ majors I’ve found that aren’t a 100% what I’m going for, but they’re going to get me all my gen-eds that I’m going to need,” she explained, “and that’ll push me in the right direction.”
FOLLOW THE TRAIL: If Roberts’ commitment to Laramie County CC sounds like something area volleyball fans have heard before, they’re right. BHS assistant coach and former setter Suzie Rhodes had chosen LCCC, led by then-head coach Austin Albers (now helming NCAA Division II CSU-Pueblo), back in 2015 and that fall became an instant leader on the floor.
“She came up to me during regionals, right before we played, and she was like, ‘I’m so proud of you! Congratulations! I went there and you’re going to love it so much,” Roberts said of Rhodes. “So, I’m even more excited now.”
“I did not have the pleasure of knowing Suzie, but it is exciting to know that we are able to pick up a recruit from the same place,” Coats said. “Suzie’s success at LCCC gives us even more confidence in Melissa because we know that we are getting quality players from BHS. We look forward to continuing the relationship with the school as we recruit in the future.”
DID YOU KNOW: Coats’ time at College of Southern Idaho, her stop prior to taking charge at Laramie County, included her being an assistant coach when Southern Idaho won the 2015 National Championship, in the process dethroning 2013-14 rulers Blinn College, in five games over Western Nebraska CC.
The former University of Oklahoma player was also present when Southern Idaho placed third in 2014 and second in 2017. All told, Southern Idaho went 149-26 overall from 2013-17 with Coats on staff.