CORTEZ — Having surrendered a booming kill to expected threat Kylee McCoy, then finding themselves burned by an unexpected ace serve by reserve Jannika Pope, the Lady Falcons had a sense that perennial Intermountain League powerhouse Bayfield, trailing 2 games to 1 in Saturday’s match, still had a trick or three in store and a tiebreaking Game 5 in sight.
But despite trailing 9-3 early in Game 4, what Centauri didn’t have was a sense of panic.
“We took a timeout,” junior Melissa Wilson recalled afterwards, “and none of us showed in our eyes that we were going to lose. Everyone had confidence and knew we were good enough to…turn the momentum to our side. I think just never giving up is why we’ve been so successful this season.”
With an opportunity to complete a 10-0 run through the IML, CHS’ trend of resilience continued.
“The good thing about these girls is that we’ve been in a lot of long matches, and we’ve conditioned well,” said head coach Candace Shaw, a 2012 BHS graduate. “So even though we had a couple girls not feeling well, they came out ready to go. And for us it was about resetting and refocusing…finding that energy.”
Putting herself on serve with a kill, senior Alexis Dingfelder then keyed a vital rally with consecutive aces, and kills by senior Caroline Van Berkum and Wilson pulled the loop leaders—who had swept triangular-hosting Montezuma-Cortez 25-8, 25-20, 25-18 in the preceding match—level at 9-9.
But the Lady Wolverines regrouped and rebuilt a 14-11 lead—setting the stage for a furious finish in which Centauri would scrap ahead three times only to see Bayfield battle back to do likewise before consecutive dinks by Wilson and senior Ember Canty fell in, putting CHS up 23-22.
“Centauri’s a smart team,” BHS head coach Danica Frost said, “and they…got in our heads a bit.”
“They were scrappy, we were scrappy…. There were moments where they were giving us a lot—you know, serving into the net—and we just didn’t capitalize. We’d come up, crush a ball, then go and miss a serve.”
“Serving is always a big…part of every game—just like free throws in basketball,” said Wilson. I mean, we missed a few but so did they, so…technically it balanced out.”
And fittingly, the league championship came down to a point which either crew could have claimed: A joust ball between Canty and Bayfield’s Courtney Bayles. Canty had successfully roofed a Bayles set dump to secure a tense 27-25 win in Game 2—after four errors in five points had given BHS a 25-21 win in Game 1—and Canty again came out the victor when it mattered most.
“Courtney is a competitor, and we definitely had to fight,” Canty said. “I knew my team had my back if she did get it over, so we were just playing it out. And when that ball dropped on their side it was super exciting!”
“We always just say ‘Feed the beast,’ whoever’s doing well. We have very strong middles, strong outsides, so we just try…wherever we can,” explained Shaw, of Canty’s increased involvement against Bayfield, after Van Berkum and Wilson—along with senior Delrena Garcia and junior Isabel Prieto—appeared the prime movers against M-CHS. “Very proud of all my hitters across the board; there’s not one girl that any of us put less trust in.”
“We had some good hits and they had some good hits, and in the end…both of us are super strong,” Canty said. “I wish Bayfield the best in the rest of their season.”
“Overall…both teams came out fighting,” concurred Shaw, after the 21-25, 27-25, 25-22, 25-22 triumph, “and that’s the beauty of volleyball…in general. It was a good match, hard-fought on both sides—it was a fun one!”
As well as a taxing one. Official statistics for CHS—from either match—had not been compiled as of press time, but the Lady Wolverines’ defensive totals were a strong indication of the Lady Falcons’ non-stop resolve.
With 15 kills to her name, McCoy came up with a Bayfield-high 21 digs—one more than junior libero Tymbree Florian and six more than sophomore Mavis Edwards. Senior Sydney Gabbard came up with a dozen and Bayles, who distributed 27 assists as the setter, recorded 11.
Sophomore Tess Phelps made one solo block and assisted on seven others, while McCoy and senior Ashley Mottin each booked three and three.
“It’s not so much about who you’re playing; it’s the game and it’s the girls,” said Shaw, “and it doesn’t matter that it was against Bayfield. It’s different to be on the opposite side, but it’s a good feeling.”
“And…it’s not something that came overnight; we’ve been working three years for this. My group has put in the work for it, they have a new fire, and it shows through their fight. So it feels great.”
“It’s super exciting, especially with it being…our last year to go for it,” said Canty, speaking on behalf of the squad’s sizable senior class. “We got it in basketball, but now volleyball…it’s that much more sweet.”
“It’s…not ‘surprising,’ but it’s different because we’ve never really been this strong,” Wilson said. “But we’ve had the confidence all season, we’ve played as a team, and it’s nice to see all your hard work paying off.”
With the regular season winding down, Centauri (17-0 overall after Saturday’s wins) will next host 2A Sanford (11-6) on Tuesday, Oct. 17. Results from Monday night’s match against struggling non-league 3A Trinidad were unavailable at press time.
“We need to take control…and finish those before we move on to bigger regional- and State-competitors,” stated Wilson.