Bayfield spikers back on their job
Written by: Joel Priest
Fierce front row a key focus for girls to head back to state
Practice officially began Monday inside BHS Gymnasium.
But in actuality it really hadn’t; another well-stocked summer of scrimmages and out-of-town camps, as well as players’ own initiative had already ensured a relatively smooth transition to ‘CHSAA time,’ full well knowing the plethora of teams looking to knock them off their postseason pedestal.
“We have seven kids returning, all with a lot of playing time,” said an exhausted Kelley Rifilato Tuesday night, “but the dynamics…and the chemistry—they’re a quiet team, not real rah-rah, you know? And normally a quiet team’s not very successful, but they’re quiet…and they’ve been winning.”
And…from season to season during Bayfield’s repeat runs into the Class 3A ‘Great Eight’ and beyond, the next wave has been noticing—possibly the greatest impression made on their future leader so far during the earliest stages of Fall preparations.
“Seventeen freshmen are trying out,” she stated proudly, “and that’s been awesome! And when we went to Adams State [ASU Team Camp], we took a JV squad and put them in the varsity division, right…. They won three matches, lost three others by about two points each! I was so proud of them.”
The Lady Wolverine regulars, meanwhile, stopped 4A Piedra Vista [Farmington, NM] twice in the winners’ bracket of the ultimate flight to emerge supreme from a field numbering 85 teams in Alamosa.
“Jen Phelps…it doesn’t matter where she is!” Rifilato exclaimed of her well-seasoned 5’10” senior, likely the crew’s top all-around threat in 2012. “I moved her to the outside—she was right side and middle last year—and, playing left, I can just look at the best player on the other team and put her in front.”
“And Kayla J. [McCoy, 6’1” senior], I don’t know what’s gotten into her! She’s playing better than she ever has—she and Kirstie [Hillyer, 6’4” sophomore], they light each other’s fire. It’s a friendly rivalry, like when one gets a block, the other has to get a block. And Kirstie’s finally learned to hit down on the ball—so has Kayla.”
Piedra Vista fell again to BHS in the smaller Fort Lewis College Peak Performance Camp tourney’s gold bracket finale, though Rifilato noted her abbreviated roster wasn’t nearly as connected as previously seen. But still scrappy enough to down the Lady Panthers in three—by ultimately reverting to a signature skill.
“We played Manzano [5A; Albuquerque, NM] last on the first day, and that match was the turn-around for us. FLC was a gut-check for us, really was…but Layne [Bulwan, 5’8” senior] served seven straight points to start Set 3 against PV and we got the win.”
In fact, about the only aspect Rifilato seemed rave-wary of was the team’s setting. But with 2011 JV/varsity swing player Lindsey Reinmuth (now a senior) and JV regular Suzie Rhodes (a sophomore) the prime candidates to replace graduated Breetta Moe, the coach’s confidence can’t be too long in coming.
“They’re hard workers,” Rifilato noted, also noting senior libero Jordyn Harrison, “and have just done everything I’ve asked of them. And all of them…they understand what they’ve got to do.”
Quickly perusing the schedule, Bayfield will begin 2012 at next Saturday’s Pirate 4 Corners Scrimmages in Pagosa Springs, starting at 9 a.m., with a strong regular-season opener seven days later (September 1, 3 p.m.) at home against San Juan HS from Blanding, Utah.
Despite more losses than usually expected, the Lady Broncos concluded yet another standout season under Cassy Moon in 2011, but just couldn’t conclude its conclusion—a four-game loss to Richfield denied SJ its ninth Class 2A State Championship, and gave county bragging rights to Monticello (the Lady Buckaroos prevailed in the 1A title match for their third-ever crown, but first in 24 years).
Non-league 4A Montezuma-Cortez then visits BHS Gymnasium on the 4th (6:30 p.m.), before a new scheduling wrinkle—and challenge, for which Rifilato regularly hunts—occurs. On Saturday Sept. 8, the Lady Wolverines will get early glimpses at their circuit’s latest challenges when they head to Fort Lewis College for the IML Pre-League Preview [BHS’ official league opener comes on the 22nd, 3 p.m. at home versus Alamosa].
Four matches are expected, helping fill Bayfield’s ledger as per CHSAA’s 2012 rule changes—including an increase of regular-season matches allowed, from 19 to 23 [the district-tournament weekend has been eliminated, with 36 teams now reaching the postseason instead of 32]. Piedra Vista’s anticipated visit then occurs a swift three nights later on Tuesday, Sept. 11.
Another fresh addition to the itinerary will come at its very end, with the Oct. 27 Palmer Ridge Tournament (essentially a replacement for the district tourney) in Monument, at which another four matches, likely against 4A [a la the hosting Lady Bears] or 5A foes, will be waged (just two days after BHS’ IML finale against Monte Vista).
But even if strong success is had, a cold irony could suddenly introduce itself at the wrong time.
Under the new postseason format there will be 12 three-team regionals, with the winner of each going on to the State Championships. The problem is simply being among the initial 36 squads contending.
Under a new ‘power points’ system, each of the top-ranked dozen at the regular season’s end will earn regional-host status, meaning the Lady Wolverines will be pressed more to dominate every set and pursue every point—and hope the rest of the Intermountain (against which BHS stands 36-0 since 2008, including postseason matches, with a 108:13 sets won:lost ratio) does likewise against their opposition.
BEST IN HER BIZ: Tuesday morning it was announced, as an inclusion to the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference’s preseason coaches’ poll results, that 5’9” junior Gabriella Rifilato was named the NCAA D-II loop’s Preseason Setter-of-the-Year. Her Adams State University side, coming off 2011’s 19-9, RMAC-West Co-Champion thrill ride, was voted fourth (but first in the West) to start 2012—behind RMAC-East favorites Metro State, Colorado School of Mines, and Regis University.