Incredibly able to stave off match point five times, pull even, then swipe Game 3 – via kill shots by senior Lanae Dragswolf and freshman Avery Wright – to stay alive in Tuesday night’s home opener, the Montezuma-Cortez volleyball team had fans believing they could pull off another 3A Intermountain League upset in the wake of last Saturday’s five-game stunner out in La Jara over defending champion Centauri.
“I mean, that’s just how we’re capable of playing, but we ... haven’t quite figured out how to always play that way. Yet,” head coach Maddie Wright stated afterward.
“Huge shout out to Amber for serving all those, taking her time,” she added, referring to sophomore libero Amber Wood, who held serve against Bayfield all the way from 19-24 in the third until M-CHS prevailed 26-24. “A couple close calls hit the net, put me on the edge of my seat!”
And got BHS counterpart Terene Foutz all the way out of hers, fearing an epic collapse and possible third consecutive – the Lady Wolverines fell in Pagosa Springs last Saturday to both PSHS and Alamosa (M-CHS, meanwhile, defeated Monte Vista in addition to CHS) – league loss.
Reverting more or less to their form shown during Game 1, when senior Rachel Bauer nearly served the Lady Panthers out of their own building — she first took the ball with a 5-2 lead and remained on serve until it reached 16-2 — the visitors quickly recovered in Game 4.
Senior Aryelle Wright smacked a kill for an early 3-1 M-CHS advantage, but the visitors took control for good at 5-4, separated to 12-7 via smashes by senior Tymbree Florian and junior Mavis Edwards, maxed their lead out at both 17-11 and 23-17, then settled the issue when Edwards viciously split a double-block to give Bayfield a 25-15, 25-21, 24-26, 25-20 road win.
“We came in with a positive attitude. Didn’t really know what to expect because we haven’t played Bayfield in a while, but we played OK,” said Dragswolf, who began the match scoring with a block.
“Against Centauri as well, we fought as hard as we could and it came out into a win. Today it just didn’t go that far.”
Incredibly forgetting almost completely their Game 1 performance, M-CHS (4-3, 2-2 IML) pushed the pace in Game 2 and led 12-4 before the Lady Wolverines (3-6, 2-2) clawed back to tie at 20-20.
Lady Panther sophomore Devon McHenry then hit long, Florian stuffed senior Chloe Seaburn at the strings, and Bayfield freshman Annie Fusco crushed a kill through the middle, prompting Wright into a timeout.
“Definitely had a lot of first-game jitters. It’s the first home game, they were excited, they didn’t really know what to expect with the crowd,” she said.
“Second set, I told them, ‘Welcome to the party! We’ve been here before; let’s start again!’”
But a netted swing put BHS up 24-20, and Bayfield went up two-love in the battle via a kill by senior reserve Tessa Heydinger off a perfect cross-court Florian set.
Avery Wright finished with nine kills for Montezuma-Cortez while McHenry logged seven, Aryelle Wright five and Dragswolf four. Sophomore setter Leigha Comisky equaled Florian’s 23 assists, while Wood registered 15 digs and Comisky 13.
“Digging a hole at the beginning and constantly trying to ‘dig’ out — I think that’s almost kind of what they’re comfortable with,” Wright said of her squad, tongue-in-cheek.
“That’s what they did, and tried to do, but Bayfield’s a good team and we were unable to pull through this time.”
“We really wanted the win, and I feel like we could have done better,” said Dragswolf. “We ... messed up, but we came together as a team, worked hard together and wanted every ball.”
Up next, the Lady Panthers will continue IML play Saturday, Sept. 22, at home versus Alamosa (13-0, 5-0).