Don’t expect the Wolverines to waste any time Saturday at the CHSAA Class 3A, Region 3 Volleyball Championships in Bayfield’s cozy home gymnasium.
“We have to start strong from the beginning,” Bayfield head coach Kelley Rifilato said this week as she prepared the Wolverines for the newly formatted three-team regional that will send one representative to the state championships.
“I told our kids that in the past, we have been slow to start. Not now. It’s one and done ... that’s it. Same thing at state,” Rifilato said.
The Wolverines (20-3) were seeded third in the 36-team CHSAA Class 3A Girls Volleyball State Championships, earning one of the 12 host designations in the new statewide qualifying process.
Bayfield will play No. 34 Trinidad, a late qualifier with a 7-14 record, at 9 a.m. Saturday.
No. 22 Jefferson Academy of Broomfield (13-10) will play Trinidad at 10:30 a.m. Saturday. The final match of the regional will pit Bayfield against Jefferson Academy at noon.
Every point, every set, will be critical, Rifilato said; they could determine tiebreakers.
“We’ve got to win at the start. We’ve got to win (the second match). No second chances, only No. 1 goes to state,” she said of the new 12-team state championships that will feature three-team pools.
Bayfield will open against a Trinidad team that qualified with late power points.
The Miners will treat their fans to a Saturday doubleheader in Bayfield. After the Trinidad volleyball team plays in its regional at the BHS gym in the morning, the Trinidad football team will face the No. 3-ranked BHS football team in a 2 p.m. playoff game at Wolverine Country Stadium.
“Another team I worry about is Jeffrerson Academy,” Rifilato said of the school that finished in the middle of the rugged Metro League, where teams play notoriously tough schedules sprinkled with 4A and 5A teams.
Rifilato said Jefferson Academy faced tough opponents every week, in conference and out.
The Wolverines have countered with their own powerhouse out-of-conference schedule this year, including victories over Class 4A Mullen and Silver Creek (Longmont) last weekend at the Palmer Ridge Invitational in Monument.
Bayfield’s only losses this season came against Highlands Ranch (17-6), ranked No. 8 in Colorado Class 5A, and twice to Piedra Vista of Farmington (18-1), the No. 1-ranked Class 4A team in New Mexico.
Rifilato said the Wolverines won’t face a brutally long schedule like last weekend at Palmer Ridge, when they played three matches (12 sets) in one day.
“Last weekend, our kids were exhausted,” Rifilato said.
“We were so tired (in a 3-2 win over Mullen), our kids were making ridiculous mental errors. And to come back from that and find a way to win, that was the biggest thing for us.
“We know we will not have that (schedule) at regionals or at state,” Rifilato said.
Part of the reason CHSAA changed the volleyball qualifying process and the state tournament was to avoid awkward schedules on Saturdays at the state championships at the Denver Coliseum, something that hit both Bayfield and Durango last year.
Rifilato has led Bayfield to the 3A state tournament four consecutive years, including last year when they finished tied for third. This is the first year she’s brought BHS to the playoffs without one of her daughters, Gabriella and Katherine Rifilato, whom both now play for Adams State in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.
Other Class 3A qualifying tournaments Saturday are scheduled at 11 other host sites, including No. 1 Valley (23-0) and No. 2 Platte Valley (17-6), both of the powerhouse Patriot League. Also hosting, No. 4 Greeley University (16-7), giving the Patriot League three of the top four seeds in the 3A field.
Gunnison (20-3) is No. 5, with Eaton (17-6), the defending state champion from the Patriot League, at No. 6.
The other host schools: No. 7 Sterling (13-10), No. 8 St. Mary’s (22-1), No. 9 Holy Family (14-9), No. 10 Colorado Springs Christian (16-7), No. 11 Roaring Fork (20-3) and No. 12 Manitou Springs (17-6).
The 12 winners will move on to Denver and the state tournament Nov. 9-10 at the Pepsi Center.