Steve Lewis/Durango Herald
BAYFIELD – Speed kills.
So do Wolverines.
The No. 3-ranked Bayfield High School volleyball team, foot firmly on the accelerator, sped to another regional championship Saturday morning with a pair of high-speed victories over Trinidad and Jefferson Academy.
The Wolverines, 22-3, scored identical 3-0 victories to advance to the CHSAA Class 3A Girls Volleyball State Championships for the fifth consecutive year.
“I am so happy to be a part of this,” Bayfield senior captain Jen Phelps said amid the community celebration held on the Wolverines’ home court.
“We focused a lot this week,” Phelps said. “We realized that this could be it ... especially as seniors.”
Phelps, a four-year starter for the Wolverines, will play in her fourth consecutive state tournament next week at the Denver Coliseum.
“This is our last go-round. We knew we had to play our hearts out,” said Phelps, who devastated the Miners and the Jaguars, respectively, with quick-set kills from the middle of the net.
Phelps blistered 14 kills in Bayfield’s 25-10, 25-18, 25-13 win over No. 34 seed Trinidad early Saturday morning. She crushed 13 more kills in the 25-10, 25-15, 25-18 victory over No. 22 seed Jefferson Academy of Broomfield – a victory that clinched Bayfield’s fifth consecutive regional crown.
“We do have a strong middle (attack),” Phelps said in a giant understatement if you are a Miner or a Jaguar.
Kirstie Hillyer, Bayfield’s towering 6-5 sophomore, is the other middle attacker in coach Kelley Rifilato’s ramped-up, high-speed offense. Hillyer led all hitters with 16 kills against Trinidad and 15 against Jefferson Academy – most coming on quick-set middle attacks.
“Suzie (Rhodes) amazes me,” Phelps said of the BHS sophomore setter.
“Oh my gosh, she spread the ball very well. She knows where the blockers are and puts the ball where they aren’t.”
After a bit of a nervous start, Rhodes started to work the middle. With Trinidad unable to find an answer, Phelps and Hillyer converted on demand. Then, Rhodes started to work outside to the likes of Layne Bulwan, Kayla J. McCoy and Lindsey Reinmuth.
“When she (Rhodes) puts the ball on a dime, everyone converts,” Rifilato said after Saturday’s sweep.
“We had their middles guessing. They thought it would go to Jen or Kirstie every time,” Rifilato said.
Rhodes then worked the ball outside to avoid the traffic in the middle.
“Every time Suzie delivered to the outside, she gave a quality set, and we were able to get a clean swing out of it,” Rifilato said.
Witness: Rhodes set to six different hitters for kills against Trinidad, five different hitters against Jefferson.
“I look at Layne’s outside swings and Lindsey’s swings,” Rifilato said.
Reinmuth, the acrobatic Wolverine known for her somersault flip throws in soccer, blasted a back-row kill to fire up the crowd early against Trinidad. She added back-to-back ace serves in the final set of Bayfield’s win over Jefferson Academy.
In all, the Wolverines recorded six aces against the Miners and nine against the Jaguars.
The biggest applause at Saturday’s regional tournament, however, came when BHS senior Jordyn Harrison dived and reached out for a “pancake” dig off the floor. She timed the pancake perfectly, the ball went to Rhodes, who set to Phelps for an emphatic kill.
“She (Harrison) also amazes me,” Phelps said. “She is everywhere. She gets everything.”
Diving to the floor to make such an aggressive play carries over to her teammates, Phelps said.
“For her to go to the ground and make that effort for us, we have to make the effort (for a kill),” said Phelps, daughter of Nancy and Trent Phelps.
“We all believe in each other,” Harrison said. “We knew we had to win, and we were willing to do anything to win.”
She said when she can make a good dig, it fires up her teammates.
“We start to play faster. Then it gets louder, and we start to play even faster the louder it gets,” said Harrison, daughter of Drayton and Trish Harrison.
She also offered praise for Rhodes.
“She keeps getting smarter and smarter,” Harrison said. “If our passes are spot-on, she has the ability to set everybody, and everybody can put the ball away.”
Teamwork, she said, is the key.
“This team,” Harrison said. “We all play really well together. We all get excited together.”
Bayfield’s pool assignment for the state championships is expected today from CHSAA officials.