Kyle Rowland saw the ball about to drop in for a key Wolverine point with the Durango Demons’ match against Bayfield High School tied at 17 in the fourth set Tuesday night at BHS. The Durango High School junior dove full extension and took a whack at it. Lucky for her and the Demons, her sidearm swing had enough power to not only get the ball over the net but to drop in for a momentum-shifting point.
It was the point that lifted Durango to a five-set win over the host Wolverines, as DHS crawled back from a 2-1 deficit to take the match 25-22, 19-25, 22-25, 25-18 and 15-12.
“We had a huge block on the outside, and the ball was coming down on the line, and I knew I had to get it,” Rowland said. “Without the block from our front row, there’s no way I could have gotten that. I was just glad I got enough under it to get it over the net, and it somehow fell in for a point.”
Durango (12-7, 5-3 5A/4A Southwestern League) was led by Rowland’s 11 kills, while Paige Ammerman added nine. Sydney Summers had five blocks, and Millie O’Ketter led DHS with 27 digs.
After the Demons were swept at home by BHS at the beginning of the month, the Demons showed their growth.
“Before the fourth set, we talked about how one kill block, one ace, one huge hustle rally can change the momentum of the game,” said DHS head coach Colleen Vogt. “We knew we were going to be in a battle with BHS all night. It happened in a set we had to win, and (Rowland’s) point carried us into that fifth set.”
Bayfield (14-5, 8-2 3A Intermountain League) fought with the Demons all match and was paced by senior Mavis Edwards, who recorded a double-double on senior night with 16 kills and 18 digs. Meghan Youngblood chipped in 27 assists. Annie Fusco added nine kills, while Brooke Merchant added eight.
“We’re still learning to play under pressure and respond competitively,” said BHS head coach Terene Foutz. “That is part of the growth, and it’s not always going to go our way. I’m OK with tonight’s loss. We responded well. There’s some things that we can do better such as block work and holding our net, but apart from that, it was a good lesson.”
The Demons took the opening set after a comeback effort. The Wolverines got off to a quick 5-2 lead and extended it to 10-8, but the Demons scored three consecutive points to take their first lead at 11-10 on an ace from Grace Caldwell. DHS then was able to close out the set despite a furious rally from Bayfield.
In the second set, Bayfield stormed back with its outside hitters of Merchant and Emily Nelson alongside Edwards. The Wolverines got off to a five-point lead at 11-6 and would extend it to 20-14. BHS closed out the set and tied the match at 1-1.
In the third, the Demons got off to an 8-4 lead, which prompted Foutz to burn a timeout. Bayfield would respond with its bread-and-butter set up from Fusco to Edwards.
With the Demons leading by three at 14-11, Fusco dove into the BHS student section to save a point. The Wolverines would go on to win the point. Bayfield then went on a 6-2 run to take the lead at 17-16. Fusco made back-to-back blocks to give the Wolverines a 23-20 lead, which they would not relinquish.
“We put in some work tonight, and we have to do a better job of getting the ball to our middles,” Foutz said. “We need the ball to get to the net on a consistent basis. The other thing we need to do better is to play and love the big point. We’ve done a good job of that all year, and I think we will bounce back this weekend.”
The fourth set was tight until Rowland’s miraculous hit, which helped the Demons take the fourth set on an 8-1 run.
In the match-deciding set, BHS got off to a 4-1 lead, but the Demons did not panic. They rattled off three points to tie the match, and it was a back-and-forth set. DHS ended the match on an attack error from BHS.
“We’ve been doing that in five sets lately and have gotten off to slow starts,” Vogt said. “We haven’t been able to recover at times, but tonight we did. We talked about winning that game to five. It was one play to tie the match at 4-4, and it changed the momentum. That’s the game of volleyball.”
Foutz said she was particularly proud of the senior class’s efforts all season and believes that even after a narrow loss on senior night, they will play an integral role in the upcoming playoffs.
“It’s a classic hard-working group of kids, and they’re extremely humble,” Foutz said. “Lana McKee gets up at 5:30 a.m. to irrigate, gets here at 7 to workout and came back at 5 p.m. for open gym. Those are the types of kids we’re talking about. They’re incredibly respected in this program. It’s unquestioned. We just have to learn to compete for the big point.
“Both teams will march on from this match. We’re primed for our final weekend of the regular season.”
Both will hit the road for a season-ending tournament this weekend, as the Wolverines will travel to Palmer Ridge for four matches, while Durango will head to the Ponderosa tournament.