BAYFIELD - In their darkest hour, with despair threatening their storybook season, the Wolverines kept the faith.
Then they went out and beat the Faith - volleyball powerhouse Faith Christian - and won the championship of the 3A
Regional Volleyball Tournament on a marathon Saturday at Bayfield High School.
The Wolverines, the Regional hosts, had just suffered their first loss of an otherwise unblemished season when they
dropped an exhausting five-set match to Roaring Fork at midday.
A solid 3-0 morning-match victory over Hotchkiss nearly had been forgotten when the Bayfield volleyball team regrouped
for a last-chance showdown against Faith Christian late Saturday afternoon.
Faith Christian, with earlier wins over Roaring Fork and Hotchkiss, was in position to clinch the Regional title with
Bayfield's only hope of qualifying for the State Tournament rested on a win over Faith Christian, last year's state
runner-up. And with possible tournament tiebreakers looming, the Wolverine's needed more than just a win over the
Eagles, they needed a
And they got it with their three best games of the season and a stunning 25-22, 25-17, 27-25 triumph over Faith
Christian that sent the tireless home crowd into a purple frenzy.
It also sent the Regional Tournament into a stalemate with Bayfield, Roaring Fork and Faith Christian all finishing
with 2-1 records. Hotchkiss ended the day 0-3.
Tournament officials convened to review the Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA) tiebreaker
After a nervous 10 minutes, the Bayfield crowd went into an even louder frenzy when the Wolverines were announced as
the Regional champion with the top tiebreaker standing (percentage of games won in matches among the three tied
The Wolverines (23-1) earned the No. 1 Regional seed to next weekend's CHSAA Class 3A State Vol-
leyball Tournament at the Denver
That left Roaring Fork and Faith Christian matched in a one-game, on-court tiebreaker to determine the No. 2 qualifier.
Faith Christian (23-2) rallied with a 25-20 win to earn the
No. 2 Regional seed to state.
"We had a huddle before the match (against Faith)," BHS senior co-captain Gabriella Rifilato said.
"We said that this is our last (match) here at home. For us seniors, this would be our last game here, ever. So we
wanted to leave it all out there on the floor ... save nothing," she said.
Senior teammate Shelby Williamson, who triggered a hustling BHS defense, said the Wolverines also wanted to make amends
for the frustrating loss to Roaring Fork.
"That game against Roaring Fork, everyone was off. We couldn't pass. I'm a libero, and my job is to pass. But my
passes were not on target," Williamson said after the Rams from Carbondale beat BHS 25-16, 23-25, 28-26, 19-25,15-10.
"So we wanted to control the ball (against Faith) and pass the ball like we know how to pass the ball."
And, according to their coach, they wanted to be aggressive and get a lead against the Eagles.
With yet another major lineup adjustment because of the ankle injury suffered by Jacey Sirios, the Wolverines attacked
Faith with Sierra Aten off the bench, dubbed a "secret weapon" by the vivacious Bayfield cheering section.
Aten teamed with Katherine Rifilato to provide a big Bayfield block against the left side of Faith Christian's attack.
And Aten blasted a handful of key kills in the win.
"Shutting their left side down was the key to the match," BHS head coach Kelley Rifilato said.
"Katherine and Sierra gave us a block we haven't had all season," the coach added after the Wolverines controlled the
Eagles with early leads in all three games.
Faith Christian never led in the first two games.
The Eagles did play a tight third game, which ended with a kill from Gabriella Rifilato and a resounding kill from
Katherine Rifilato that bounced off a Faith defender and bounded into the bleachers.
The match's final point, with a dose of irony, came on a solo block by Aten.
"Sierra was very focused on the block, and we needed her," coach Rifilato said. "She's such a strong
The BHS coach said Aten provided another offensive outlet for the Wolverines along with teammates Mikayla Moss, Laurel
McCormick, Caitlin Simbeck, Brianna Cox and freshman Jennifer Phelps.
"Jen Phelps is really coming into her own. She put the ball down (Saturday)," coach Rifilato said, recalling numerous
sequences with Phelps hitting out of the middle on short sets from the Rifilato sisters, Sirios and even Aten.
Williamson said the Bayfield bench provided a spark for the Wolverines all season and especially Saturday.
"Candace Shaw came in, and she had three amazing serve-receive passes," Williamson said. "Our bench helps us so
The bench play first surfaced when the Wolverines dispatched Hotchkiss 25-18, 25-18, 25-13 in their opening match of
the day early Saturday morning.
After the agonizing endurance test against Roaring Fork, including the gut-wrenching 28-26 loss in Set 3, the Bayfield
bench was tested yet again against Faith Christian.
"All year long, we live and die with ... being versatile. Someone goes down, somebody else steps up," Kelley Rifilato
"That's this team."
The Wolverines will open play in the Class 3A State Tournament on Friday morning at the Denver Coliseum.
Preliminary results from the other 3A Regionals on Saturday show the 3A state qualifiers are Colorado Springs Christian
(25-0), Middle Park (20-5), Valley (25-0), Platte Valley (17-7), Eaton (22-3), St. Mary's of Colorado Springs (22-3),Faith Christian (22-2) and Bayfield (23-1).
Bayfield beat St. Mary's last week in the District Tournament.
State pool play matches will be played Friday with the semifinals and finals Saturday.
"It's so fun to play with this team," Gabriella Rifilato said.
"I've waited three years to play in the state tournament."
The wait is over.