BAYFIELD—With Alamosa looking to stop a three-match slide, it was probably appropriate that Monday night’s match in La Plata County was, more or less, three within one.
Both visiting AHS and Bayfield had already had their moments, leading to the rescheduled 3A Intermountain League action being deadlocked at two games each. But everyone inside BHS Gymnasium got to see a completely different contest in the tiebreaking fifth, one leaving the home side’s supporters—many of whom had seen Bayfield sweep the Mean Moose two days before out in the San Luis Valley—stunned.
Racing out to a 3-0 lead with freshman setter Morgan Ortega serving, BHS head coach Terene Foutz had little choice but to call for a timeout after senior standout Annie Fusco sent a short-angle shot wide, increasing Alamosa’s advantage to 6-1.
Another pause in play couldn’t slow the guests’ roll; outstanding back-row work by players like junior Avery Mobbley, senior Malia Tuioti-Mariner, junior Aani Hardesty and freshman libero Sophia Mortensen, plus intensified net play by juniors Sydney Jackson and Charlie Higham all combined to produce a 12-2 lead Bayfield would never threaten.
Hardesty would serve up the first match point at 14-3, but the Lady Wolverines managed to stay alive twice—via an Ortega netted pass and a tip shot by senior Emily Nelson—before senior Sage Killough served out of bounds, giving Alamosa a 20-25, 27-25, 25-21, 18-25, 15-5 victory.
“For our past few games we struggled—I think everybody could tell that,” said Jackson. “We just had a hunger to win; we just wanted to go out there and fight hard. I think that mentality is what drove us to do it.”
“We had a rough week last week, and my team just needed it,” head coach Annie Rice said. “We talked before the game—even had a practice after Saturday [a 19-25, 19-25, 12-25 home loss to Bayfield]—about getting back on track and being tough girls…staying together as a team. They…shut ’em down and played all-around, physical ball—what we like to play.”
Something different about AHS’ demeanor definitely showed early, with the Moose (10-6, 4-4 IML) able to stave off game point four times in Game 1, with a Jackson stuff of Fusco forcing Foutz into taking a timeout with BHS (8-7, 4-1) still leading 24-20. But after junior Mary Masias restarted play on serve, Fusco placed a winning tip into open floor.
Alamosa took charge in Game 2 and more or less held the upper hand until Bayfield drew level at 17-17. Mobbley and BHS’ Kenasea Byrd then traded points, followed by BHS’ Payton Killough and Masias doing likewise. Jackson would later block an attack to re-tie at 23-23, and the Moose first avoided game point when Higham pounded a kill to tie at 24. BHS would soon re-tie at 25-25 via a Fusco tip, but AHS would even the match via another of Higham’s 10 kills.
Payton Killough and K’lee Stuffelbeam-Jolly would combine for a block on Tuioti-Mariner (11 kills, 18 digs, 4 aces) late in Game 3, tying the score at 19-19, but Alamosa finished the session on a 6-2 run and went up 2-1 in the clash when Lady Wolverine reserve Kaydence Hunter served out of play.
Unwilling to yield inside their own house, Bayfield led Game 4 wire-to-wire after starting on a 5-1 burst which Rice attempted to arrest with an early timeout, only to then see the Lady Wolverines’ pad inflate to a comfortable 13-1. Able to rally, AHS still got no closer than 22-18 via a Tuioti-Mariner ace, before BHS claimed game point when Mobbley tipped into the net.
Ortega finished with 30 assists as Masias totaled nine kills and Mobbley seven. Ortega also came up with a dozen digs, while Hardesty logged 15 and Mortensen 13. Jackson was credited with five digs and was in on as many total blocks, a number exceeded only by Higham’s six stuffs (five solo) as AHS’ defense became match-altering.
“Definitely,” agreed Rice. “We talk about being as aggressive in the back row as we are in the front row…going for balls you don’t think you have a chance at, and pretty soon you’re getting them up. They worked their tails off, every ball.”
“It’s like the saying ‘Defense wins games’—maybe it’s a basketball saying, I don’t know, but it’s the same for volleyball.”
“You know, defense is probably the most important thing you need on a team, and I think we stepped up,” Jackson said. “I think after this it’s just ‘up’ from here; this win is going to make us strive to do our best.”
Alamosa’s schedule shows a return to action Thurs., Oct. 14, at home versus 2A Del Norte (7-8 overall), followed by—weather permitting—a trip Sat., Oct. 16, to 3A Western Slope-leading Delta.