After whipping the Wickenburg Wranglers 15-13 and 15-13 in the opening round of the Arizona State Class 3A volleyball playoffs Friday in Eagar, the Lady Longhorns - plagued by inconsistency all year long - were eliminated in quarterfinal action later the same day by Monument Valley 15-17, 15-8 and 15-7.
Coach Steve Konvalin said at game's end he believed the Lady Horns were the better of the two teams and should have emerged victorious.
"It's frustrating to go to the big game and not play to our potential - it's something to work on for next year," he said.
Despite the loss, the Horns can revel in the fact that they are the first PHS volleyball team to win a state tournament game and the first to win a divisional tournament.
The upset tournament victory occurred Oct. 30 and 31 in Wilson Dome. The run to the crown opened with 15-4 and 15-4 wins over the Globe Tigers. In the second match against regular season Central co-champion Miami, the Horns and Vandals spilt the first two games by identical 15-13 scores. In the all-important third game, the Horns rallied for a 15-13 victory.
The wins lifted the Lady Horns into the tournament championship against potent Fountain Hills. After losing the first game 15-10, the Horns put together 15-10 and 15-13 victories to earn the championship.
With the tournament triumph, Payson entered the state shoot-out as the Central's No. 1 seed.
"Overall it was a great season and was fun to have so much talent," Konvalin said. "I hope when the girls look back, they'll think about all the great things they accomplished and not our last match.
"They are a bunch of great girls."
Konvalin also had words of praise for moms and pops.
"I appreciated all the parent support the girls received."
For five seniors on the team, the loss to Monument Valley was their last volleyball game as a Lady Longhorn.
Set to graduate in the spring are Miranda Garrett, Joy Stidham, Heather Branstetter, Angela Estabrook and Stephanie Robertson.
Those seniors are eligible to participate in one final prep game - the annual coaches association all-star match. Coaches meet Dec. 7 to vote on the athletes who will participate.
A date for the Horns' final award ceremony has not yet been set, Konvalin said. One of the highlights of that event will be the naming of the players chosen to the All-Central Division team.
That team is also selected in a voting of coaches.