Encouraging her charges to "play like a team and trust in each other," Lady Longhorn soccer coach Linda Gibson says upcoming rematches against Snowflake and Round Valley will test the squad's mettle.
The Lady Horns team, which sports 7-3-1 credentials, is set to visit Snowflake Oct. 6 for a 4 p.m. game. Round Valley will be at Rumsey Park Oct. 9 for a 1 p.m. encounter.
The Rim ladies own victories over both the Elks and the Lobos, having beaten RV 3-1 Sept. 1 in the season opener and Snowflake 2-1 at a Show Low tournament Sept 8.
Wins this week could hinge on the play of Payson's freshman goal Trista Carlton, who was stingy in the plays she let slip past her last week. In a 3-2 overtime loss to Show Low Sept. 29, the super-frosh stymied the Cougar offense that had 49 shots on goal but could score only twice in regulation play.
In a 4-1 victory over Chino Valley four days earlier, Carlton was once again a tough nut to crack, giving up only a single score.
In preseason practice sessions, Gibson hinted that Carlton could be an outstanding goalie but needed experience and seasoning to excel.
The youngster appears to have rounded into just what the Horn cause needed.
While Carlton has been busy on defense, the Lady Horns have relied on the scoring of both Ashley Hollobaugh and Sidney Swartwood for success.
In the win over Chino Valley, Hollobuagh and Swartwood each scored twice. Against Show Low, Hollobaugh scored both Payson goals.
The Horn scheme features Swartwood playing center halfback and Hollobaugh left wing.
In addition to praising Carlton, Swartwood and Hollobaugh, Gibson lauded the entire team for improving its all-important passing attack.
"We are passing (well), but it must improve even more," she said.
The Lady Horns originally were scheduled to participate in an invitational tournament Oct. 1 and 2 in Camp Verde. Many early-issued PHS sports schedules include that entry.
That tournament was rescheduled for Oct. 29-30, however, Gibson said. The fray will serve as a season-ending, state-type tournament for Arizona's small-school girls' teams.