The Snowflake Lobos are one of the few teams in the Class 3A conference who have had their way with the Lady Longhorns' volleyball team.
At the Payson Invitational in early September, the Lobos whipped the Horns 2-0 in the tournament championship. Three weeks later at the East Division Tournament, Snowflake again emerged victorious with a 2-1 victory in the quarterfinals.
Frustrating as the losses are, they've also set a determined tone in the Lady Horn camp as the team awaits a rematch against the Lobos Oct. 19 in Snowflake High School gymnasium.
"We are looking forward to them," first year PHS coach Sue Weems said.
With 5-1 credentials in the East Division (7-2 overall), the upcoming clash against Snowflake sports added significance for Payson.
To stay in the hunt for a division championship, a victory over the Lobos is crucial.
If the Horns can't win in Lobo land, their only hope is that other teams in the division can derail the hard-charging Snowflake express.
A win allows the Lady Horns to decide their own fate. With a loss, their fate is in the hands of others.
What's it take?
Following the Payson tournament, Weems cited fatigue as a contributing factor in the defeat. The Lady Horns had to battle back through the loser's bracket to the championship game and had little time for rest and recuperation. Snowflake was reasonably fresh.
After the East tournament, Weems attributed the defeat to mental lapses in which the team didn't execute its offense or defense.
In the return clash, fatigue won't be a problem since it's the only match of the evening. The Horns, however, will have to be mentally sharp to pull off the upset over the talented Lobos, especially since Snowflake will own the home-court advantage.
For a victory, the Horns will call upon the talents of several seasoned players who have big game experience and shouldn't be rattled by the hostile surroundings.
Senior setters Nikki Scholl and Cassie Fulp are veterans whose responsibility it will be to run the offense. The pair have also been consistent servers as of late, and when that occurs it's an added bonus.
Another senior, Eve Ketchem, moved to the outside hitter position at the onset of the season and has made the adjustment well, Weems said.
Rheanna Martinez is a junior letter-winner who played her way to an all-tournament berth in the Payson Invitational. All season, she's been a force to deal with at the net. Her presence will give the Lobos plenty to prepare for prior to the upcoming clash.
Those veterans and a solid group of underclassmen helped the Lady Horns pave the way to the shootout in Lobo land with two recent East Division crucial victories. Sept. 28 in Lakeside, the Horns swept Blue Ridge 2-0 in 15-6 and 16-14 triumphs.
Two days later in Wilson dome, the Horns continued their winning ways, thumping East rival Holbrook 15-8 and 15-12.
In junior varsity play at Blue Ridge High School, the Lady Horns saw their record drop to 6-2 with 15-10 and 15-12 losses to the Yellow Jackets.
In the first game, Payson fell behind early 7-0 but then fought back into contention before watching the game slip away.
In both games, coach Krystal Garvin said, the players "struggled with hitting and passing from starters. The girls were not coming together as a team."
The coach cited the play of reserves Laura Hatch, Stephanie Mars and Brittany Curtiss, each of whom "played excellent off the bench with steady, consistent passing."
The goal of the team in future games, Garvin said, is to return to spirited play that led to a season-opening six-game winning streak.