Only a heady combination of physical and mental toughness will help the Lady Longhorn volleyball team emerge unscathed from this week's demanding schedule.
First-year coach Sue Weems labels the five-day stretch -- which includes a pair of highly regarded opponents and a two-day tournament -- the team's toughest of the year.
The Horns' plight for court life begins today, Tuesday, in Fountain Hills where the team will take on an old rival from Payson's stay in the Central Division (1996-98).
The two-year rivalry that exists between the schools is compounded by the fact that the Falcons traditionally sport a high-powered team capable of blowing almost any opponent off the floor.
If the Horns can survive the Falcons onslaught, the Rim crew will have only one day of practice before hosting Snowflake in Wilson Dome Sept. 23. The game was originally scheduled to be played Sept. 18 but was rescheduled.
The match will be a replay of the Sept. 11 Payson Invitational Tournament championship game. In that for-all-the-marbles finale, Snowflake reigned in two games over a battered and fatigued Lady Horn squad that had fought its way back through the losers' bracket to reach the championship.
Snowflake is traditionally the kingpin of the East Division and the outcome of the meeting could have a substantial impact on the regular season standings.
The earlier game in Fountain Hills won't be tabulated in the division standings, but that doesn't mean there won't be a good dose of school pride on the line.
After taking on two of the 3A conference's best, Snowflake and Fountain Hills, the Lady Horns leap-frog back into court warfare Sept. 24 and 25 at the East Divisional Tournament in Holbrook.
There, the Horns will face many of the same rough-and-tumble teams they did in the Payson Invitational.
The tournament, the coach said, will test the physical conditioning of the team since a bevy of games is played over a relatively short period.
So far, so good
The Lady Horns enter this week's demanding play with a 3-0 record in East play, which is used to determine the division's seeds to the state tournament.
The Horns' trio of division wins have come by 2-0 measures over Round Valley (Sept. 7), Show Low (Sept. 14) and Alchesay (Sept. 16).
The key to victories in those games and the success in the Payson Invitational was unselfish team play, Weems said.
"It's hard to single any one (player) out," she said, "when they all have their own strengths and they all contribute."
Expected to pace the Horns the remainder of the season with their play making abilities are highly capable setters Cassie Fulp and Nikki Scholl.
At the outside hitter positions, Weems can call upon Eve Ketchem, Brandi Waugh and Brianna Marshall. Reagent Martinez and Sara Schmidt are highly capable middle hitters. At the Payson Invitational, Martinez was voted to the all-tournament team.
Sophomore Sam Ellsworth is multi-talented and can play either middle or outside hitter.