During Payson High School's short stint in the now defunct Central Division (1996-98), a strong rivalry developed between the Lady Longhorn and Fountain Hills Falcon volleyball teams.
Things heated up between the two partly because the Falcons were one of the elite of the division thriving on year-round, seasoned athletes who also played club ball.
As Central seasons wore on, the Lady Horn players learned to cherish every opportunity they had to down the high flyin' Falcons who called the plush, golf course-laden surroundings of ritzy north Scottsdale their home.
Some in the Rim country hinted there was a number of FH players and fans who might be a tad arrogant. That perception also did its share to contribute to the rivalry.
The two schools have since gone their separate ways and are no longer division foes, but that doesn't tarnish the luster of a toe-to-toe battle between the teams.
As evidenced by a nail-biting, see-saw net war played between the two Sept. 21 in Fountain Hills, the teams continue to look forward to the challenge of playing one another.
The fray opened as expected with the favored Falcons coming from behind for a 15-11 triumph.
In the second contest, the Lady Horns got their game on track with good passing and steady offense to take a 15-11 triumph. The stirring win set up a for-all-the-marbles rubber game that had fans more figity than Fife Symington's accountant.
Behind good blocking at the net and what coach Sue Weems described as "great defense that flustered a couple of Fountain Hills' strongest players," the Lady Horns rallied for a pulsating 15-11 victory.
Following the team's return to Payson, Weems praised the play of all eight on the varsity line-up.
"We are winning because each and every person is contributing," she said. "We don't have just one star, we have eight."
Like all good volleyball teams, the Lady Horns' success begins at the setter positions.
With seniors Nikki Scholl and Cassie Fulp, the Horns have two of the best in the East Division.
"They are doing a great job of controlling the offense," Weems said. "They are also two of our most consistent servers, averaging five points a game."
At the net, the Horn lineup boasts a pair of middle hitters in Rheanna Martinez and Sara Schmidt.
Martinez "is a presence in the middle," Weems said. "We actually saw a defensive player from Fountain Hills cower as she went up to hit."
In the win over Fountain, Martinez served five points in the second game and eight in the third.
Schmidt, a senior, has the primary responsibility of covering the net, but it's been her defense that has impressed the coach.
"She's played great defense on the back row," Weems said.
At the outside hitter slots, the Horns sport four talented players in Brianna Marshall, Eve Ketchem, Brandi Waugh and Samantha Ellsworth.
Only a sophomore, Ellsworth can also play middle hitter but was at her best on the outside in the victory over the Falcons.
"She played great defense," the coach said. "The Fountain Hills outside hitter never got a hit past Sam."
Like Ellsworth, Waugh is an untested sophomore but has made her share of contributions to the team cause.
"I can always count on her to come in off the bench and get the job done, whether it's passing, hitting or serving," Weems said.
Ketchem, a senior, has seen her share of prep court action but this year was asked to move to the outside hitter position.
"She is improving her defense daily and is hitting well from the outside," Weems said.
In Marshall, the Horns have an aggressive outside hitter who's best showings might be turned in later in the season, Weems said. "She is gaining more confidence each day."
The Lady Horns return to action at 7 p.m., Tuesday, when the team travels to Lakeside to take on the Blue Ridge Yellow Jackets in an East Division battle. The game will be preceded by frosh (4:30 p.m.) and jayvee (5:45 p.m.) games.