The Payson High School boys soccer team is 1-1 in conference play and gained some much needed experience last weekend at the tournament in Chino Valley.
Payson is coming off its first conference loss last week against Show Low where coach Byron Quinlan said, "We were kind of sluggish and looked tired, both mentally and physically."
Show Low scored once in the first half and made another goal in the second, clinching the 2-0 win.
"We were just really down defensively," Quinlan said.
The Horns then moved on to the tournament in Chino Valley where they won the first match against Pusch Ridge Christian from Tucson. Outstanding play was turned in by Karri Liikkanen, Quinlan said, who played tough and scored the first goal for Payson. The only other goal scored in the game was by Payson's T.J. Bryant who the coach said also had an outstanding game.
Tyson McKee also had an outstandingly strong game and tournament. "He was really one of the bright spots for Payson," the coach said.
The Horns captured the victory with a score of 2-0.
That's when things started to change for Payson as they went on to drop the next three games.
"We were just put up against some real tough teams like El Dorado from Las Vegas and Chino Valley," Quinlan said. El Dorado is a 4-A team and Chino Valley went on to win the tournament championship.
Quinlan said his team learned the mental aspects of the game from this tournament.
"They learned we could have been more aggressive and we need to come together more as a team. We try to do too much individually," he said. Quinlan said Payson still has a young inexperienced team with few returning from last year's squad.
The Horns take their 1-1 conference record on the road this week as they prepare for their third conference battle, this time against Whiteriver.