The Payson High School varsity girls volleyball team moves into a schedule that includes some of their toughest opponents of the season, but the players and coach feel the team has recently gained much needed experience that could lead them to some big wins.
Coach Sue Weems said the recent game against Fountain Hills is a good example.
"They knocked us out of the state tournament last year with hitters who are always strong," she said. "They are always a good measure of where we are as a team and how good we're doing."
The Lady Horns lost the first of a best-of-three match with Fountain Hills 15-10. Weems said lack of defense was the prime reason for the loss.
"We were really having trouble putting plays together and blocking their hitters," she said.
Payson came back in the second game showing much better communication between the players.
"We did much better at putting balls away and shutting down their hitters," Weems said. Payson clinched the win in the heated second battle with a score of 15-13.
"Sarah Meyocks played a great game defensively, as did Sam Ellsworth," she said. "We were strong all the way around defensively, but just really had a problem putting together an offense."
As a result, the Longhorns dropped the third and decisive game by a score of 8-15, thus giving the match to Fountain Hills.
Payson is now 3-3 overall and 2-1 in conference play. Payson's only conference loss went to Round Valley. The girls face more conference and nonconference play this week going up against a tough Snowflake team Thursday on the road and then on to the 3-A East Tournament in Whiteriver Friday and Saturday.
While Snowflake promises a tough challenge for the local netters, Weems said she remains optimistic.
"Snowflake lost to Blue Ridge last week, and we're setting our sights on continuing that trend," she said. "They rarely finish a season with more than one loss, so this is our opportunity to take it to them while they're down."
Likewise, the 3A East tournament should provide a valuable test for the girls as they go up against 19 other teams at the competition.
"It's another opportunity to play a lot of teams we don't normally see," Weems said. "Monument Valley will be there and they are always tough."
That team has the added threat of having no seniors on last year's team so they bring with them a superior brand of camaraderie and communication.
Tuba City will be another team at the tournament with a winning tradition and a reputation for dominance at the net.
Payson's next home game will be Tuesday against Blue Ridge. Although Payson was defeated by them in the first round of the Payson Invitational, Weems said Blue Ridge will be facing a much different squad this time around.
"We're playing much more as a team, rather than a group of individuals and we've gained a lot more experience since we played them last," she said.
The Freshman team plays at 4:30 p.m., JVs at 5:30 p.m. and the varsity squad hits the hardwood at 6:30 p.m.