The future of the Lady Longhorn volleyball teams in the state race will be decided Oct. 27 in Lakeside. There, a regular season-ending tournament will be contested to determine the East region's four seeds into the state tournament. That tournament begins one week later.
The format couldn't be any more cut and dried for the Lady Longhorns (1-6 in the East), who will probably enter the playoffs as the East's number-five finisher.
In the first round, officials have paired the four and five finishers against one another. Also, the three and six seeds will clash.
The instructions are simple the losers of those two games go home and their season is at an end.
The winners are guaranteed a berth to state and will continue tournament play, along with the top-three regular season finishers, to decide the exact East seedings to state.
The crucial regional showdown is more than a week down the road, but Lady Longhorn coach Chris Schwind is anticipating her team will probably be paired against archrival Show Low in the four-versus-five playoff game.
That possible match, Schwind said, could be a barn burner since the teams have split with one another this year and appear to be evenly matched.
A key to a Lady Horns' win and a berth to state, Schwind said, will be for the team members to play to their potential.
Since the onset of the season in late August, Schwind has contended that the team has the physical ability to play on even terms with any school in the East.
But as the campaign wore on, the team has not shown the ability to consistently put an opponent away.
"We have been on a roller coaster," Schwind said. "Sometimes we play really well and other times we don't."
An example of the team's inconsistency occurred in a 2-0 loss to Round Valley on Oct. 11 in Eagar.
Although Payson lost by 15-9 and 15-6 measures, the Lady Horns "had the opportunity to win but we couldn't finish it," Schwind said.
Just days earlier against league-leading Snowflake in Wilson Dome, the Lady Horns gave the powerful Lobos all they could handle before falling 15-10 and 15-11.
"We almost had them," Schwind said.
If the Horns are to right their state-bound ship, the team will need to continue to count on spirited play from senior outside hitter Hanna Ludwing.
"She is really contributing and improving," Schwind said.
Also crucial to a Horn playoff victory will be the play of setters Shea Hatch and Rachel Ray.
The two, Schwind said, have been performing well trying to set for a front line that includes senior transfer Jania Rodriguez.
At 5-foot, 8-inches, Rodriguez formerly of Bradshaw Mountain has been a force at the net all season long.
"She is our strongest player," Schwind said.
The frosh and jayvee
Among the underclassmen, the freshmen team which opened the season strong has hit a slump, Schwind said.
Against Snowflake, the team lost the first game (15-8), then rebounded to win the second (16-14) before dropping the rubber game (15-8).
Against Round Valley, a team the freshmen dominated in a Sept. 25 match, the Lady Horn plebes lost 15-4 and 15-5.
Coach Crystal Garvin's junior varsity netters lost to Snowflake 15-15 and 16-14 and to Round Valley 15-11 and 15-6.
Schwind also praised Terri Pete for her versatility. Pete is a junior who began the season as a middle hitter, but has been moved to the outside.
"She has really adjusted to her new position," Schwind said.
All three Lady Horn teams wrap up regular season play Oct. 23 in Show Low. Game times in SLHS gymnasium are 4:30 p.m. (frosh), 5:30 p.m. (jayvee) and 6:30 p.m. (varsity).
Last evening (Thursday), the Horns played host to the Blue Ridge Yellow Jackets in Wilson Dome. Results not available at press time.