After playing 23 games in the recently completed Payson Invitational Tournament, the Lady Longhorn volleyball team can now look forward to a week off. The Rim country netters don't return to action until Friday and Saturday in the East Regional tournament in Lakeside.
To be hosted by Blue Ridge High School, the East tournament has attracted many of the same 18 teams that participated in the Payson showdown played Friday and Saturday in PHS gymnasium and Wilson Dome.
During the hotly contested court fray, the Lady Horns compiled an 11-12 overall record, but more importantly gained valuable experience, Lady Horn coach Chris Schwind said.
Schwind is predicting the lessons learned in last weekend's tournament will go a long way in helping the team deal with the rigors of East regional play.
"We learned a lot (in the tournament) and were able to give the girls (ample) playing time," she said. "That should help us."
Also, as a rookie head coach, the tournament gave Schwind the opportunity to evaluate her players under fire.
"One thing I learned is that we have real good depth especially with Staci (Scholl) and Brittany (Curtis)," she said. "They are utility players who can play almost anywhere on the court."
Following Friday's play which consisted of six teams battling head-to-head in three pools Schwind lauded seniors Hanna Ludwig, Brandi Waugh and Jania Rodriguez for their contributions.
An outside hitter, Ludwig was awesome, Schwind said.
The coach credited Waugh, also an outside hitter, for her defense and spirited play at the net.
Rodriguez, a recent transfer from Bradshaw Mountain, thrilled the pro-Payson crowds on hand with her hustle and enthusiasm.
"She has a great attitude and is a real team player," Schwind said.
After Saturday's play, the coach lauded Curtis for her all-around performance and middle hitter Brooke McRae for outstanding serving, blocking and hitting. At 5 foot, 10 inches, McRae gives the Lady Horns a dominating presence at the net.
Playing in the same pool with powerhouse Fountain Hills is not exactly good home cooking, but that's just what happened to the Lady Longhorns. And when the two teams met in the third round of Friday's pool play, Fountain Hills thumped the Horns 13-9 and 13-0.
Although it went down as a loss, the Horns performance in the first game was commendable, Schwind said.
"We played them tough, the score went back and forth most of the match," she said.
In the opening round of pool play, the Lady Horns struggled against East rival Blue Ridge losing 13-3 and 13-10.
Never ones to cry over spilled Gatorade, the Horns rebounded in the second round to whip Wickenburg 13-8 and 13-11.
After falling to Fountain Hills in the third match, the Lady Horns pummeled San Manuel by twin scores of 13-8.
That victory set up a showdown against Duncan, in which the winner would advance to Saturday's championship double elimination tournament. The loser was destined to fall into the consolation bracket also played Saturday.
After performing well in the 13-11 first game loss to Duncan, the Horns game plan unraveled in a second game, 13-4 defeat.
In the consolation bracket Saturday, the Lady Horns got of to a slow start, dropping a match to Show Low, 13-10 and 13-3.
Hours later, the Horns once again put on a display of true grit, recovering to defeat Alchesay 13-10 and 13-9.
In the showdown, Schwind was able to give several of her sophomore players valuable playing time. Karilyn Flake usually a jayvee team member played considerably as Schwind rested her varsity regulars including McRae.
With the win over the Falcons in the tournament books, the Lady Horns split two games with Wickenburg, winning the first 13-9 but losing the second 15-13.
Due to the dead-knot, a third game under rally scoring procedures was called for.
Playing spirited ball, the Lady Horns emerged victorious 7-5.
Little did Schwind's team know the rally playoff was only the first of three the team would participate in that afternoon.
The second playoff was needed after the Horns and Holbrook split a twin bill. Payson dropped the first game 15-8, but won the second, 15-12. In the playoff, Payson rallied for a 7-4 victory.
The win set up a showdown against longtime rival Show Low. After losing a 16-14 nail-biter to the Cougars, the Horns recovered for a 14-7 win to set up yet another playoff.
This time around, the Horns' magic evaporated in a 7-4 loss to the cats.
In the tournament championship played Saturday in the dome, Ganado defeated Fountain Hills for the invitational gold. Although she admitted fatigue after overseeing two days of whirlwind play, Schwind said the tournament went off without a hitch and will go down as a credit to the Rim country prep sports scene.