The Lady Longhorn volleyball team's performance in the 3A East regional tournament wasn't the stuff first-year coach Chris Schwind had her sights set on.
During the 18-team fray Sept. 14 and 15 at Blue Ridge High School in Lakeside, the Payson girls struggled through opening day pool play finishing with a 4-6 record and in fourth place among the six teams.
Then, paired against fourth-place finishers from the other two tournament pools, the Lady Horns dropped back-to-back matches to Winslow and St. Johns.
The second day, seeded into a double-elimination tournament, the Horns once again lost consecutive matches. Those defeats sent the team packing back to Payson and left Schwind struggling to find ways to help the team regain its winning ways.
The players, she said, have the physical ability to be competitive but can't seem to work through some mental aspects of the game.
"We also need someone to step up and become a team leader," the coach said.
With crucial East games coming up, it is critical the team iron out the deficiencies and continue to work toward the Lady Horns' preseason goal of earning a berth in the state tournament, Schwind said.
To reach state, the Lady Horns must finish among the top four in the final standings of the seven-team region.
In preseason, Schwind tapped Snowflake, Show Low, Round Valley and Blue Ridge as the schools her team will need to beat to qualify for postseason play.
Meet BR early
At the East tournament, the Lady Horns received a sneak preview of Blue Ridge when they met the Yellow Jackets in the first round of pool play.
The first game saw the two longtime rivals battle on even terms before BR salvaged an 11-10 win.
"That was one of our better games," Schwind said.
But in the second showdown, the Lady Horns lost 11-1.
In the second go-around, the Horns whipped Show Low 11-2 but then lost 11-8.
Against Hopi in the third round, the Lady Horns swept the twin bill 11-1 and 11-0.
In remaining pool play, Payson lost to Window Rock (11-4, 11-1) and split with Chandler Seton, losing the first 11-7, but winning the second 11-9.
At the conclusion of pool play, the tournament director paired the fourth-place finishing teams in each of the three pools against one another.
Pitted against Winslow, the Horns lost 11-5 and 11-7. Battling the other fourth-place team, St. Johns, Payson succumbed 11-4 and 11-7.
Saturday, the frustrated Lady Horns returned to Blue Ridge gymnasium for a double elimination tournament.
Unfortunately, it was two-and-out for the Lady Horns. Heber Mogollon sent Payson to the losers' bracket 11-4 and 11-0.
Facing elimination, Payson lost 11-8 and 11-7 to Seton.
Although the team lost to the Chandler school, Schwind said the team played well after an exhausting two days of almost nonstop activity.
The coach also cited 5-foot, 8-inch middle hitter Jania Rodriguez for her contributions to the team.
"Jania played her heart out," the coach said.
The Lady Horns were in action last night (Thursday) in Snowflake (results not available at press time).
Next up for the team is a nonregional showdown Sept. 24 in Sedona. Game times are 4 p.m. (freshman), 5 p.m. (jayvee) and 6 p.m. (varsity).