A 3-0 victory over the Show Low Cougars has propelled the Lady Longhorn soccer team into the postseason playoffs.
The impressive win, which was chalked up Sept. 25 at Rumsey Park, improves Payson's regional credentials to 3-0 and overall record to 5-1.
Although the team is now ensured a berth into the regional tournament when it begins Nov. 1, PHS coach Randy Wilcox isn't about to let his charges rest on their laurels.
"We have to keep our practices intense, keep improving," he said.
The key to the win over Show Low might have been the rugged after-school sessions Wilcox has put the team through.
"All of our scores came off of things we practiced and worked to improve on," he said. "We played smarter and carried out a game plan."
After battling through a scoreless first 20 minutes in which Show Low seemed to dominate, the Longhorns lit up the scoreboard on a header shot from Amy Wilcox, the coach's daughter. Wilcox's goal was set up by a corner kick off by Krista LaHaye.
In the 28th minute of play, Jenny Cohen scored off an assist from senior Megan Branstetter, to give the Lady Horns a 2-0 lead.
The two teams battled on even terms until the 60th minute when Kelsea Palace's goal pushed the Payson cushion to 3-0. A corner kick from Trista Carlton's set up Palace's goal.
Although the Lady Horn offense provided much of the spark for the win, coach Wilcox applauded the defense.
"Our goal was to hold Show Low scoreless, and they did," he said
After reviewing game stats, Wilcox named Cohen the player of the game for helping shut out the Cougar offense.
"She defended midfield play and kept feeding the ball to the forwards," Wilcox said. "When she was given a chance, she scored a goal."
About the only glitch in the Horn defense came early in the game when senior Laura Crabtree, who had been playing an aggressive hard-nosed game, went down after a collision with another player. Play was stopped while Crabtree was treated by school nurse Dani Hatch and the coaching staff. Crabtree eventually was able to walk off the field.
The Lady Horns will have the opportunity to tack on another regional win tomorrow (Wednesday) when the team plays host to Alchesay Whiteriver on the Rumsey south field. Game time is 4 p.m.
Because not every team in the region plays both a home and away game against one another, only the results of Wednesday's region games are used in the standings.
After road games against Chino Valley (Oct. 5) and Camp Verde (Oct. 8), the Lady Horns will travel to Camp Verde Oct. 11 and 12 to participate in the Cowboy Invitational Tournament. That fray has traditionally been a highlight of the Payson soccer season.
Even though the school is observing a fall break from Oct. 4 to 19, the Lady Horns won't rest. During the break, the team plays in four games and a tournament.
What makes the break even more demanding is the fact the tournament and three of the four games are on the road.