For the Lady Longhorn volleyball team to earn a berth to the state tournament, the team must win at least a top-two finish at the 4A Grand Canyon regional tournament Oct. 28 and Nov. 1 at Flagstaff Coconino.
Grand Canyon teams also can earn a berth to state by winning the regular season regional championship, but that appears to be unattainable for the Lady Horns.
The regional title will probably go to 4A second-ranked Coconino or seventh-rated Flagstaff.
The Lady Horns might be out of the title chase, but the team does have an impressive early season win over Flagstaff to its credit. Sept. 18 in Wilson dome, Payson clipped the Eagles in a four-game match 3-1.
Coach Chris Schwind said the upset victory was a solid proof the Lady Longhorns can be contenders, "as long as we show up to play."
Following the triumph over the Eagles, the Horns traveled to Flagstaff Sept. 23 to take on homestanding Sinagua.
Unfortunately, the results of the three-game match were not what Schwind had hoped for. Payson lost the three game set, 25-20, 25-20 and 25-17.
"We had several players lose their focus before the match even began," Schwind said. "It was a day of skipping classes, forgetting shoes, eye problems and sick players."
With only eight varsity players making the trip, "we were not mentally focused or prepared," Schwind said.
Although the varsity returned winless, the freshman and jayvees were able to emerge unscathed. The junior varsity won 28-26 and 25-23. The freshmen took a pair of games by identical 25-17 tallies.
The Lady Horns' volleyball express steamed on track Sept. 25 in Buckeye with a 3-2 win over the Hawks.
After losing the opener 25-22, the Horns won 25-23 and 25-18. In the fourth game, Payson fell 26-25 to set up an all-important rubber game.
Riding the crest of spirited play, Payson won the finale 17-15.
Following the win, Schwind praised junior outside hitter Rikki Ray for her contributions.
"She had an outstanding game with 14 kills and four serving aces," she said.
The coach also said Buckeye was "a very scrappy team that picked up most everything we sent over to them."
Schwind attributed the victory to the team's mistake-free play.
"Our team goal was to limit our unforced errors," she said. "We were consistently able to do (that) and pull the games out."
In junior varsity action against Buckeye, Payson lost back-to-back clashes 26-24 and 25-23.
Coach Trevor Creighton's freshmen won 25-21 and 25-15.