The Lady Longhorn Volleyball Invitational has attracted some of the finest class 2A, 3A and 4A teams in the state.
Among the contingent of 18 teams participating in the tournament today (Friday) and Saturday in old PHS gym and Wilson Dome are all of the Grand Canyon Region schools.
Due to the addition of those 4A teams, traditional tournament powers Snowflake and Fountain Hills will no longer participate.
Coach Chris Schwind opted to make room for the GC schools because that is the region the Lady Longhorns will play in during the regular season.
In addition to first-year member Payson, the region is the home of Mingus, Sinagua, Coconino, Page, Flagstaff and Chinle.
In the tournament format, the teams battle today in three pools of six teams each. Pool action began at 9 a.m. and will continue until about 7:30 p.m. Games will be 25 minutes in length and feature rally scoring.
For today's play, Payson is aligned in the black pool along with Sahuarita, Holbrook, Duncan, Mingus and Sinagua. In the gold pool are Blue Ridge, Coconino, Mogollon, Chinle, Page and Pusch Ridge.
The purple pool is comprised of Flagstaff, Miami, Ganado, Safford, Piñon and Joseph City.
Lady Longhorn games today are slated for 9:30 a.m., with Holbrook; 11 a.m., with Sahuarita; 12:30 p.m., with Duncan; 2 p.m., with Sinagua; and 3:30 p.m., with Mingus.
All of the Lady Longhorns pool games will be played in Wilson Dome.
Beginning at 5 this evening, the teams will lock horns in a round robin against squads from opposing pools that finished in like positions.
For example, the three pool champions collide as do the runners-up and the bronze medalist. The fourth, fifth and sixth place finishers also play one another.
For tomorrow's tournament action, the teams will be seeded into one of two double elimination brackets. Each team's won-lost record in round robin play will be used to seed the squads.
The championship bracket will be made up of the nine teams with the best records on Friday. The remaining nine teams will be seeded in a consolation bracket.
According to Schwind, the first-day goal of the Lady Longhorns will be to earn a berth into the championship bracket.
Play in the two brackets tips off at 8 a.m. tomorrow and continues until championships in both are decided during 7 p.m. games. Should a team advance out of the loser's bracket and force an "if" game in either consolation and championship play, that finale would begin at 8 p.m.
Although Schwind will be spending much of her time serving as tournament director, she has plans to use the tournament to evaluate her players before crucial 4A region play begins Sept. 16 in Wilson Dome against Mingus.
At midweek, Schwind said she was still sorting through her roster to find the combination of players that performs best together.
The coach has several returning letter winners to build the squad around. They include Haylee Huff, Shea Hatch, Hillari Hardt, Britney Owens, Staci Scholl and Rikki Ray.
The veterans are being pushed in practice by players up from last year's jayvee squad. They include Tina Jackson, Celena Deschaaf, Retosha Marshall and Whitney Heizer. Also in the mix for playing time is newcomer Brenna Zumbro.
The tournament, Schwind said, will give all the players the opportunity to show they can be contributors on the varsity level.