Lady Longhorn volleyball coach Chris Schwind found out firsthand last week that Payson's move to the 4A conference from 3A does indeed create travel problems as most PHS coaches had anticipated.
The difficulties Schwind and her players encountered occurred Sept 2 during a season-opening visit to Glendale Independence High School.
"After traveling down to 108-degree heat on a bus with no air conditioning and arriving in a gym with evaporative coolers only, we did considerably well for having heat stroke," Schwind said.
Ironically, when Payson moved to 4A circles it was not the searing desert heat that most coaches thought would create travel problems. Rather, it was widely believed the difficulties would occur during the winter sports when basketball and wrestling teams would be forced to battle snow and poor driving conditions over Lake Mary Road to the Flagstaff high schools.
Fortunately for Schwind and her charges, the team has only one regular season game remaining in the Valley. Sept. 25, when desert temperatures should cool a bit, the Lady Horns visit Buckeye for freshman (4 p.m.), jayvee (5 p.m.) and varsity (6 p.m.) games.
In the Lady Horns opener against Independence, the teams battled in a new scoring format that was passed down last year from the National High School Athletic Association.
"We now play three out of five games to 25 (points)," Schwind said.
After losing the first game 25-21, the Lady Horns roared back to win the final three by tallies of 25-16, 25-19 and 25-20.
"We played pretty well," Schwind said. "We had a lot of first-game jitters and had some mental errors with our serving and were called for being out of rotation a few times."
In the win, the coach praised the play of Hillari Hardt and Brenna Zumbro.
"Hillari had an outstanding game on the net and Brenna played a great back row and had a streak of winning serves," she said.
In underclass action, the freshmen and jayvee teams both won their matches by 2-1 measures.
The jayvees emerged victorious 25-21 and 25-22 behind the efforts of setter Megan Miles and hitter Jadyn Walden.
"They led the team," Schwind said.
The following evening, the Lady Horns made their home debut in Wilson dome against the Apache Junction Prospectors. After losing the first game 25-21, Payson recovered to post a 25-14 victory. The Prospectors, however, staked claim to the match by winning the final two games 25-21 and 25-14.
"The girls played competitively the whole night," Schwind said. "But by the fourth and final game, the previous night's games and travel affected our play. We lost our physical and mental edge."
The Lady Horns' late lapse in the over two-hour match could result in additional conditioning for the players.
"It showed us we need to work harder at conditioning in the middle of practices," Schwind said.
Although the team dropped the hard-fought match, the coach expressed satisfaction with the efforts.
"I was very pleased with their performance," she said. "The serving and the intensity was exceptional. We played really hard."
Britney Owens led the team in hitting with eight kills. Staci Scholl finished with seven kills and Rikki Ray had four.
In junior varsity action, freshmen Brooke Cannon and Tori Wilbanks led the team to of 25-21 and 25-22 victories.
The Lady Longhorn varsity returns to action Sept 13 at the Flagstaff Coconino Invitational Tournament.