Mustangs Dump Sahaurita In Gold-Medal Finale

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Following two days of almost non-stop volleyball action in Wilson dome and the Payson High School gym, Flagstaff Sinagua edged Sahaurita for the championship of the 18-team Payson Invitational Tournament.

The Miami Vandals staked claim to third-place honors.

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Lady Longhorn setter Shea Hatch (2) sets the ball as teammates Britney Owens (3) and Rikki Ray (6) prepare for a possible return hit. Action took place in the Payson Invitational tournament held Sept. 5 and 6 in Wilson Dome.

In the tournament format, the teams battled Friday in three pools of six teams each. At the conclusion of the day's play, teams from opposing pools who had compiled the same finishes in their respective pools met in a mini-seeding tournament. The results of those games were used to seed the squads into either a consolation or championship bracket for Saturday's action.

Payson was aligned Friday in a pool with Holbrook, Sahaurita, Duncan, Sinagua and Mingus.

According to coach Chris Schwind, who also served as the tournament director, the Lady Horns found themselves in the most competitive pool.

"I randomly select teams from my knowledge of their past play," she said. " It's always a gamble, but unfortunately our pool was extremely tough. Teams from it went on to place first and second in the championship bracket and second in the consolation bracket."

The gamble in selecting pool teams by their past record, Schwind said, was that "some teams lose a lot of players (to graduation) and others don't."

During play Friday, Payson finished fourth with a 5-5 record. Sahaurita (6-4) was first, Sinagua (6-4) took second and Holbrook (5-4) was third. Trailing Payson were fifth-place Mingus (5-5) and cellar-dweller Duncan (2-6).

"Almost everyone in our pool split with one another," Schwind said.

Due to Sinagua and Sahaurita's identical pool records, the two met in a one-point playoff for the first seed.

"Holbrook, Payson and Mingus had to add up points scored during all games to break the tie," Schwind said.

In Friday's pool play, Payson split with Holbrook losing the opener 25-18 but rebounded to win the second game 14-12.

In its second match, Payson dropped a pair to Sahaurita 25-17 and 16-9. The Lady Horns lost 25-26 to Duncan, but won the second game 14-2.

Against Sinagua, Payson won the second game 18-11, but lost the first 25-12. The Lady Horns wrapped up pool action by thumping Mingus 25-20 and 26-16.

As the pool's fourth-place finisher, Payson played the fourth-place squads from the opposing two pools. Against Ganado, Payson won 25-23, but then fell 16-13. Coconino forfeited two games to the Lady Horns.

Because Payson finished fourth, Payson was seeded Saturday into the double-elimination consolation tournament rather than the championship bracket.

Against Duncan, Payson survived a 25-24 thriller, but later lost 17-18. In the third game, Payson emerged victorious 7-2.

The second round saw Coconino dump Payson 25-21 and 25-19.

Mogollon upset the Lady Horns 26-24 in the first of a three-game set. The Lady Horns came roaring back to take the final two games 25-21 and 15-13.

Against Ganado, Payson won a three-game, set losing the first 25-21, but winning the final two by 25-22 and 15-12 measures.

Payson's victory resulted in an "if" match against the Hornets. That game was needed because Ganado was the No. 1 seed and Payson the No. 2 seed in the consolation brackets.

In the finale, Payson fell 25-17 and 25-15.

Following the marathon-like showdown, Schwind praised her athletes for "playing really well on Saturday. We consistently were tough."

Individually, Staci Scholl drew praise from the coach for her "excellent all around games on Friday."

Setters Shea Hatch and Haylee Huff, Schwind said, "worked very hard and both had two great days."

Others, Schwind said, who turned in exceptional performances were Rikki Ray, Celena Deschaff and Retosha Marshall.

Brittney Owens battled through a sprained ankle to earn a position on the all-tournament team.

"She had a super tournament," Schwind said.

The Lady Longhorns spring back into tournament action tomorrow (Saturday, Sept. 13) at the Flagstaff Coconino Invitational.

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