The loss of three players has slowed the Lady Longhorn volleyball express to a crawl.
Two of those team members, Retosha Marshall and Tina Jackson, have been sidelined by ankle injuries. The other player, promising newcomer Brenna Zumbro, had to quit the team due to a schedule conflict with the Phoenix-area fast-pitch softball team on which she plays.
"Her club team switched to a new schedule and it now interferes with volleyball," PHS coach Chris Schwind said. "We will miss her. She would have been a strong asset to our team."
With the trio of athletes out of the lineup, the Lady Horns struggled at the Coconino Invitational Sept. 13 in Flagstaff.
In opening round pool play, the Lady Longhorns dropped six consecutive games.
Against Sinagua, Payson lost 25-10 and 25-19. In the second match of the pool, the Lady Horns fell to Tucson Sabino 25-8 and 25-19.
In the third round, Payson lost to Chino Valley 25-19 and 25-17.
Although Payson was probably aligned in the toughest of the tournament's three pools of four teams each, Schwind wasn't ready to concede stiff competition as an excuse for the losses.
"The girls were not ready to play -- lack of communication was a major factor," she said. "I was disappointed in our effort during pool play."
The results of pool play were used to seed the 12 tournaments into a double elimination tournament that was contested during the late afternoon hours.
"Because of our (winless) record, we were seeded 12th," Schwind said. "We took a one-hour break and then the girls seemed to come to life; they played with much more intensity."
In the opening match, which consisted of just one game, the Lady Horns dumped Chinle 25-19.
In the second match, Payson opened with a 26-24 win over Flagstaff but then dropped a narrow 25-22 decision. Flagstaff claimed the match win with a 15-8 victory in the rubber game.
The Lady Horns performance against Flagstaff was exceptional, Schwind said. "We beat them in the first game and almost had them in the second."
Relegated to the loser's bracket by the loss to Flagstaff, Payson rebounded to beat Mingus 25-17 and Camp Verde 25-22. A 25-19 loss to Kingman eliminated the team from further play.
Schwind praised Haylee Huff for her standout efforts. Huff normally plays the setter position.
"We had a great tournament," the coach said. "Because of the injured players, she played front row as a hitter and blocker. She really did a great job."
The Lady Longhorns vs. Flagstaff match originally scheduled to be played yesterday (Thursday) in Wilson dome was moved at the last minute to Flagstaff. Also a schedule change has the Eagles traveling to Payson for 6 p.m. game Oct. 14
In regular season non-regional play Sept. 11 in Wilson dome, the Lady Horns dropped a four-game match to visiting Thunderbird.
The north Phoenix school opened with 25-14 and 25-18 victories. The Lady Horns salvaged a third-game victory 25-21 before losing the fourth and final game 26-24.
In searching for clues to the defeat, the coach said the loss could be attributed to the team's failure to execute the fundamentals.
"We were not moving, hustling to the ball or communicating" Schwind said. "It appeared that we came out scared and then halfway through the match realized that we could beat this team."
The key to correcting those errors, Schwind said was to come out faster and stronger and not get behind.
In junior varsity action against Thunderbird, Payson won the first game 27-25, but lost back-to-back 25-23 and 25-11 decisions. The freshman sandwiched a 25-23 victory between two losses by 25-21 and 15-10 scores.