The Lady Longhorn soccer team travels to the Higley Invitational tournament Friday with two early season clashes under their belts. The tournament continues Saturday at Higley High School.
In the season opener Nov. 29 in Scottsdale, the Lady Horns ran roughshod over Coronado 13-0.
Just two days later, Payson struggled in a 2-0 loss to Chandler Basha. Although the game goes down in the record books as a loss, first-year coach Joe Schmidt said the clash served as an excellent tune-up for the competition Payson will meet in Higley.
"This is a good one to have before Higley," he said. "We played well and learned a lot about our defense as we spent 80 percent of the game on our defensive half of the field."
The coach praised Basha, which will be a 5A school next year, as a team that "is very quick to the ball with good skills at every position."
In the loss, Schmidt lauded the effort of the players and cited them for "raising their game to a higher level" against a quality opponent like Basha.
Jessica Coleman and Lauren Stewart drew plaudits for "playing exceptionally well."
Against a woeful Coronado team, the Lady Horn defense was rarely tested and the offense was usually spinning along in high gear.
"Our goalkeeper never touched the ball and six different players scored," Schmidt said.
Kelsea Palace, a returning veteran from last year's team coached by Randy Wilcox, led the scoring parade with four goals. Coleman finished with three and the sister combination of Michelle and Lori Wing tallied two goals each. Katie Plumb and Mary James had one goal each.
Schmidt cited the game as "a good warm up in which everyone got to play every position."
In the second half, with the win assured, the Payson High School players worked on communicating, ball control and passing, Schmidt said.
Following the tournament in Higley, the Lady Horns return to Rumsey Park at 1 p.m. Dec. 14 for a clash against Pinnacle.