The Lady Longhorn soccer practice Jan. 8 included a special guest: Paradise Valley Community College coach Amy Gerelick.
Only a day earlier, the PVCC coach visited Moon Valley High School where she watched the Lady Horns drop a 2-0 decision to the homestanding Rockets. PHS coach Randy Wilcox spotted Gerelick in the crowd and invited her to the Lady Horns' next practice.
Gerelick, who expressed interest in having senior Amy Wilcox play for the college next year, accepted coach Wilcox's invitation.
Gerelick told the Payson team members that they had played a good second half against Moon Valley. Her suggestions to improve the team were to finish off their shots in a more precise fashion and to be more aggressive in attacking the offensive third of the field.
Throughout the two-hour practice, the PVCC coach put the young players through drills designed to perfect their offensive and defensive skills.
Wilcox said he appreciated Gerelick's willingness to travel to the Rim country and lend her coaching expertise.
"All of us are grateful to her," he said. "She really knows the game."
Team shorthanded against Rockets
In the loss to Moon Valley, the Lady Horns (6-4-1) were without the services of three starters who played huge roles in the team's early season success.
Krista LaHaye is out for the season with a knee injury that will require surgery, she said. Lori Shepherd quit the team to enroll in an after-school college class and Jenny Cohen was sidelined with an ankle injury.
Without the trio, coach Wilcox was forced to start two varsity substitutes and a jayvee player.
Battling with a makeshift roster that hadn't played together all season didn't hamper the Lady Horns' efforts in the second half.
After being outshot 17-1 in the first half and giving up two goals, Payson rallied to outshoot the Rockets 11-5 in the second half.
"We outplayed them, but we just couldn't score," Wilcox said. "After that miserable first half, we could have hung our heads but we didn't."
The coach said his players turned in an excellent defensive effort.
"Moon Valley is a pretty good team and we held them to two goals," he said. "That's not too bad."
Due to dwindling roster numbers and the fact that Wilcox had to call up jayvee players to varsity, the coach was forced last week to cancel the remainder of the junior varsity season. He said it was a difficult decision, but the Lady Horns simply didn't have enough players to continue the junior varsity season.
Wilcox said he was concerned that the varsity wouldn't have enough players to travel Jan. 17 to Page for a Grand Canyon clash against the Dust Devils. Several of the Lady Horn players will be gone that weekend participating in a school-sponsored ski trip.
"It looks like we'll only have about nine players that day," he said.
The Lady Horns return to action at 3 p.m. tomorrow (Wednesday) at Rumsey Park against Flagstaff Sinagua. Since the showdown is a Class 4A Grand Canyon regional game, the stakes are high for both teams.
A victory would be a step toward earning a top-two regular-season finish and a first-round bye in the regional tournament Jan. 26 in Flagstaff.
The top three teams in the regional tournament will be awarded berths to the state tournament Feb. 3.