Payson High School athletic director Dave Bradley has chosen Pine teacher Arnold Stonebrink to succeed Chris Schwind as the Lady Longhorn head volleyball coach.
Schwind resigned last spring after four seasons in the program -- one as a freshman coach and three as the varsity head coach. Schwind said her reason was to spend more time with her family.
"I'm going to miss it, but it's his program now," she said.
Stonebrink, a sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade teacher, is best known for coaching the Pine School Lady Buffalo volleyball team to a fourth-place finish in the Arizona State Small School tournament last fall.
In the regular season, the Buffs finished fifth in the league standings but rebounded to qualify for a state berth with a runner-up showing in the postseason league tournament.
Stonebrink's coaching resume also includes a season as the junior varsity coach in Rigby, Idaho and a season at the helm of a sophomore team in American Fork, Utah.
Stonebrink played in recreational leagues during a mission in Japan for the Mormon church.
Although he has no varsity head coaching experience, Bradley is confident Stonebrink is capable of overseeing the program which includes about 45 girls on freshman, junior varsity and varsity teams.
"He'll bring in new ideas and new strengths," Bradley said. "We think he is the one to help the team take another step toward a (regional) championship and on to state."
A BYU alumni
Stonebrink graduated in 1994 from Brigham Young University with a BA degree in education and an emphasis on journalism.
Prior to attending BYU, he was a student at Ricks College in Utah where he was the sports editor of the school newspaper.
As a first year head coach, Stonebrink's coaching philosophy will change from what it was as a middle school/junior high coach.
"There will have to be more emphasis on winning," Stonebrink said. "But that doesn't mean I will be a diehard who says the team has to win no matter how miserable the players are."
He says his goal will be "to have the players work their tails off, enjoy the game and have fun."
Returning letter winner Haylee Huff said she believes next year's team can be a good one. "We have three seniors --yself, Brittney Owens and Rikki Ray -- who have been together through high school," she said. "I think we can be really good if we work."
Building the foundation
Since being tapped the new coach, Stonebrink has directed his energies toward overseeing an off-season program that, he says, is one of the keys to having a good season next fall.
He's encouraging all potential team members to participate in the open gym program from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. each Tuesday and Thursday in Wilson Dome.
"The turnout is pretty good. We have from 15 to 17 girls," he said.
The coach had the opportunity to assess his players at the Blue Ridge Invitational June 25 and 26 in Pinetop-Lakeside.
The 30 summer teams participating were divided into five pools of six teams each for opening day round robin play.
"We finished 8-2 and in second place in our pool," Stonebrink said.
On the second day, Payson entered a round robin against all the other teams that had finished second in their pool.
"We were 3-5 against some good teams," Stonebrink said.
The team's showing in pool play earned Payson an eighth-place seed in a double elimination tournament that included the top 15 teams from the round robins.
In the opener, Payson dropped a match to No. 9 seeded Thatcher.
In the loser's bracket, Payson locked horns with an old rival from the Longhorns years in the Class 3A East region -- the Round Valley Elks.
After winning the first game against the three-seeded Elks, Payson lost 14-13 and 11-10.
The loss eliminated Payson from the tournament.
Although the team was without two starters from last year -- Owens and Huff --tonebrink praised his young athletes for their spirited play.
In the absence of Huff, sophomore Brooke Cannon filled in at setter.
"She did a fantastic job," Stonebrink said.
Cannon's performance was impressive enough to have the new coach toying with the idea of going to a two-setter offense next season so he could have both Huff and Cannon on the floor at the same time.
In addition to the summer camp and open gym, Stonebrink will hook up with the Payson Parks and Recreation Department to host a youth volleyball camp July 6 to July 9 that is open to prospective players entering grades six through nine. Sessions will be held each day from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. in Wilson Dome. The fee is $35 and registration may be completed at the parks office at Green Valley Park.
For more information on the camp, call (928) 474-5242, ext. 7.