Lady Longhorns Net Postseason Honors

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The Lady Longhorn volleyball team might have pulled off the upset of the season when it had three members earn All-East first team honors.

Most squads, which finish third in the season-ending standings, as the Lady Horns did, have one or possibly two players, named to the region first team.

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The Lady Longhorn volleyball team, led by five players who earned all-region honors, finished third in the East region standings and advanced to state before being eliminated in the first round by Sahuarita.

The first team spots usually are doled out to players on the region champion and runner-up teams.

But in a voting of East coaches held at the conclusion of the campaign, Brooke Cannon, Sarah Donovan and Brittany Moore were named first team, out-polling some athletes from East champ Snowflake and silver medalist Blue Ridge.

In addition to the first team players, Payson's Ashley Anesin and Tori Wilbanks earned honorable mention laurels.

Cannon, a 5-foot, 9-inch, junior setter, opened the season as one of just three returning letter winners.

As a sophomore in 2004, Cannon had earned plenty of playing time and the past season used the experience to run the team from the floor.

In coach Arnold Stonebrink's offensive schemes, she was the quarterback who pulled the trigger on each execution.

Cannon might have been at her playing best Oct. 1 at the Cougar Invitational in Chino Valley.

There, Cannon led the team with 60 service winners and a team-leading .483 hitting efficiency mark.

In a tournament win over the Mingus Marauders, Cannon finished with a whopping 16 service winners.

Donovan, a 5-foot, 11-inch senior middle hitter, who has turned her attention to club volleyball now that the prep season has ended, was also a returning letter winner at the onset of the season.

At the time, Stonebrink predicted the Lady Horns needed leadership from Donovan for the team to be successful

Throughout the season, Donovan was a team leader in blocks for points and kills. At the Cougar Invitational, Donovan and Wilbanks became a lethal one-two punch, combining for 68 kills.

In a crucial late-season region win over Holbrook, Donovan led the Lady Horn charge at the net with three blocks for points that stymied every Roadrunner rally effort.

At the Payson Invitational, Donovan's stellar play earned her a spot on the all-tournament team.

Moore, a 5-foot, 3-inch senior, arrived on the Rim Country volleyball scene an unknown, having played the last few seasons for the Safford Bulldogs.

Her arrival in Payson coincided with a high school rule change that allowed the prep team to use a "libero" or designated back-row player.

The new position, which emphasized defense, seemed a perfect fit for Moore, who excelled at digging and passing.

"She really solidified our back row," Stonebrink said.

Most of the season she, Anesin and Jade Heglie led the Lady Horns in serve receiving and passing.

For Anesin, her finest moments of the season might have been in a game against Holbrook after the Lady Horns had fallen behind 9-2 and were struggling for some resemblance of an offense.

Payson eventually rallied to tie up the game at 11-11 and then relied on the deadly serving of the 5-foot-10-inch senior to nail down the victory.

"She went on an enormous service run that sealed the win for us," Stonebrink said.

Anesin's streak included dishing up nine straight service winners. Her 12-service winner in the two games was a team-best.

"In just 15 serves, she had five aces and no errors," Stonebrink said after the win.

Wilbanks, who will join Donovan and Moore on an inaugural Payson club volleyball team, was one of the most athletic outside hitters in East region volleyball.

In a state tournament loss to Sahuarita, Wilbanks' team-leading six kills kept the Horns in contention. She finished the season as the Lady Horn leader in hitting efficiency with a .214 average.

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