The long awaited and much anticipated Payson volleyball club team is up, running and doing well.
Club Rim, which plays in the 18-years-and-under USA Volleyball Arizona league in Phoenix, turned in its most successful effort since the founding of the team two months ago, at the Grand Canyon State Games.
On Feb. 20 in Glendale, Club Rim fooled all it doubters by playing its way to the age division championship.
"That was pretty exciting," coach Donna Moore said. "The girls really came together as a team."
Club Rim, which features 12 players -- some only 15 and 16 years old -- opened pursuit of GC honors by whipping the Relentless Eagles 25-17 and 25-9.
In the second round, the Payson netters lost 2-1 to one of several Arizona Sky teams entered in the fray. Payson dropped the first game 25-13, won the second, 25-22, but fell in the rubber match 15-9.
"I was encouraging the girls to try some new things and do some fine tuning," Moore said. "I think the loss had them questioning what we were doing."
In the third round, CR rebounded to whip Club Mesa 26-24 and 25-17.
"That got a little bit of our confidence back," Moore said.
The win also seeded the Payson team into a double elimination tournament.
In the first round, the Rim Country netters took a second tournament victory over Club Mesa, winning 25-17 and 25-22.
CR continued its run through the games with 25-7 and 25-18 wins over Flagstaff.
Next up, Payson fell 28-26 and 25-20 to another Arizona Sky tournament entry.
The Rim crew later took their wrath out on Club Cactus with a 2-1 match victory. In the first game, Payson won 26-24 but dropped the second 25-20. In the third and deciding game, Payson emerged victorious 15-12.
The triumph propelled Club Rim into the championship finale against the Arizona Sky team CR had lost to earlier.
After winning the opener 25-21, the Payson express was derailed 25-20 in the second.
Down 14-12 in the deciding game, Club Rim rallied for a 16-14 victory.
"The whole crowd was in shock," Moore said. "It was rally scoring and if we made one mistake the game was over."
Payson's four consecutive points, Moore said, were a sure sign the young Payson players are gaining experience on the highly competitive club volleyball scene
Following the win, the coach cited several of the players, including Tori Wilbanks, Sara Donovan, Jade Heglie and Brittany Moore, for their spirited play.
The tournament victory elevated the Payson team from USA Volleyball Division 4 to Division 3.
"Which means we will be facing tougher competition," Moore said.
The team will continue to travel to the valley-area each weekend through June for USA play.
Also, the players and coach are set on participating in upcoming tournaments in both Reno, Nev. and San Diego, Calif.
Moore said she and the athletes are extremely grateful to all those who stepped up financially to help a club volleyball team finally become a reality in the Rim Country.
"We couldn't have done it without all the wonderful support of the community," she said.
Moore also said she is convinced playing the sport in the off season will help the Lady Longhorn team become even more formidable next season.