The Lady Longhorns volleyball team made a quick exit in this past weekend's 3A state tournament held at Peoria High School.
In straight sets Friday morning, the Lady Horns were defeated by the Monument Valley Mustangs 25-20, 25-21 and 25-14. The Mustangs lost in the championship match Saturday, after winning their first two matches.
In the first game, the Lady Horns were leading 12-10, before losing six consecutive points to go down by four points.
After getting within two points, at 20-18, the Lady Horns lost the last five points.
The second game mirrored the first one, with the Lady Horns holding a three-point lead at 15-12, before losing four consecutive points.
After taking a short-lived one-point lead at 17-16, the Mustangs scored four of the last five points.
The Payson volleyball team was no match for the Monument Valley team in the third and final game, losing the first four points as well as losing nine consecutive points midway through the third game.
Coach Arnold Stonebrink said he knew his team would have to play its best to defeat the Mustangs, "and we almost did in the first two games."
Tori Wilbanks, with 31 attempts, had 12 kills and three errors for a .290 average, which Stonebrink said helped keep his team competitive through the first two games.
"I will say this for Monument Valley, they are a very good, well-disciplined team," he said. "They played very, very smart and were able to slow down our hitting game."
The Mustangs' blocking, especially in the last two games, was solid, the volleyball coach said.
Midway through the second game, with his team leading by three points, Stonebrink said he was thinking, "We can play with this team."
Stonebrink said the Mustangs picked up their defense as the match wore on, and added his team committed too many errors to defeat an experienced team like Monument Valley.
The Mustangs, he said, made very few mistakes.
The five service errors in the second game cost the Lady Horns. Take away those errors, Stonebrink said, and his team would have still been playing.
"That really, really hurt," he said. "We gave them 15 points on our errors."
He said the lopsided score of the last game was the result of Monument Valley picking up its game and defense.
"They started 4-0 and that set the tone," he said, adding members of his team were hitting hard and had several blocks.
The Payson volleyball team was geared up to stop Amber Yazzie, the North region Player of the Year, and she compensated by repeatedly tipping the ball between two Payson defenders for winners.
Monument Valley, he said, did not do anything special that his team was not expecting, and mostly played straight up defense.
He said the playoffs were a learning experience for his team, which were the co-champions of the 3A East in the regular season. The crown represented the first region title for the volleyball team in 12 years.
He said most of the players on his team are sophomores and juniors and expressed confidence that his team will be back to state next year.
However, he added, his top two players, Wilbanks, and 3A East Player of the Year, Brooke Cannon, are both seniors.
Other top players for the Lady Horns at the state tournament included Hannah Armenta who had 25 hits, nine kills and five errors for a .160 average and Cannon with two aces and several service winners.