The Lady Longhorn volleyball team tipped off the 2006 campaign with a workman-like 3-0 match win over the Globe Tigers.
In the nonregion court clash played Aug. 29 in Wilson Dome, the Lady Horns left little doubt which was the superior team, beating the Copper City crew 25-18, 25-12 and 25-17.
Coach Arnold Stonebrink admitted he was concerned prior to the match mostly because it was a season opener and he wasn't sure how his newcomers would respond.
"Even though we have the youngest team ever, they did not seem nervous or intimidated and came out very strong," he said. "Globe isn't one of the stronger teams we will face this season, so I thought it was a nice tuneup."
Payson did open on a shaky note committing several ill-advised passes that resulted in Globe taking an 8-4 lead.
"But then Kyja Sommars stepped to the line and served about six or seven straight winners," Stonebrink said.
Once the Lady Horns forged to the front, they never relinquished the lead.
"There wasn't much drama the rest of the evening, the girls took care of business from that point," Stonebrink said.
If there was a high point in the win, it was the much-improved passing the Lady Horns showcased.
"I was especially pleased with (our passing)," Stonebrink said. "I knew coming in that they would be strong at the net, but passing was still a question.
"But their passing and serve receiving rivaled any game we played last year."
Jade Heglie led the rock-solid passing attack and was named -- at the conclusion of the clash -- the MVP of the match.
Courtnay Ferkol also turned in a good passing effort and at the serving line led the team in aces with three.
The serving game, however, had its ups and downs.
"Serving was really hot and cold," Stonebrink said. "We had 13 service errors, but we also racked up 14 aces, so when they were in, they were very effective service."
The coach cited Mollee Lee and Hannah Armenta for chipping in with Ferkol to lead the Lady Horns at the serving line.
Senior outside hitter Tori Wilbanks led the team in kills with 10, most of them of the monster variety that sent opponents scrambling to avoid receiving a volleyball sandwich.
Sophomore middle hitter Jenna Robertson swatted eight kills during the evening.
Setting the two up in the first two games was setter Brook Cannon.
In the third game, Stonebrink replaced her with sophomore Cydney Figueroa who picked up valuable varsity playing experience.
"She did a splendid job of orchestrating the team's offense," Stonebrink said.
In freshman play, the rookies were thumped the first game, 25-7, but rebounded to win the second game 26-24. In the rubber match, the frosh survived a thriller 15-13.
The junior varsity, won the first game 25-19, lost the second 25-22 and the third 15-8.
The Lady Horns return to action today, Sept. 5, against Estrella Foothills. Match times are 4 p.m. (frosh), 5 p.m. (jayvee) and 6 p.m. (varsity).