A sweep of longtime nemesis, Snowflake, could be the boost the Lady Longhorns need as they prepare for a crucial four-match set against East foes.
The region clashes tip off today, Tuesday, against Alchesay in Wilson Dome and continue Sept. 21 (at Blue Ridge), Sept. 26 (at Round Valley) and Sept. 28 (vs. Show Low in Wilson Dome).
If the Lady Horns emerge victorious in at least three of the four matches, the wins would solidify their bid to finish among the East's top four teams and earn a berth into the season ending state tournament.
But before the Lady Horns can begin thinking about state, the players and coach Arnold Stonebrink might want to savor the sweet upset of the Lobos by scores of 25-12, 26-24 and 25-20.
"It was very satisfying," he said. "Not just because Snowflake is such a big rival, but also because the Lobos won our region last year and finished third at state."
Following the morale-boosting win the coach cited three reasons for the upset: First, the spirited play of backup setter Cydney Figueroa, secondly, the efforts of Hannah Armenta and Courtnay Ferkols after replacing injured libero Jade Heglie and, thirdly, the unexpected emergence of sophomore middle hitter Christina Deaton.
Figueroa, who usually is a reserve, behind starting setter Brooke Cannon, received the starting nod from Stonebrink.
"She got the start since Brooke missed the last match and tournament. So, she had to sit out the first game (because of team rules)," Stonebrink said. "I thought it would be good if we were at least competitive in the first game. Not only were we competitive, we won going away thanks to Cydney's pinpoint setting."
Among the reasons the players were in sync with a relatively new setter might have been the fact Figueroa started Sept. 9 at the Flagstaff Coconino Invitational.
Stonebrink said, the tournament allowed Figueroa and her teammates to "develop some cohesion."
Even with Figueroa playing well, the Lady Horns appeared to suffer a setback when starting libero Jade Heglie was sidelined early in the first game with a muscle pull in her leg.
"She was given treatment and later given the go ahead to return to play," Stonebrink said. "But we kept her out as a precaution."
With Heglie on the bench, Armenta and Ferkol came riding to the rescue much like the U.S. Cavalry did in movies about the Old West.
"Their back row passing, particularly that of Courtnay, enabled us to not miss a beat in the passing game," Stonebrink said, "and Hannah had no service errors in 22 attempts and led the team in service winners with 17."
Also stepping up to contribute to the Lady Horn cause was Deaton, who has been a bit of an enigma in early season.
"She has a lot of potential, but has been inconsistent due to being rough and raw in her mechanics in hitting approach and blocking footwork," Stonebrink said. "We've been working on that a lot and (against Snowflake) it finally paid off with an overpowering performance offensively and defensively."
In 17 hit attempts she chalked up seven kills without an error.
"As impressive as that was, I feel her defense was even more impressive," Stonebrink said.
For the evening, Deaton blocked 12 Lobo spike attempts, five for stuffs or points from the blocks.
Passing will pave the way
If the Lady Horns are to be successful down the region road against the likes of Alchesay, Blue Ridge and Round Valley, they'll need to keep their offense hitting on all cylinders as they did against the Lobos.
"I've found in my years as a coach that you can get away with poor hitting and still win, but it's virtually impossible to win with poor passing," Stonebrink said. "In our match against Sinagua last weekend, we hit an incredible .409 but still lost due to poor passing."
The burden of shouldering the passing load will fall upon the shoulders of Lacy Sommars, Mollee Lee, Kyja Sommars and Ferkol who all shined in the win over the Lobos.
"Their fantastic passing enabled us to run our offense," Stonebrink said.
Game times today against Alchesay are 4:30 p.m. (freshmen), 5:30 p.m. (jayvee) and 6:30 p.m. (varsity).
-- To reach Max Foster call 474-5251 ext. 114 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org