Volleyball: Could This Be It?

Five-match winning streak has fans on edge of seats

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Is the 2006 Lady Longhorn volleyball team as good as the Steve Konvalin-coached group that won the 1994 East region championship?

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Senior setter Brook Cannon (right) drew praise from Lady Longhorn coach Arnold Stonebrink for her outstanding play in a 3-2 win over the Blue Ridge Yellow Jackets. Cannon is shown leading her teammates in a rally cheer.

That's the question being asked by longtime volleyball fans in light of the Lady Horns recent success, which includes a five-match winning streak.

The streak is particularly impressive in that it includes victories over state powers Snowflake, Fountain Hills and Blue Ridge.

Last year, the Lady Horns were 0-8 against those teams and sometimes seemed to be intimidated by the opposition.

That might not be the case this year.

Coach Arnold Stonebrink is convinced the current team is not about to take a back seat to those powers.

"These girls are tough mentally and I felt that was as much a factor (in the victories) as was their physical talent," he said.

With the 3-2 win over Blue Ridge Sept. 21 in Lakeside, the Lady Horns improved their overall record to 24-9 and their East region mark to 3-1.

Jackets stung

The Lady Horns were on fire at the beginning, throttling the frustrated Yellow Jackets twice by identical scores of 25-21.

The Jackets rallied to win the next two games, 24-23 and 25-15, to set up a crucial match-deciding game.

"The fifth game was one of those classic side-out, side-out affairs, with each team's strong serve receiving and hitting taking over," Stonebrink said. "If rally scoring hadn't been in effect, we'd still be playing."

Although the Jackets took the lead early, the Lady Horns were able to stay within one or two points.

"We finally made a mini run to overcome a 12-10 deficit and tie it 12-12," Stonebrink said. "Side-outs continued to prevail, and with match points looming over our heads, 13-14 and 14-15 Courtnay (Ferkol) and Tori (Wilbanks) passed Yellow Jacket serves that led to kills by Hannah (Armenta) and Tori to keep us alive."

With the score tied 15-15, Chelsea D'Arcangelo -- a jayvee player recently brought up to varsity -- stepped in to serve.

"Chelsea coolly served a couple of top-spin serves that dropped," Stonebrink said. "The Yellow Jackets were only able to return free balls off of them.

"That enabled Hannah to spike back at them -- her kill and a Blue Ridge error resulted in the two-point win."

Following the game, the coach cited the play of senior setter Brooke Cannon as a huge contributor to the victory.

"She had a fabulous game of setting as evidenced by all of our hitters having positive stats," he said.

He also lauded Wilbanks for her play at the net, "She led the team in kills with 24."

Armenta contributed nine kills, Jenna Robertson had eight and Laci Sommars contributed four.

Defensively, sophomore Chris Deaton chalked up eight blocks -- three of which were stuffs.

The Longhorns returned to action last evening (Thursday) against Show Low in Wilson Dome (results not available at press time).

If the Lady Horns caged the visiting Cougars, the team would achieve Stonebrink's goal of having a 5-1 region record at the halfway point of the season.

Prior to the match, the coach was confident his Lady Horns could emerge with a win.

"Knocking off Snowflake and Blue Ridge in successive weeks was a great confidence booster for the girls and another step up in the development of the volleyball program," he said.

-- To reach Max Foster call

474-5251 ext. 114 or e-mail

mfoster@payson.com.

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