A pair of Payson High School volleyball teams offered up hints of good things to come with stellar performances in the Miami Invitational tournament.
The B team, coached by Lady Longhorn junior varsity coach Judy Perham, played its way to the tournament's championship bracket and the A squad finished tied for third in the field of 18 teams.
Because a record number of 18 girls were participating, varsity coach Arnold Stonebrink divided the girls into two teams, so all could receive more playing time.
The showing of the young B squad delighted both Perham and Stonebrink.
"They did something no Payson B has done in the four summers I've coached here -- made it to the championship bracket, instead of being relegated to the consolation bracket," Stonebrink said.
Rendering the feat more impressive was that the team was comprised mostly of underclassmen with little high school experience.
"None of the players were of a higher grade than sophomore and five were freshmen," Stonebrink said.
While the B players were proving their wares, the A squad was adjusting to the loss of last season's standouts Brooke Cannon, Tory Wilbanks and Jade Heglie. All three graduated with the class of 2007.
"The girls proved that there is life after (the loss of the three graduates)," Stonebrink said. "The tournament was a great showcase for what Payson volleyball will be this year."
During the first day of the tournament, which was conducted in pool play, Payson finished 6-0, defeating Miami B, Safford B and Fountain Hills.
The clash against Fountain Hills, a traditional power in prep volleyball circles, was especially grueling with the Lady Horns winning 21-20 and 21-18 thrillers.
"The first game, we had a seemingly commanding 20-14 lead, but the Falcons sent up a server who went on a run and we had difficulty passing (against) her."
Finally, at game point for both teams, 20-20, Mollee Lee scored the winning point on a kill.
Also, Jenna Robertson led play at the net, with eight kills. Rose Hardt had four kills and seven service winners.
The first-place finish in opening day pool play earned the team a berth in cross-pool action against other pool winners.
"We took our lumps there," Stonebrink said. "We lost all three games -- 21-19 to Florence A, 21-17 to Miami alumni and 21-13 to Safford.
"There were a few bright spots against Florence. (Segan) Cline registered four aces and also had perfect serve receiving."
Robertson drew praise from Stonebrink for her standout hitting against the Miami alumni.
In the single-elimination tournament play that followed pool and cross-pool action, Payson locked horns for a second time with Fountain Hills. In the opening game, Payson fell 27-25, but later rallied to win the second game, 25-23.
In the crucial rubber game, Payson prevailed 15-11.
That win set up an appearance in the semifinals against the Miami alumni.
The Rim summer squad dropped the first game, 25-13, won the second, 25-14, but fell in the crucial third game, 15-9. The loss eliminated PHS from the tournament.
Following the team's return to the Rim Country, Perham predicted a bright future.
"Things are looking very promising for the upcoming season," she said.
Stonebrink returned lauding the play of Robertson.
"Her nine stuffs in the tournament should give Longhorn fans a portent of things to come," he said. "Her .464 hitting and 37 kills led Payson."
Lee contributed 22 kills and Cydney Figueroa, who replaced Cannon as the team's setter, hit at a .476 mark and tallied 12 aces to lead the serving attack.
Stonebrink also praised the serving of Chelsey Copstick and the passing of Cline.
Next up for the summer net squad is the Blue Ridge tournament to be played June 30 in Lakeside and the Excel position game July 20-21 in Glendale.
Also on the agenda is a Northern Arizona University-sponsored camp July 23-27 in Wilson Dome.
To register for the camp, which is open to girls entering grades four through 12, visit www.lumberjackvbcamps.com.