The Lady Longhorn volleyball team will be packing their brooms to Show Low today, Tuesday, hoping for a clean sweep over the region rival Cougars.
In the first meeting of the two East foes, Sept. 20 in Wilson Dome, the Lady Horns caged the Cougars 3-0 with 25-16, 25-20 and 25-14 victories.
A match win today would result in a rare sweep of the green and gold.
But by catching the Cats in their White Mountain lair, the gnarly felines could be much tougher to collar. Especially if the Lady Horns don't play up to their potential.
Coach Arnold Stonebrink has warned the players several times this season that errors, especially those at the service line, could cost the team dearly.
Such was the case Sept. 27, in a 3-0 loss to Blue Ridge, by scores of 25-12, 25-19 and 25-9.
"We made numerous errors and against a team like Blue Ridge, which is second-rated team in the state in power points, you need a virtually error-free game," he said. "It was an old-fashioned butt-kicking."
As an example of the Lady Horns shoddy play, Stonebrink cited a first game stat in which Payson had more kills, 7-6, that the Yellow Jackets.
"That means Blue Ridge scored 19 times without a kill, many of which were errors from us.
"On the other hand, we scored just five times other than a kill, meaning Blue Ridge had virtually no errors."
Also, in the lopsided clash, Payson recorded 15 hitting errors and missed 20 percent of their serves.
"I challenged our girls to serve with a little more velocity, being willing to miss a few more serves, but Blue Ridge was expert at passing even our tough serves," Stonebrink said. ""We also had a rough time serve receiving which surprised me.
"Usually we are able to serve receive decently against them."
During an evening in which the Lady Horns were misfiring on all cylinders, much like a poorly tuned V-8, the team showed well only during the early minutes of the second game.
"Five minutes and one time out into the game, we were behind 11-0, but battled back to climb with 19-16," Stonebrink said. "But, Blue Ridge finished it."
The coach cited Desi Crom for leading the team in service winners and serving efficiently and Mollee Lee for her serve receiving.
Also, setter Cydney Figueroa drew praise for six kills in 10 attempts.
"She was the only one who gave Blue Ridge problems," Stonebrink said.
The Lady Longhorns returned to their East winning ways Oct. 2, with a 3-1 win over Alchesay. Payson won the first game, 25-12, lost the second, 25-20, then rebounded to win the final two, 25-13 and 25-16.
If there was a surprise in the match, it was the Falcons play in the second game.
"They (Alchesay) kind of sleepwalked through the first game, but in the second looked like a totally different team and caught us off guard," Stonebrink said. "They were hitting the ball well and digging like crazy.
"They must have dug Hannah Armenta 10 times and Hannah hits the ball harder than anyone I've had, expect perhaps Tori Wilbanks."
During Alchesay's spirited play, Stonebrink told assistant coach Trevor Creighton, "They're playing like a reservation team."
The coach was referring to squads like Monument Valley Ganado, Window Rock and Tuba City that excel in digging.
"Alchesay had never dug well against us, until then."
The Lady Horns responded to the challenge by minimizing their errors and countering Alchesay's digging in the second game.
In the fourth and final game, Stonebrink was able to empty his bench and give younger players valuable playing time.
Sandwiched in between the loss to Blue Ridge and the win against Alchesay was an appearance Sept. 29 in the Chino Valley Invitational.
In it, games are played to 60 points or 40 minutes, which ever comes first. "I enjoy doing that once a year," Stonebrink said.
In the fray, the Lady Horns turned in a stellar team showing winning the second place medal. Individually, Figueroa played her way to the tournament's most valuable player award.
In the tournament, Payson opened with wins over Estrella Foothill, 57-48, Camp Verde, 55-54 and Greyhills Academy, 60-36, before falling to Class 4A Mingus, 60-52.
In the tournament finale, the Lady Horns ran roughshod over Chino Valley, 60-40.
Following the fray, Stonebrink lauded Lee for serve receiving and service winners and Laci Sommars and Armenta for their kills. Jenna Robertson also drew praise for her stuffs at the net.
In the win over Chino Valley, Crom, the only sophomore on the team, dazzled the Cougars with five aces and floating serves that CV could not handle. Chelsea D'Arcangelo tacked on two aces without an error.