Mike Loutzenheiser might have said it best, "When you beat Snowflake in anything, even kindergarten tiddlywinks, it's great."
The former Longhorn football and basketball coach was speaking from years of experience.
As a student-athlete PHS in the 1980s, Loutzenheiser and his teammates went head to head against the Lobos many times, including a heartbreaking 7-0 loss to Snowflake in the 1986 state football championship.
As a football and basketball coach at Rim Country Middle and later at Payson High School, Loutzenheiser continued to lead local teams into the rivalry against the heralded Lobos.
Loutzenheiser's perspective on the PHS vs. Snowflake enmity renders the Lady Longhorn volleyball team thrilling 3-2 upset of the Lobos a rousing success.
In the all-important East region row, played Oct. 4 in Wilson Dome, the Lady Horns lost the first game 25-22, rebounded to win the second 25-23, but lost the third 26-24. In the fourth, Payson stayed alive with a 25-21 triumph.
A 16-14 nail-biting win in the rubber match lifted PHS to the rousing victory.
"It was a big win for us," coach Arnold Stonebrink said. "Snowflake had beaten Blue Ridge in Lakeside just two days previously, in another five-game match."
Snowflake also entered the match against Payson on a five-game winning streak.
Only a meow; no roar from the cats
Only five days after the upset of Snowflake, the Lady Longhorns traveled to Show Low for another crucial East showdown.
Rising to the challenge of remaining in contention for the region title, Payson swept the Cougars 25-17, 25-19 and 25-5.
The win lifted the Lady Longhorns' regular season match record to 9-3 and region credentials to 4-2.
On the same evening Payson was thumping Show Low, Snowflake dropped Round Valley from the unbeaten ranks by winning three straight games.
Which means, Round Valley is alone in first in the regional standings at 5-1. Snowflake, Blue Ridge and Payson are tied for second with 3-2 slates.
"The girls are playing well," Stonebrink said, "I told them to focus on two things -- playing smart and limiting silly mental errors.
"Other than serving in the first two games, they did exactly that. Hopefully, the girls will keep up that level of volleyball.
In besting Show Low, a team suffering through a down year, the Lady Horns "methodically went about their business," Stonebrink said. "They hit, passed, set and played defense well."
About the only shortcoming PHS suffered early in the match was serving, committing five errors in the first game.
"Had they limited those, we would have completely dominated," Stonebrink said.
After a stern lecture from Stonebrink about limiting their service errors, the team returned to the court for the second game, only to commit six serving miscues.
The lapse in concentration prompted Stonebrink to declare, tongue in cheek, "the girls obediently followed the counsel of their coach."
He did, however, laud the girls for "imposing their will on the Cougars."
In the third game, the Lady Horns performed almost to perfection.
"It was no contest," Stonebrink said. "We had only one service error, which allowed us to go on huge runs."
Keys to the victory were stellar setting by Cydney Figueroa and the serving of Desi Crom.
Chelsea D'Archangelo drew praise for her serving efficiently with seven aces.
"Show Low struggled with Chelsea's hard, top-spin serves," Stonebrink said.
At the net, stellar and solid Jenna Robertson led the Horn charged with 17 spikes, 11 kills, three stuffs and no errors. Hannah Armenta had seven kills and Mollee Lee finished with five.
Segan Cline led the team in serve receiving.
Lopping the Lobos
After winning the fifth game against Snowflake by a four-point margin, a coin toss was called for to decide the opening server.
"We usually choose serve on the (coin toss) but this time, captain Mollee Lee chose the East court," Stonebrink said. "We were 2-0 on that side and 0-2 on the west side."
The coach was hoping that trend would continue instead of Snowflake winning every odd-numbered game.
Early on, it looked as if the Lady Horns had made the wrong choice on the flip, as the team fell behind 5-1.
"But we fought back to tie the game (8-8), only to see Snowflake nearly break our backs with a four-point run," Stonebrink said.
After the teams traded side outs, the Lobos jumped out to a 13-9 lead and appeared to be in control.
"But Hannah Armenta scored four straight service winners with the help of blocking by Robertson and hitting of Mollee," Stonebrink said. "Snowflake was finally able to break it with a side out."
With Snowflake clinging to match point at 14-11, Lee executed a perfect serve receive and later pounded a kill on a set from Figueroa.
Lee's heroics tied the score at 14-14. D'Archangelo then served two straight winners to nail down the hard-earned victory.
Next up for the Lady Horns is an Oct. 15 non-region clash against Valley Christian. Game time is 6:30 p.m. in Wilson Dome.