Lady Longhorn hopes for a top-three East region finish and an advantageous seed into the postseason received a huge boost with a 3-2 win over the Blue Ridge Yellow Jackets.
In the all-important court skirmish Oct. 16 in Wilson Dome, the Lady Horns won the first two games, 25-22 and 27-25 before falling, 25-18 and 25-21.
In the rubber game, Payson prevailed 15-13.
With the win, the Lady Horns improved their East record to 5-3 and moved into a tie with Blue Ridge for third place. If the team can cling to third, it will receive an automatic seed to the state tournament. If Payson falls to fourth, fifth or sixth, the team would have to rely on the power points system to earn a berth to state.
The regular season wraps up Oct. 23 in Wilson Dome against the Snowflake Lobos.
"It will be a huge night," Stonebrink said.
The evening will also mark Senior Night festivities.
Loss to VC
Some of those listening to Lady Longhorn coach Arnold Stonebrink, folowing a 3-0 loss to powerhouse Valley Christian, weren't sure he was speaking tongue-in-cheek when he blurted, "We played a strong program from the NCAA Division II ranks."
Moments later, he came clean saying, "OK they might not be in the NCAA, but it sure felt like it."
Stonebrink was in awe of Class 2A VC -- known to be a hotbed of volleyball that produces teams capable of beating 4A and 5A schools -- mostly because of the squad's top-notch players.
Some boast NCAA Division 1 scholarship potential.
"Alaina Bergsma is 6-3, has committed to Loyola Marymount University and is the greatest hitter we've ever faced," he said. "She pounded the ball down, and over the block.
"On tight sets, she was adept at tipping."
In the clash, played Oct. 15 in Wilson Dome, Bergsma pounded out 21 kills against the outmatched Lady Horns.
She, however, wasn't VC's only power at the net.
"Kelsey Moore, a 6-2 middle hitter, ripped 10 kills in 11 hits," Stonebrink said.
A lone, bright spot in Payson's loss was the team's ability to hold VC's Chanel Brown, who is ranked as Arizona's fifth-best hitter, to just one kill.
In addition to VC strong play at the net, the team had two servers that frustrated the Lady Horns and others who were proficient at serve receiving.
"We were able to get 92 percent of our serves in, but the Trojans were adept at passing up the serves well."
In the clash, Payson lost 25-18, 25-14 and 26-16.
"The only drama occurred in the first game when we jumped to a 13-8 lead after a great service run by Hannah (Armenta)," Stonebrink said.
Much to the chagrin of Payson fans, however, an ace was wiped out by an "inadvertent whistle" call, which resulted in a replay that VC won.
"That took the wind out of our sails," Stonebrink said.
Following the game, the coach cited middle hitter Jenna Robertson for her .467 hitting and eight kills.
"She had a terrific match all around, not only did she hit well, but she led the team in serve receiving and had a stuff," Stonebrink said.
Armenta finished with seven kills, .250 hitting, six digs and six service winners.
Because VC is a 2A school, the results of the match do not affect the East region standings or the Lady Horns hopes of earning a berth into the postseason.
The regular season wraps up Oct. 23 at Snowflake.
Regional tournament play begins Oct. 27 and the 3A state tournament tips off Nov. 2.