Led by the sterling net play of Jenna Robertson, the Lady Longhorns pulled off the ambush of the prep volleyball season whipping the homestanding Snowflake Lobos 3-1.
"Jenna was an absolute beast at the net, she really shut down the Snowflake attack," an elated coach Arnold Stonebrink said, following the Oct. 23 East region victory.
Robertson finished with 16 kills and assisted in 34 blocks, 12 of which were stuffs. She also led the team in hitting with a .318 mark.
Her efforts coupled with those of her teammates improved the Lady Longhorns' regular season region record to 7-3 and earned the team a second-place tie with Snowflake in the final standings.
Payson, however, received the advantageous runner-up seed into the upcoming regional tournament because the Lady Horns swept the home and away meetings between the two archrivals.
"Getting the No. 2 seed was huge," Stonebrink said. "Had we finished three or four, our (first-round tournament) opponent would have been Blue Ridge and they've won more individual games against us than we have against them."
But with the second seed in hand, the Lady Horns receive a bye in the first round of the East tournament which begins tomorrow, Saturday, in Snowflake. Payson's foe will be the winner of a first-round clash between Alchesay and Show Low.
"Both of those teams are the doormat of the region," Stonebrink said.
If the Lady Horns can win the second-round game, they would be guaranteed a berth into the state tournament.
A second-round win would also propel Payson into a semifinal East match against the winner of a Snowflake vs. Blue Ridge match up.
The winner of that game will challenge East regular-season champion Round Valley in the tournament finale.
"Round Valley has a bye all the way to the championship," Stonebrink said.
Payson opens the regional tournament at 2 p.m. tomorrow in the new SHS SHS gymnasium.
"We hope to have a lot of fans there," Stonebrink said.
Deflating the Lobos
In whipping Snowflake, Payson lost the first game 26-24 but rebounded to win three consecutive thrillers 25-17, 26-24 and 25-22.
In the crucial fourth rubber game, Robertson stepped up to block many Lobo scoring attempts.
Cydney Figueroa's seven-point serving run lifted Payson out to a seemingly commanding 20-16 lead. But then, a Snowflake server who in the third game had rallied the Lobos from a four-point deficit to a 24-22 lead, stepped up to the line.
"She served four straight service winners to tie it at 20-20," Stonebrink said. After Payson sided out, Segan Cline scored a service winner to give Payson a 22-20 lead. Both teams sided out the next four points.
"Finally at 24-22, Chelsea D'Arcangelo served an ace to close the deal at 25-22," Stonebrink said.
Following the nail-biting win, Stonebrink cited outside hitter Mollee Lee for turning in her best hitting match of the year and for her 15 kills.
Hannah Armenta drew praise for her efforts in the third game victory. In it, she served an ace to tie the score and another to win the game.
Stonebrink also lauded his staff saying, "Cassie Bradford coached the freshmen to a 10-7 record, and Judy Perham had her best campaign ever; her jayvee players finished 14-3, and were 9-1 in the region."
Varsity assistant coach Trevor Creighton was also on the receiving end of lavish praise from Stonebrink, "The girls really respect and look up to him, and his input is invaluable.
"Besides calling the spots to serve for the girls in our matches, he also has great insight into the game, the girls' skill and play, and to the adjustments they need to make, to become better players and a better team."
If the Lady Horns earn a berth into the 3A state tournament, play would begin Nov. 2 at Peoria High School. Game time will depend on what seed the Lady Horns earn during the East tournament.