More than 20 former Lady Longhorn volleyball standouts, about 300 hungry fans and the 2008 varsity team turned out for the inaugural alumni steak dinner and tournament held Aug. 1 in Wilson Dome.
"The evening was a smashing success and we are excited about making it an annual event," PHS volleyball coach Arnold Stonebrink said. "We ended up with a full house and had to buy 40 more steaks because we were running out."
For the alumni tournament, four teams -- plus the PHS varsity -- entered play.
The alumni teams included the Older Girls and three teams comprised of players from 2004 to 2007.
"The Older Girls were ones who played for Payson before I took over the program," Stonebrink said.
Most notable in those who returned for the alumni showdown was an appearance by Tina Jackson from the class of 2005.
"The dedication award went to her, she flew in all the way from Massachusetts to play," Stonebrink said.
The tournament also took on a family atmosphere when a trio of Robertson sisters joined the fray.
Stephanie (1999) and Renee (2004) played on the Older Girls against younger sister Jenna who is a senior on the varsity team.
The tournament opened with a round robin in which the varsity put together a 4-0 record.
"My girls had great focus and mixed aggressiveness with intelligent play," Stonebrink said. "They were on in all facets of play -- passing, setting, hitting and defense."
The varsity, however, did struggle against the 2006 team allowing almost half of the alumni points to be scored on service errors.
"We broke the record for most service errors in one game by any of my teams," Stonebrink said.
Despite the serving miscues, the varsity survived 25-19.
In the round robin, the Older Girls and 2005 finished 2-2 but 2005 earned the ticket to the championship because of its head-to-head win over the elder lasses.
In the first game of the gold-medal match, the varsity survived a thriller, 21-19.
"Some of the players from 2005 may have been a few years from competitive volleyball, but they sure didn't play like it," Stonebrink said.
"They were competitive and tough and refused to give an inch."
After surviving the nail-biter, which was at one time tied 19-19, the varsity coasted through the second game winning 21-14.
While tournament play might have been the highlight of the evening, it was the benefit steak dinner that helped fill the volleyball team's bank account and the bellies of the hungry patrons who showed up for plenty of steak, potatoes and salad.
"The FAN Club ran the dinner and did a terrific job, particularly Eileen Daniels and Kristi Ford," Stonebrink said. "Kristi did most of the legwork for the dinner."
The coach also cited the girls in the volleyball program for their ticket sales and work at the dinner and the tournament.
Preseason practices for all three teams in the volleyball program, freshmen, junior varsity and varsity, began yesterday, Aug. 4. The team scrimmages Camp Verde at 5 p.m. Aug. 21 in Wilson Dome and tips off the regular season Aug. 26 vs. Estrella Foothills in Payson.