Pursuit of Payson High School’s first state volleyball championship begins at noon today, Nov. 7, against a team the Lady Horns know well.
At Bradshaw Mountain High School, the Lady Horns are pitted in the first round against Fountain Hills.
Although the teams enter the state tournament representing different regions, they’ve met twice in regular season.
The Falcons won one match 3-0, but in a Fountain Hills-hosted invitational tournament, Payson took a 51-48 thriller.
For state, Fountain Hills is seeded sixth and Payson takes a No. 11 berth.
Which means the Falcons are the favorites, but coach Arnold Stonebrink believes the Lady Horns match up well with the West Region crew.
“Fountain Hills reminds me of our team — they have some good servers and use that, and some good hitters to produce an offense that has shown to score points,” he said.
“They have the credentials too, they bring a solid 15-2 regular season record.”
Fountain Hills’ only two regular season losses were to Safford, a state No. 2 seed that finished the regular season undefeated.
The Lady Horns, however, might be riding a confidence boost in the knowledge that they have a rare tournament upset over Safford.
In the Payson Invitational in early September, the Lady Horns whipped the Bulldogs 2-1 in the semifinals.
The Lady Horns take to the state playoffs a well-rounded team that thrives on the play of senior Jenna Robertson.
She often leads the team in kills and hitting efficiency and can be counted on to thwart opponents with her stuff and stuff assists. She is also a steady jump server, firing off aces.
Stonebrink has praised her for “leaving all she has out on the court.”
The Lady Horns also have capable servers in Rehgan Flake and Cydney Figueroa, who also runs the offense from her setter position.
Kristin Remonda often leads the team in digs and Michelle Daniels, Rose Hardt, Trinity England, Laughlin Potvin, Bailey Randall and Desi Burris are well-rounded athletes being counted on to contribute to the Lady Horn cause.
If Payson can find a way to get past Fountain Hills, the Lady Horns would advance to a second round game against the winner of a first round clash pitting No. 3 Tuba City against No. 14 Winslow. That game would be played Nov. 7 at 5 p.m. also at Bradshaw Mountain.
Should Payson have the chance to play Tuba City, the game would be another in which the two teams are no strangers to one another.
Payson met Tuba City in September at the Flagstaff Coconino tournament.
In pool play, the Lady Horns whipped the Warriors in two hard-fought games.
In bracket play, however, Payson lost a 2-1 heartbreaker. The score of the final game was 15-13.
The volleyball state championship will be decided at 6 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 8 at Prescott High School.
Monument Valley, the No. 1 seed and North Region champion, is the pre-tournament favorite to win the 3A crown.