The last time we saw the Lady Longhorn soccer team, it was turning in a gallant effort in a state tournament showdown in Tempe against Tucson Desert Christian.
Today, six of the players from that team are celebrating their selection to the All-East region team.
The honorees included Alexia Robles and Becca Branstetter on first team and Kayla Francis on the second team.
Liz Romberger, Candice Ayers and Tanya Olsen were named honorable mention.
Robles wrapped up her senior season as one of the most accomplished players in the history of the program at PHS.
Playing senior sweeper, she anchored a rock-solid defense that coach Joe Schmidt praises as “the strongest part of our team, which was reflected in the all-region selections.”
Robles, Branstetter and Francis were all defenders.
“They were excellent tacklers, skilled at moving the ball and were rarely beaten downfield,” Schmidt said.
Robles was also a three-year starter and a team captain both her junior and senior seasons. She also shines in the classroom with an A-plus average.
Branstetter, a junior, moved from wing to defensive midfield this year to better take advantage of her considerable skills.
“Her job was to be everywhere and be involved involved in every part of the game, which she did tirelessly,” Schmidt said. Branstetter was also a team captain who scored four goals and had two assists this season.
Both Robles and Branstetter were named to the all-tournament team at the Show Low Invitational.
Francis played strong side fullback where she was assigned to mark the opposing team’s best player.
She is a junior who will return to the Lady Horn fold next season.
Romberger finished the campaign as the team’s leading scorer with eight goals and four assists.
“Other teams recognized her value by often assigning a defender just to mark her,” Schmidt said.
Ayers was an all-purpose player who saw action at goalkeeper, forward and attacking midfielder.
“She directed much of our attack, controlling and distributing the ball,” Schmidt said.
During the season, she scored four goals and an assist.
Ayers might have had the finest game of her career in the Lady Longhorns’ heartbreaking overtime loss to Tucson Desert Christian.
In regulation play she scored one goal and tallied another in overtime that forced the game into a shoot-out which Payson lost 4-2.
For her efforts in the storied clash, she was named to the all-state tournament team. Ayers will graduate in the spring with the PHS class of 2009.
Olson, only a sophomore, finished with seven goals and two assists. She and Ayers built reputations as the two fastest players on the team able to run step for step with the region’s finest.
During the regular season, the all-region honorees led Payson to an 8-7 record overall and 5-5 in the East Region.
With an East fourth-place finish, the Lady Horns earned a seed to state against West Region champion and No. 1-seeded Desert Christian.
Next season, Branstetter, Francis, Romberger and Olsen will form the foundation of a Lady Horn team loaded with potential.
The All-East selections were honored Nov. 13 at the team’s season-ending awards ceremony.