Getting off to a quick start is one of the keys to winning regional championships and advantageous seeds in the postseason.
And that’s exactly what the Lady Longhorns did Sept. 25 in Show Low where PHS opened the East Region campaign against the Cougars.
The Lady Horns pounded the Cats 3-0 winning 25-15, 25-20 and 25-22.
PHS coach Arnold Stonebrink said the Show Low team, which has undergone some strife with a new coach and at least one starting player quitting, “didn’t play like a downtrodden team at all.
“Although they lost all three games, each of them was close.”
One of the keys to the three-game sweep was the play of senior middle hitter Jenna Robertson, a three-sport star for PHS.
“Jenna’s domination in serving was the biggest story of the match,” Stonebrink said.
Of her 18 serves, 14 were winners and nine were aces.
As good as she was at the service line, she was equally proficient at the net where she usually dominates shorter and less talented foes.
In 18 attempts, she had seven kills and just one error.
Also contributing to the victory was setter Cydney Figueroa who served 10 winners including three aces.
Her efforts drew praise from the coach.
“Cydney’s setting was on and the team flourished with 28 kills, 25 which were set by her,” Stonebrink said.
Accolades also were doled out to Kristin Remonda, who led the team in digs with six. Trinity England had seven kills and Bailey Randall contributed five.
In the match, for the first time this season, Stonebrink replaced Laughlin Potvin with Desi Burris because Potvin is involved in a school drama and won’t be available for at least two upcoming matches.
“Desi responded by having a stellar passing game,” Stonebrink said. “She led the team in serve receiving and added two digs.”
Although the Horns won the first game by 10 points, the clash was much more even than the spread indicates.
“Spotty passing on our part and gutsy play on Show Low’s part, kept the Cougars in the game,” Stonebrink said.
With Payson hanging on to a precarious 16-15 lead, a side out sent Figueroa to the service line.
She coolly responded to the pressure by going on an eight-point serving run that included three aces.
“She stopped the Cougars dead cold,” Stonebrink Stonebrink said. “We had a nice aggressive game, we tallied five aces and 11 kills.”
Robertson had four kills, Randall contributed three and Rose Hardt chipped in with two.
In the second game, the Lady Horns allowed the green and gold to stay in contention by committing seven service errors.
Robertson tallied three aces, England had three kills and Remonda shined in the passing game.
Second game action saw Payson fall behind 5-0 before getting a side out which allowed the Lady Horns the opportunity to get on the scoreboard.
“The turning point was about in the middle,” Stonebrink said. “We had a three-point lead when Jenna stepped up to burn the Cougars with eight service winners, five of which were demoralizing aces.”
The coach called his star’s effort, “probably the most overpowering service run I’ve ever seen Payson have.”
In the run, the Cougars couldn’t return Robertson’s hard topspin jump serves.
Her deep serves confused the Show Low players who often let them go, only to see the ball drop in bounds.
On the short serves, the topspin forced the ball to fall in front of the players.
“Sometimes even three feet in front of them,” Stonebrink said.
Also in Show Low, both the freshmen and junior varsity teams posted wins over the Cougars. The two squads are now 5-2 overall.
The Lady Horns return to East Region action Oct. 7 against Alchesay. Game times are 4:30 (frosh), 5:30 (jayvee) and 6:30 p.m. in Wilson Dome.
On Oct. 9, Payson travels to Snowflake.