Often in high school sports teenage athletes need a bit of firm guidance and counseling from their coaches.
It’s a form of tough love.
That was the remedy used last week when Lady Longhorn volleyball coach Arnold Stonebrink offered his charges, mostly the seniors, helpful and stern advice on leadership, communication and good attitudes.
Prior to calling for a meeting to set down ground rules of expectations, the coach expressed his displeasure with some players’ attitudes in both practice and games.
Apparently the stiff set of guidelines worked as the Lady Horns later reeled off a win over Alchesay, played region-leading Snowflake tough and won the championship of the highly competitive Fountain Hills Invitational.
“I told the seniors they had gained the reputation of having one of the most talented and athletic classes, but also a reputation for being nitpicking and negative,” Stonebrink said.
The bad vibes the team was showing had resulted in the players not performing well in clutch situations in tournaments and at state.
“In any sport,” Stonebrink said.
Apparently the girls took the coach’s counsel to heart because they responded on Oct. 7 by rolling over East rival Alchesay 3-0.The scores were 25-17, 25-21 and 25-14.
Just two days later in Snowflake, the Lady Horns showed a good deal of spark against the state-ranked Lobos, but fell 3-1. Payson lost the first game, 25-23 but rebounded to win the second 25-18. The Lady Horns dropped the last two games, 25-23 and 25-11.
In Fountain Hills on Oct. 11, the team rode stellar play from several on the roster to the invitational title.
Winning the crown, Stonebrink said, “should give the girls confidence going into the last round of region play, the regional tournament and state.”
He also stresses that the keys to success down the road could be attitudes and values.
“It’s just a matter of staying positive, being mentally and physically energetic and going out and doing it,” he said.
Entering the Fountain Hills tournament the coach and players predicted the host team and Blue Ridge would be schools to beat.
Blue Ridge, however, failed to show because of a scheduling mix up.
“I heard coach Tami Ellsworth was upset and very disappointed to miss out,” Stonebrink said.
The tournament format was unusual as each match consisted of just one game to 60 points or 40 minutes, whichever occurred first.
In the first game, the Lady Horns rolled over the Miami Vandals winning on the time limit by seven points.
Payson led early on by as many as 10 points, but with 15 minutes remaining fell behind by four.
During a time out, Stonebrink stressed to his players that Miami was not the better team, but rather the bleak situation was because the Lady Horns were beating themselves with mistakes.
“The girls responded favorably in minimizing the errors and shoring up passing,” Stonebrink said. “We went on a nice run that gave us a lead and I was able to get the players in from the bench.”
In the second game, Payson dominated South Pointe 60-27 behind the service exploits of Desi Burris who scored 18 winners in 21 attempts. Nine of Burris’ serves were aces and others resulted in free balls being returned.
“Offensively, the wealth was spread around as Michelle (Daniels) and Bailey (Randall) led the team with four kills apiece and Jenna (Robertson), Rose (Hardt), Laughlin (Potvin) and Nikki (DeWees) pitched in with three apiece,” Stonebrink said.
With two wins to their credit, the Lady Horns found themselves pitted against pre-tournament favorite Fountain Hills.
Only three weeks earlier in Fountain Hills, the Falcons downed Payson 3-0.
“Going into the match Fountain Hills was one of the top teams in the state having lost just two in match play, both to Safford, in close matches,” Stonebrink said.
Payson jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, but later found itself trailing 42-39.
Stonebrink again called a time out to right his listing Lady Horn ship.
“We needed to calm our girls down and clear their heads,” he said.
Following the TO, solid play from Hardt, Robertson and Potvin paced PHS to a come-from-behind 51-48 victory via the time-limit rule.
Following the game, the coach cited Reghan Flake for turning in her finest match of the season.
Flake finished with team high marks in digs (10), aces (2), service winners (7) and serving. She also performed well serve-receiving.
With the win over FH in the record books, Payson locked horns with Mogollon in the gold medal finale.
“After the big win against the Falcons, my concern was the girls would have a letdown against Mogollon and would have to battle to win the match,” Stonebrink said. “But the girls would have none of that.”
Paced by the serving of Flake, Potvin and Cydney Figueroa, who had three aces each, the Lady Horns demolished the Mustangs 60-49.
Also for Payson, Robertson had six kills and Potvin and Hardt had five each.
The Lady Horns return to action today, Oct. 14, against the Show Low Cougars. Game times are 4:30 (frosh), 5:30 (jayvee) and 6:30 p.m. (varsity).
The team enters the fray with a 7-4 overall mark and a 3-2 East record, which ties Payson for third in the region standings.