Although Rylee Halenar is an untested sophomore, she more than filled the varsity void when called upon to fill in for Lady Longhorn starter Reghan Flake.
With Flake attending a church camp, Halenar took over her back row slot Oct. 14 in a crucial East Region showdown against Show Low in Wilson Dome.
“Rylee responded by being our No. 1 serve-receiver and she also foiled a number of Cougar tip attempts by reading arm swing and rushing up to take the dig,” coach Arnold Stonebrink said. “Rylee is a heck of a player when she gets playing time on varsity.”
The sophomore plays back row on varsity but is a setter on the junior varsity team.
“Next year we have big plans for her on varsity, we just don’t know what the plans are yet,” Stonebrink said.
With Halenar shining, the Lady Horns ran rampant over their rivals 3-0. The scores were 25-21, 25-16 and 25-17.
Midway through the first game, Payson led only 11-10 before Kristin Remonda scored four straight service winners.
“That gave us some breathing room,” Stonebrink said.
Of the 25 points the Lady Horns tacked up, 19 were on kills.
“The name of the game was offense,” Stonebrink said.
Most of the kills were set up by the setting of senior Cydney Figueroa.
In kills, Rose Hardt was credited with seven and Jenna Robertson had five.
“Rose was a demon,” Stonebrink said.
In the second game, Show Low jumped out to a 9-5 lead forcing the coach to call a time out to settle the players down.
Following the return to play, Payson retook the lead and cruised to the nine-point victory.
For the second game, the coach substituted in some non-starters to get them all-important playing time.
“I was pleased to see they fit seamlessly into the lineup,” Stonebrink said.
For the match, Desi Burris led the team in serving efficiency with 70 percent of her serves turning into winners.
Remonda led Payson in digs with 14.
Robertson and Laughlin Potvin drew praise for their solid serve-receiving.
The highlight of the win might have been the team’s improved hitting attack.
“That thrills me, because at the beginning of the season, we struggled with our hitting and that was the weakest part of our game,” Stonebrink said.
Among the individuals who helped shore up the hitting attack were Bailey Randall, Michelle Daniels, Nikki DeWees, Robertson and Potvin.
Randall turned in a team-high seven kills. Daniels and Robertson had six each. DeWees tallied five and Potvin four.
“If we can hit like that next week and then against Snowflake, we will be in good shape,” Stonebrink said.
The Lady Horns travel Oct. 20 to Valley Christian and to Lakeside Oct. 21 to play Blue Ridge. Snowflake visits Payson on Oct. 28.