Last season’s state tournament fate will not impede the Lady Horns in the 2008 shoot-out set to begin today, Oct. 31, at Tempe Sports Complex.
In 2007, the Lady Horns were forced to play the East’s No. 1 seed, Blue Ridge, in just the second round of the tournament.
What resulted was a 2-1 loss to the Yellow Jackets who went on to defeat Show Low for the 1A-3A fall state championship.
This year, Payson is not aligned in the same bracket with the defending state champion Jackets. Should the two rivals meet, it wouldn’t be until the title game at 3 p.m. Nov. 8 at Grand Canyon University.
While not playing the Jackets until the finale is a plus, there is a huge first-round challenge waiting in the form of Tucson Desert Christian.
TDC comes in as the West’s No. 1 seed, sporting a 12-4-1 record and a four-game winning streak. The game is set for 7 p.m. this evening, Friday, on field 6 at the complex.
Individually, the Tucson roster features several players who are ranked among the leaders in the West Region.
Haleigh Powell is first in assists and shots and second in scoring and total points.
Caitlin Duran is third in scoring, assists, total points and shots.
Emily Holz is second in saves and goals against average. Meghan Harting leads the West in goals against average and is fourth in saves.
The high school sports Web site Maxpreps does not have any Lady Longhorns listed among the individual East Region leaders.
However, during the regular season, coach Joe Schmidt has cited Alexia Robles, Candice Ayers, Elizabeth Romberger, Claudia Hernandez, Blanca Valdez, Becca Branstetter and Natalie Black for their stellar play.
“I am fortunate to have a number of skilled players who can play multiple positions,” Schmidt said. “Some years I have had to ‘hide a player’ at an outside position they were not very good at.
“This season I have good depth at many positions.”
Among the players the coach lauds are Talia Schaal, Robles, Branstetter and Romberger.
About Robles, he said, “She has a balance of calmness and intensity that has helped us to have one of the best defenses I’ve worked with.”
Robles is a senior team captain and four-year letter winner. She usually plays sweeper.
Schaal is also a senior team captain, but plays on the wing and at goalie.
“She would start at goalie on most teams, but I have three very good goal keepers, so we are using her speed to our advantage in the field.”
Branstetter, a junior captain, holds down the midfielder position.
“She has won several games with well-placed shots,” Schmidt said. “Opposing coaches have often commented about Becca after games, noting her intensity, persistence and skills.
Romberger, only a sophomore, started last season at forward when she tied for the team lead in scoring.
“She is in that race again this year with a much more skilled group of attackers,” Schmidt said.
Should the Lady Horns upset Desert Christian, the team would play at noon, tomorrow, Nov. 1, against the winner of a first-round game between Show Low and Verde Valley. That also would be at Tempe Sports Complex.
Also representing the East in the tournament is top-seeded Blue Ridge who will play West No. 4 River Valley and No. 3 St. Johns plays West No. 2 Chino Valley in the first round.