An appearance in the Flagstaff Coconino Invitational tournament gave the Lady Longhorns a glimpse of what playing life will be like when the season-ending state tournament rolls around.
“The girls now know they have the potential and ability to go deep into the state tournament,” coach Arnold Stonebrink said.
“They also know how far they go will depend on their desire and ability to fight through adversity.”
The coach’s assessments were made after watching his Lady Horns play well most of the tournament in Flagstaff, but falter down the stretch.
“We ran out of gas in the losers bracket against Holbrook,” he said. “We were able to race to a 13-8 lead the first game, just two points from winning, but several mental errors led to easy Roadrunner points.”
When the excitement finally settled, Payson was on the short-end of a 16-14 overtime loss.
But that defeat wasn’t the worst of it.
“The second game was a nightmare … many mental lapses, coverage errors and hitting mistakes led to a 15-10 loss,” Stonebrink said.
The coach called the defeat, an “unceremonious ouster from the tournament.”
The team did, however, manage a fifth-place finish in the 18-team field.
Payson opened with a 2-0 match victory over Winslow winning 21-10 and 21-15.
Next up, the Lady Horns split with 4A Flagstaff, losing the first game 21-13 but rebounding to win the second 21-16.
Against Tuba City, Payson survived 21-17 and 21-16.
“Our 5-1 record was good enough to win the tough pool, the toughest at the tourney,” Stonebrink said. “In the other pools, there were four other 5-1 teams so after the tiebreaker dust had settled, we found ourselves No. 5.”
With pool play at an end, the teams moved to bracket play where Payson opened with 15-10 and 15-6 wins over Chino Valley.
With the match victory, the Lady Horns found themselves paired off against host Coconino.
In a ferocious, hard-fought first game, the Panthers broke away from an 18-18 tie to win 21-18.
In the second game, Payson ran rampant whipping the Cats 21-11.
“It was no contest, we won handily,” Stonebrink said.
The Lady Horns later claimed match honors honors by winning the third game 15-12.
Next up, Payson locked horns with Tuba City for the second time in the tournament.
Although the Lady Horns had won the first match-up 2-0, the Warriors took the second 2-1.
In the match, PHS dropped the opener 21-18 but came roaring back to win the second 21-18. But in the rubber game, Payson stumbled 15-13 and fell into the tournament-ending battle against Holbrook.
Robertson named all-tournament
Following the fray in the northland, Lady Horn Jenna Robertson was named to the all-tournament team in a voting of coaches.
The senior’s finest match might have been the victory over Coconino.
In it, she led the team with 10 kills in 19 attempts and two errors.
Against Flagstaff, she pounded seven kills with three errors.
“She was hitting like a demon,” Stonebrink said.
In the disappointing loss to Holbrook, she had five kills.
“She was practically the only one with positive statistics,” Stonebrink said.
In the victory over Winslow, the coach cited the play of Desi Burris for her 10 service winners, including five aces, that lifted Payson out to an 11-1 lead.
Also against the Bulldogs, Nikki Dewees led in kills with four in seven attempts and one error.
Rose Hardt played error free with four kills. Laughlin Potvin contributed three.
Reghan Flake drew accolades for her 10 service winners in the match win over Tuba City.
Kristin Remonda was cited for her passing and Bailey Randall for superior hitting.
The Lady Horns return to play Sept. 20 in Wilson Dome against Globe.
Game times are 11 a.m. (frosh), noon (jayvee) and 1 p.m. (varsity).