The Lady Longhorns’ participation in the state volleyball tournament was brief, but coach Arnold Stonebrink is still proud of the effort.
The girls lost to Sedona 15-25, 16-25, 16-25 in the first round of the state tournament. “It was one of those losses I can live with — the girls played pretty well, they played their guts out, and they left everything out on the court,” Stonebrink said.
The Lady Horns’ match with Sedona started out ominously — the Scorpions broke out to a 4-1 lead, and at that point the team had only one spiking opportunity. The main culprit was some problems with passing, with overpasses and underpasses stalling Payson’s offense, the coach said.
“Our moment of glory came in the second set, where we jumped out to a 6-2 lead, thanks to a four-point serving run by Rachel Creighton, and strong hitting by Cami Barnett and solid blocking by Michelle Daniels.
“But the lead was erased just like that — Sedona went on a run of their own, and we never led again,” Stonebrink said.
He said Sedona’s serve-receive was tremendous — the Lady Horns served very aggressively, and there were a number of serves he said he felt would end up aces, but Sedona was able to pass them right up to the setter.
Desi Burris had a tremendous game, the coach said. She hit .429 (second on the team) and had four kills (second on the team). She led the team in serve-receiving efficiency, serving efficiency, and aces (two). On top of that, she had three block assists, three digs and two assists.
“She was wonderful in her last match of her career,” Stonebrink said.
Rachel Creighton also was solid, he said. She dished out 22 assists, and led the team in service winners, with eight.
Besides Burris, also playing steady back row were Rylee Halenar, Reghan Flake and Cami Barnett. Halenar led the team in digs with 14.
Kelsey Waugh gave the team a boost — in the third set, she played outside hitter, and ended up leading the team in hitting at .500. Cami Barnett led the team with 12 kills and hit a respectable .200. Rachel Creighton added four kills on .188 hitting thanks to a number of well-placed tips from her setter’s position.
Michelle Daniels led the Longhorns with five block assists.
Stonebrink said a lot of superlatives fit Sedona — seasoned, experienced (they had eight seniors on the team), disciplined, balanced, solid, talented.
“After the loss, I thought about it, and in my mind, they were the slight favorite for the next round over Snowflake. They did win, overcoming a 0-2 set deficit to win in five. That put them into the final four, where they were pounded by eventual state champion Monument Valley,” the coach said.
The wrap up of the Lady Horns’ season officially is Nov. 16 with the end-of-the-season banquet.
For the season, Trinity England led all Payson hitters with
with a .159 efficiency and 298 kills. She also led the team in digs, with 257. Rylee Halenar was our No. 1 passer in efficiency. Rachel Creighton garnered the most assists, with 368. Even though she had a lot of competition from Desi, Rachel, Rylee and Jordyn Fruth.
Eveliina Salimen led the team in serving efficiency. That was quite amazing — she is a foreign exchange student who hadn’t played volleyball in two years, Stonebrink said.
Desi hammered the opposition with 83 aces, which was a team high.
Michelle Daniels had a total of 121 blocks/block assists.
“We had some good talent with this senior class, but didn’t have a lot of depth. For the next few years we should have excellent depth. In the starting lineup we’ll only have to replace two hitters next year, and only one passer. So I’m excited about that,” the coach said.
This year was not only the youngest and most inexperienced team Stonebrink has ever had, it was also the most injury-ridden team and sickest team he’s ever had. In the middle of the season, for one match, three starters were out due to injury. And a few days before state, for one practice, there were four girls out due to illness.
“In fact, Rachel DiFelice, one of our starting back row players, missed state due to being really sick,” Stonebrink said.
“I don’t state these as an excuse; just as a casual observation. Actually, had we been healthy injury- and sick-wise, the difference in our record would have been negligible, and the results at regionals and state still the same,” the coach said.