Lady Longhorn volleyball coach Arnold Stonebrink is sure the outcome of a non-region showdown today, Oct. 6, against Fountain Hills will be crucial to his team’s quest for a postseason berth.
“The match is huge,” he said. “Not only do we want to end our two-match losing streak, it (the match) counts as power points.”
Those points are used to seed the top 16 Class 3A teams into the season ending state tournament.
The task facing the Horns this evening in Wilson Dome is daunting in that the visiting Falcons are the No. 1 ranked team in the state with a 10-2 record.
For the clash, Stonebrink is hoping a huge pro-Payson crowd will give the Lady Horns the Wilson court advantage and the Falcons a taste of home cookin’.
“We could use all the support we can get,” he said.
The Lady Horns enter the game having lost on the road Oct. 1 to Snowflake, 3-0, and two days earlier to Blue Ridge, 3-2.
Following the loss to the Lobos, Stonebrink lamented the playing of Snowflake middle hitter Jessica Johnson saying, “The varsity ran into a 300-pound gorilla last night, Johnson’s offense and defense was overwhelming.”
Behind the Lobo star, Snowflake won 25-19, 25-14 and 25-19.
With the loss, Payson falls to 9-7 overall, not counting tournaments.
Entering the fray against the Lobos, Stonebrink and his charges knew of Johnson’s feats and prepared to slow her with three-person blocks.
“What we weren’t prepared for, though, was the speed of their offense when they set her,” he said. “She would hammer the set when the ball was coming up and so our block was always a split-second late.”
Also, Johnson’s power, timing and vertical leap allowed her to consistently hit over the blocks.
“She was nearly a one-woman wrecking crew,” Stonebrink said. “She had 20 kills and only one error.”
Payson did have one player capable of countering Johnson — outside hitter Brittany Titus had 17 spikes, nine kills and no errors.
In the first set, Snowflake took a 24-11 lead before Rachel Creighton served seven straight point winners to pull the Lady Horns to within 24-19. After a side out, the Lobos nailed down the win.
In the second set, Stonebrink said, “they jumped out to a huge lead and tagged us with a big loss.”
Snowflake came out in the third set again fired up taking an 8-1 lead.
However, Payson remained in contention with four kills each from Trinity England and Cami Barnett.
Evelina Salomin’s seven straight service winners, including two aces, lifted Payson to a 18-18 tie.
Snowflake, however, countered with a run of their own to take the six-point victory.
Stonebrink lauded England for a “spectacular match” with 11 kills and stellar serving.
The coach also praised the servers who hit 95 percent of their offerings in bounds.
Serve-receivers Rachel DiFelice, Desi Burris, Kelsey Waugh and Reghan Flake also drew the coach’s praise, as did Creighton for her 11 service winners and 16 assists.
Against Blue Ridge in Lakeside, the Lady Horns won the first set 25-15, but lost the second and third, 25-9 and 25-15.
PHS forced a fifth and final set by winning the fourth 25-22.
In the finale, BR won 15-9.
The coach attributed the first set win to Burris’ eight consecutive service winners and Blue Ridge’s hitting mistakes.
The Jackets got back on track in the second and third set thanks to pinpoint serving that Payson had trouble handling.
In the fourth set and only three substitutions remaining for Payson, setting chores fell to Desi Burris, who responded to the challenge with a fine effort despite being a front row player and backup setter.
Barnett’s hitting also played a role in the win.
In the fifth, Blue Ridge’s improved serving coupled with the Lady Horns’ inconsistent passing spelled the PHS defeat.
For the match, Rylee Halenar, Barnett and Waugh returned to the team from the injured lists.
Barnett was exceptionally impressive with 30 spikes, 14 kills and team-leading hitting.
“Her return was most welcome,” Stonebrink said.
The coach also lauded Katelyn Curtis for her strong hitting and Daniels for her blocks both solos and assists.
Among the underclass players at Snowflake, the PHS jayvees lost, but the freshmen won. The jayvees are now 10-2 and the frosh are 8-1. At Blue Ridge, the jayvees lost for the first time this season and the freshmen were victorious.