Lady Longhorn volleyball coach Arnold Stonebrink is calling a 3-2 victory over the Blue Ridge Yellow Jackets, “Our biggest win of the season.”
Among the reasons for the importance of the triumph, chalked up Oct. 8 in Wilson Dome, is it catapulted the Lady Horns from No. 15 in the power point standings to No. 12.
Power points will be used to seed the top 16 Class 3A teams into the season-ending state tournament.
Stonebrink said the goal of his team in the final four matches of the season is “pushing as high as we can in power points.”
He’s anticipating that if the team can win three of the final four, “that would set us up nicely for the state tournament, somewhere in the range of seventh to 12th, is my guess.”
If the Lady Horns split the final four, they could end up 12th to 14th in the power point rankings.
In addition to the win over BR improving the team’s points standing, it pulled the Lady Horns into a second-place tie in the East Region, standing with the Yellow Jackets.
Both teams have 7-2 East records and trail unbeaten and league-leading Snowflake (9-0).
“We’ve locked up at least third (in the East) and are trying to move out of the tie with Blue Ridge,” Stonebrink said.
The East regular season standings will be used to seed the teams into the regional tournament when it is held Saturday, Oct. 31.
Plaudits from the coach
Following Payson’s thrilling win over Blue Ridge, the coach lauded almost every team member saying, “I haven’t had such great play from so many girls in one match all season.
“It’s rare that superb play is done by so many players in one match and we needed every bit of that effort.”
Among those drawing the coach’s praise was Trinity England who missed an Oct. 6 match against Fountain Hills due to illness.
The following day she only watched the team practice and told Stonebrink she had dropped 10 pounds during the illness, illness, but was ready take the court against the Yellow Jackets.
“I was worried she wouldn’t have much energy and stamina against Blue Ridge, but she was a trouper and toughed it out,” said Stonebrink.
Playing both front and back row in the final four sets, she scored 11 digs and tallied a team-high 15 kills.
As Payson’s No. 1 hitter, she was set 42 times in the match and responded to each with a resounding hit.
Another key for Payson was Katelyn Curtis and Kelsey Waugh switching positions.
Curtis was moved to middle hitter and Waugh assumed the opposite hitter slot.
Curtis responded with probably her best game of the season — in 19 attempts she had 10 kills and only one error.
“Her stellar hitting kept Blue Ridge’s middle blockers from keying on our outside hitters,” Stonebrink said.
Desi Burris also stepped up big time with eight kills in 16 attempts and one error.
Stonebrink also switched up back row positions moving Rachel DiFelice into the libero slot and Reghan Flake to back row specialist.
For Flake, the change marked a return to the position she played so well last season.
DiFelice, responded to the change by becoming the team’s ace passer.
She also finished with 12 digs and Flake had nine. Rylee Halenar led the team with 13.
During a night when Stonebrink seemed to be making wholesale changes, he opted to go with only one designated server rather than the three he has used in the past.
Eveliina Salimen took over as the single server and “came through big time,” Stonebrink said.
She led in serve efficiency, aces (seven) and service winners (16).
How it unfolded
In the hard-fought win, the Lady Longhorns got off to a rocky start losing the first game 25-18, primarily because PHS missed six serves.
The Lady Horns rebounded to win the second 25-21 and the third 25-22.
In the fourth, BR survived 27-25.
After Blue Ridge took a 5-1 lead in the crucial final set, Payson rallied for a 17-15 victory to claim the match.
Among the underclassmen, the Payson plebes bested BR to improve their record to 10-1. The jayvees fell to 11-3 after losing a three-set heartbreaker.
In the loss to Fountain Hills two days earlier, the Payson varsity dropped all three sets 25-20, 25-22 and 25-19.