Longhorn Soccer Teams Gear Up For Coming State Contests

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Andy Towle/Roundup - atowle@payson.com

Goalie Ben Rogers (left) watches as Caleb Harrison sends the ball deep into Show Low Cougar territory, and David Struening begins his defensive move to keep the ball near the Cougar goal.

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Andy Towle/Roundup - atowle@payson.com

Guillermo Lopez uses fancy footwork to pass the ball between the legs of a Show Low Cougar as he guides the ball toward their goal.

The Payson High School boys and girls soccer teams are gearing up for runs at the state tournament.

The girls’ postseason tips off Oct. 30 at Tempe Sports Complex and continues with semifinal games the following day. The championship game will be played at noon, Nov. 7 at Camp Verde High School.

The first two rounds of the boys’ tournament will be Oct. 30 and 31 at Tempe Sports Complex and the final two Nov. 6 and 7 at Camp Verde.

Lady Horn coach Joe Schmidt’s charges are currently tied for fourth place in the East, a spot — if the team can hold on to — would earn PHS a playoff berth.

If Payson whips Blue Ridge today, Oct. 13 in Lakeside, the team would move up to No. 3 in the standings.

However, “if we lose to Holbrook on the 20th, we’re out,” Schmidt said.

That game will be played at 6 p.m. at Rumsey Park.

Boys coach Chris Avakian is also pointing to the outcome of a regular season-ending game against Holbrook as crucial to playoff hopes. It will be contested 5 p.m. Oct. 21 in Holbrook.

“That will be the one for state,” Avakian said.

The injury-riddled Longhorns lost a 2-1 hard-fought encounter to Holbrook on Oct. 3 at Rumsey Park.

With three players out for the season with broken legs, Avakian has called up Ryan Sheehan from the junior varsity.

He is also calling on other jayvee players to fill in on varsity “on a game by game deal,” he said.

PHS splits

The Lady Longhorns rode roughshod 8-0 over homestanding Holbrook on Oct. 3, but lost 2-1 to Show Low three days later in the White Mountains.

In the win over Holbrook, Becca Branstetter and Tanya Olsen scored two goals each.

Marcy Daily, Laura Aaltonen and Ally Erikson all scored their first varsity goals.

Against Show Low, Schmidt said, “We had periods of very good passing and ball movement mixed with periods of flat play where Show Low just beat us to the ball consistently.”

Kyndel Lann scored the Lady Horns’ single goal.

“She is making good decisions with the ball and kicking well,” Schmidt said.

At the midfield slot, the coach cited Blanca Valdez and Marissa Garcia for their strong play play.

Olsen, said Schmidt, “is regaining her form and helping our offense so opposing teams can’t afford to double team Becca (Branstetter).”

Branstetter is the team’s leading scorer with 11 goals.

Goalie Natalie Black also drew praise from the coach for “making some very athletic saves in both games.”

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