The Lady Longhorns take a 6-0 East record (7-3 overall) and a seventh place state power points ranking into today’s (Sept. 29) crucial region showdown in Lakeside against the Blue Ridge Yellow Jackets.
“We are moving full force into the brutal part of our schedule,” coach Arnold Stonebrink said. “Of our remaining eight matches, we have two against Fountain Hills, Snowflake and Blue Ridge.”
Top-ranked Fountain Hills has 9-1 credentials, Snowflake is 12-1 and Blue Ridge 6-4-1.
“These matches should really be a good indication of how good we are,” Stonebrink said.
Payson enters the upcoming matches with several players ranked among the East’s individual leaders.
Desi Burris leads the East in aces averaging .8 per game. With an average of .6, Rachel Creighton is tied for second with Round Valley’s Lauren Bushman.
Burris also is second in assists with 4.9 per game. In kills per game, Cami Barnett is ranked second (2.5 average) and Trinity England is fifth (2.3).
Michelle Daniels is tied for third in blocks averaging .7 per contest.
The Lady Horns tuned up for today’s showdown in the White Mountains by defeating Alchesay Whiteriver 3-0. PHS cruised by margins of 25-13, 25-20 and 25-18.
A win is a win is a win in any coach’s playbook, but Stonebrink was not thrilled with the ho-hum victory.
“It was one of those matches where we just weren’t as motivated and determined as we would be against a top opponent,” Stonebrink said.
Alchesay is 1-5 and is the cellar dweller in the East standings.
“Most of the time when we play Alchesay, it is like that — I don’t know if there’s much I can or will do about it except shrug my shoulders,” Stonebrink said.
In the win, Burris turned in her usual dominating game at the service line with seven aces and 18 service winners in 25 attempts. All were team-highs. She also led PHS in assists dishing out 11.
For the match, the Lady Horns were without the services of three injured players — Rylee Halenar, Kelsey Waugh and Barnett.
Halenar plays setter, Waugh is a middle hitter and Barnett holds down an outside hitter slot.
Stonebrink expects Halenar and Waugh to return for today’s game against BR, but not Barnett.
In the win over Alchesay, Marlow Galloway, Rachel DiFelice and Rachel D’Abbado were among those to step up and fill in for the injured players.
“DiFelice was our No. 1 serve-receiver versus the Falcons,” Stonebrink said. “She also had three aces and four service winners in only six serves.”
D’Abbado had three aces and seven service winners in eight attempts. She also recorded four kills.
Trinity England earned honors as the team’s ace hitter with five kills. She also was top gun in digs with five.
About the only time in the game that the Lady Horns struggled was in the second set when the team was trailing 15-10.
During a time out, Stonebrink stressed it was the Lady Horns who were beating themselves, mostly because of errors and a lackluster effort.
After the TO, the players responded by going on a 15-5 run to win the set.
In underclass action against Alchesay, the junior varsity improved to 10-0 with 25-6 and 28-6 wins. There was no freshman game because Alchesay does not field a frosh team.