A contingent of 24 prep volleyball teams representing all school size classifications, 1A to 5A, will swoop down upon the Rim Country tomorrow, July 24, to show their wares and skills in the inaugural Payson Summer Invitational.
“We will be the only team from the 3A East,” said Lady Longhorn coach Arnold Stonebrink. “But we have (teams) coming from almost every other place.”
Among the teams he expects are 5A North Canyon, Gila Ridge and Moon Valley, as well as 4A Apache Junction and Glendale Cortez.
Winslow will also enter, as will a Tuba City team that finished second in the state last school year.
Action tips off at 9 a.m. in Wilson Dome, the old PHS gymnasium and the Rim Country Middle School gym.
During the morning hours, the teams will be divided into five pools for round-robin play.
Following the morning games, the teams will clash in cross-pool action playing the teams that finished in the identical slots during the morning action.
In the later afternoon and evening, teams will be slotted into either championship or consolation single-elimination brackets.
Stonebrink expects play to wrap up about 9 p.m. tomorrow.
Payson is entering three teams A, B and C. The A team will be mostly varsity hopefuls, the B are junior varsity candidates and C will be freshmen.
There is no admission charge and Stonebrink has issued an invitation for fans to turn out to enjoy the action and cheer on the girls.
A band of 13 Lady Longhorns itching to earn a roster spot next season traveled July 13 to Glendale Ironwood High School to participate in the Excel Team Camp, which attracted schools from around Arizona and neighboring states.
“There are a lot of really good teams here,” Stonebrink said from Glendale. “We have taken our lumps against the big school teams, but the competition is good for us.
“The girls are working hard, but enjoying themselves.”
On hand to head the camp is former BYU head coach Karen Curtis Lamb, who also once was an assistant coach for the USA Women’s Team.
Other Excel team camps were held this summer in Las Vegas, Nev., El Paso, Texas, and Albuquerque, N.M.
At the Glendale camp, the Payson girls and coaching staff are residing in a nearby hotel, paid for with money the players earned at various fund-raisers.
“(The hotel) gave us a really good deal and we get lunch and dinner there,” Stonebrink said.
One such fund-raiser that generates all-important revenue for the program is just over the horizon. It’s the Alumni Tournament and benefit steak dinner to be held July 31 in Wilson Dome.
The dinner, which will be prepared by the Friends And Neighbors (FAN) Club, will be from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the Wilson Dome concession area. Tickets are $6 and the menu includes steak, potato, salad, beans and beverage.
Beginning about 6:30 p.m., the annual Alumni Tournament will be played in the dome. It pits some of the Lady Horns past players against other alumni and the current PHS squad.
It traditionally turns into a hoot as the alumni attempt to regain old skills and prove that advancing age has not slowed them.