Lady Longhorn volleyball coach Arnold Stonebrink is summing up his team’s appearance in the 3A state tournament by saying, “We had enough in the tank to get past Wickenburg, but did not have enough to overcome Window Rock.”
The Lady Horns took a lofty No. 6 seed into the tournament played Nov. 5 at Tim’s Toyota Center in Prescott Valley and opened with a 3-1 win over Wickenburg. The Lady Horns won the first two sets 25-20 and 25-22, but lost the third 25-21.
In the fourth, Payson won 25-23 to send the Lady Wranglers packing home.
In the second tournament match against always-tough Window Rock, PHS lost the first two sets 25-20 and 25-22, but recovered to win the third, 25-21. Window Rock, who later advanced to the state championship only to fall to Monument Valley, claimed the fourth and deciding set 25-18.
Following the loss, Stonebrink lamented, “I can’t say I’m not disappointed. I’m disappointed, not because we lost a match we should have won, but because we lost a match we could have won.”
For the Lady Horns to whip the Fighting Scouts, however, the Payson players would have had to muster what the coach calls “a tip-top performance” such as those churned out late in the year in wins over Flagstaff, Snowflake and vs. Blue Ridge in the regional championship match.
“Window Rock is a tough, solid team and it would have taken a supreme performance to defeat them,” Stonebrink said. “A first look at our (state) bracket seemed to be a good draw, but it was paved with reservation schools and they are always tough.”
Although the coach is obviously disappointed with the defeat, he’s says there is a bright side, “The East teams did quite well in the tournament.
“All three won their first matches, meaning three of the final eight teams were from the East.”
Snowflake showed the best of the East teams, reaching the final four before losing to Monument Valley.
In reflecting on the season, Stonebrink calls it “terrific” and one in which the players set lofty goals for themselves.
“Some of them we met, others we fell just short of,” he said. “We met our goal of winning the region, but fell short of making the final four.”
The coach looks back on Window Rock, a No. 3 seed, as a team he knew would be extremely tough, but a squad that exceeded his expectations.
“What I didn’t expect was the big strong block they consistently threw against us, they definitely put a crimp into our hitting game,” he said.
What the coach did anticipate from WR was the type of play seen in most reservation teams, “They played smart, moved well in the back row and passed well.”
In the first set, the Lady Horns took an early lead only to see the Scouts rally to take over midway through.
“They refused to let us string together a serving run of more than two points,” Stonebrink said.
Trinity England did enjoy some success in the five-point loss, scoring four kills.
In the second set, Payson took a 12-8 lead, but once again the Scouts roared back to win by three.
England finished with six kills.
In the elimination set, Payson won by three, mostly because the hitting game, which had been on life support, suddenly showed signs of recovery.
Cami Barnett had five kills, England scored four and Katelyn Curtis had three. Rachel Creighton proved to be floor general, dishing out 13 assists.
“The fourth set was a real grind,” said Stonebrink. “The girls battled and clawed and seemed poised to drive the game to a fifth set with a 17-15 lead.”
A win was not in the cards, however, as the Scouts went on a 10-1 run to close out the set, match and Payson’s season.
With the campaign over, the Lady Horns will gather for one final time for the traditional awards banquet. Players will also be anxiously awaiting the naming of the All-East members chosen in a voting of coaches.