Team’S Success Hinged On Hitting

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Lady Longhorn volleyball coach Arnold Stonebrink is lauding his 2010 squad as the second best hitting team during his seven-year tenure at the helm of the Payson High program.

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Max Foster/Roundup

Katelyn Curtis, back at left, Trinity England, back at right, Rachel DiFelice, front at left, and Rachel Creighton, front at right, were named to the All-East team at the conclusion of the season. Coach Arnold Stonebrink, back at center, was named Coach of the Year.

He says the only better team, according to hitting statistics, was one several years ago that featured “Torrid” Tori Wilbanks as a senior and sophomore sensation Jenna Robertson.

The pair were among the most accomplished hitters to ever don PHS uniforms.

The only problem is, when Stonebrink churns out his hitting “efficiency” statistics, casual fans are left scratching their noggins in bewilderment.

For example, he says “Trinity England and Katelyn Curtis both ended up hitting about .240, which is tremendous to have two hitters hitting so well on one team.”

So, .200 must be good, right?

To check, let’s see how the coach calculates those statistics. First, he needs to know the number of kills (K) each player has, the number of errors (E) and the player’s total attacks (TA). He then uses the formula K-E/TA.

If a player has 10 kills, 6 errors and 20 attacks, the hitting percentage would be 10-6/20 or .200.

The formula is not one Stonebrink patched together as if he was volleyball’s Euclid and Archimedes all wrapped into one — it’s used in high schools and colleges around the country and is considered a solid indication of how accomplished a player actually is.

At season’s end, when prep coaches select individuals to be honored, hitting statistics and others for blocks, kills, assists, aces and digs can go a long way in helping coaches determine honorees.

England’s mark this year of .240 is a huge jump over her .119 average as a sophomore and junior standard of .159.

“For her to make such an improvement is tremendous,” said Stonebrink. “She also improved greatly as a passer and as a server.”

The coach also praised Curtis’ hitting improvement saying “last year she hit about .130.”

Cami Barnett, the team’s most valuable player in last weekend’s 3A state tournament, is another of those being extolled for her hitting improvement.

“She worked really hard this season to improve her footwork and it paid off,” said Stonebrink.” She hit about .160 and improved quite a bit.”

Other stellar hitters in the Lady Longhorn lineup were Kayla Woolwine and Kelsey Waugh.

“Kayla hit close to .200 and Kelsey was hitting close to .200 before she sustained her two sprained ankles,” said Stonebrink.

“She gamely made a go of it, but seemed to be slowed by the ankles in limited action at state.”

Woolwine turned in one of the team’s finest hitting performances in the Lady Longhorns’ state tournament opening round win over Wickenburg. She finished with a .375 mark that included four kills.

The others

While hitting is a big part of the sport, there are many other facets of the game, just as there are in football, basketball and soccer.

A back row specialist can mean the difference between a “W” and an “L” and the Lady Horns had a fine one in three-sport star Rylee Halenar.

Stonebrink contends that at the onset of the season Halenar struggled finding her way because she focuses on so many different athletic endeavors.

“She slowly got into the groove, but once she was there, she was great,” he said.

“The last two-and-a-half weeks of the season, she was arguable our most consistent, valuable player — she was phenomenal.”

In Payson’s state first round win over Wickenburg, Halenar was one of only a few serve-receivers able to bust Lady Wrangler runs.

“Her steadiness saved the match for us,” said the coach.

Another extremely important position on any prep volleyball team is the setter because the athlete becomes much like a point guard in basketball pulling the trigger in the team’s offense.

A setter’s job is to make other players look good and that’s what is garnering praise for Rachel Creighton from Stonebrink.

“I felt she was the best setter in the East and one of the best in the state,” he said. “She did a superb job of running the team.”

Another crucial slot a prep coach must now fill is the one of libero. The position was added to Arizona high school volleyball in 2005 and internationally was added in 1998. The player is one who specializes in defensive skills and must wear a contrasting color from her teammates.

A libero cannot block or attack when the ball is entirely above net height.

For the ladies in purple last season, Rachel DiFelice handled the libero responsibilities and “was tremendous running the back row; she had some terrific games,” said Stonebrink.

Of course no set can begin without a serve and the Lady Horns’ best server all season long was Megan Wessel.

“Megan led the team in aces and showed poise and consistency in her serves,” said Stonebrink, who also praised the 2010 crew as “our best serving team ever and our second best passing team.”

England, Curtis, DiFelice and Creighton were named to the All-East team at the conclusion of the season. Barnett and Waugh were honorable mentions.

Region coaches bestowed on Stonebrink the greatest honor possible — “East Coach of the Year.”

The coaches

While Stonebrink is summing up the past season, he saves plenty of plaudits for assistant coaches Jadyn Walden, Shelli Creighton and Trevor Creighton. “I had terrific coaches,” Stonebrink said.

“Jadyn had a 14-1 record as freshman coach and made great strides this year.”

Jayvee coach Shelli Creighton’s team finished 16-2 giving PHS probably the finest frosh-junior varsity program in the 3A conference.

Her husband Trevor worked as varsity assistant and is being praised by Stonebrink as “intelligent, able, competitive and the best assistant coach in the conference.”

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