It’s not often in high school sports that the very same athletes who make an all-region team are also chosen to the all-state team.
The oddity is because all-region selections are chosen in a voting of coaches and the Arizona Republic’s all-state team is chosen by the newspaper’s reporters using statistics, public nominations, interviews and observations.
Although reporters and coaches often disagree on the talents, abilities and contributions of prep athletes, the two sides agreed exactly when it came to selecting players for the All-East and 1A-3A All-State volleyball teams.
Last week, Lady Longhorn coach Arnold Stonebrink announced that Rachel DiFelice, Trinity England, Katelyn Curtis and Rachel Creighton had been named to the All-East team.
On Nov. 22, the Republic sports staff announced that the very same four girls were on the small school all-state team.
DiFelice was tapped to the second team and England, Curtis and Creighton were honorable mention.
For the All-East team, coaches also chose England, Curtis, DiFelice and Creighton.
Immediately after the selection of the Lady Horns to all-state, Stonebrink lauded them saying, “All four were well deserving and it’s a thrill seeing them receive all-state honors.”
He praised, DiFelice in particular saying, “Her selection is very satisfying. She had a tremendous year and really came into her own.”
He continued to extol her as “rock solid in the back row and had a flair for the spectacular — she made all sorts of incredible saves that caught the eye of several coaches.”
Most satisfying for the coach is that “so many other coaches in the state recognized her great back row play.”
During the campaign, DiFelice led the team in digs with 224 and serve receiving with 205.
For the Lady Horns, she played libero — a position that was added to Arizona high school volleyball in 2005. The player is one who specializes in defensive skills and must wear a contrasting color from her teammates.
DiFelice was the only East region player to be chosen either first or second team.
In fact, several chosen were from the 1A-2A ranks and three were from Valley area parochial schools.
Honorable mentions and more
England and Curtis were the team’s two finest hitters with identical marks of .240 which Stonebrink says “is tremendous, to have two hitting so well on one team.”
England also led Payson in attack kills with 196, and Curtis paced PHS in blocks with 20.
Creighton played the crucial role of setter and is praised by Stonebrink as “the best in the East and one of the best in the state.”
Creighton finished with 121 digs and a whopping 475 assists.
The efforts of the four all-staters and those of teammates helped the Lady Horns tie for the East regular season title, win the region tournament, advance to the 3A state quarterfinals and compile a 20-9-1 record.
Also in the all-state balloting Kayenta Monument Valley’s Bradley Nash, who last season led her team to its third consecutive 3A title, was named the “Small School Player of the Year.”
During her four-year prep career, Nash helped Monument Valley rack up a 159-4-3 record and last year go undefeated (49-0).
Nash, a 6-foot middle hitter, was also named to the All-Arizona team — a rare accomplishment for a player from a small 3A school.
Her coach, Lucinda Nash, a 37-year veteran, was named “Small School Coach of the Year.”
The coach has said she is retiring at the end of the school year.