A 3-0 victory over the Round Valley Elks sewed up a first-place tie in the final region standings for the Lady Longhorn volleyball team.
At week’s end, Snowflake and Blue Ridge will probably be dead-knotted with Payson because the Lobos and Yellow Jackets are expected to win finales this week. If that occurs, it would result in the three teams wrapping up the season with identical 10-2 region records.
Payson’s final East game was the Round Valley clash on Oct. 19 in Wilson Dome.
While the Lady Horns have nailed down a first-place tie for the East title, the all-important seed the team will be clutching into the regional tournament is not yet known.
The tournament will be played Oct. 30.
Coach Arnold Stonebrink has said the tiebreaker for tournament seeding purposes will probably be power points.
If that occurs as anticipated, Blue Ridge would receive the No. 1 seed and Payson would fall to No. 2.
That is if the power point rankings as of this morning hold up until the end of the week.
In today’s rankings, Blue Ridge (13-4) is ranked highest of the East teams at No. 6.
Payson (12-5) is No. 9 and Snowflake (12-3) is No. 12 among the 26 3A teams.
Stonebrink has said that getting the No. 1 seed will be a tremendous advantage in the regional tournament because the top team can sit, rest and watch the No. 2 and 3 teams wage hardwood war in the semifinals and be fresh and rested to take on the winner in the gold medal finale.
Regional tournament results will determine seeding for the 3A state tournament set to begin Nov. 5 at Tim’s Toyota Center in Prescott Valley.
Semifinal and final matches will be played Nov. 6, also at the center.
If Payson continues to cling to the No. 9 power points ranking it now holds, the team would play No. 8, which is currently Florence.
However, that will probably all change as the regular season ends and regional tournaments play out.
Elks fall in three
In the clash against Round Valley, Payson survived 25-19, 25-17 and 25-14.
The Lady Horns opened red hot with Kelsey Waugh going on a six-point serving run and Megan Wessel following with a five-point run that propelled PHS out to a 18-4 lead.
The Elks, however, refused to go away without a bugle scoring nine straight points.
“The next thing we knew, it was a game at 20-16,” said Stonebrink. “We were finally able to pass well and get the offense going again and we won.”
In the second set, Round Valley continued with a show of true grit that would make John Wayne proud.
Trailing most of the way, RV rallied to tie the tally 17-17.
After a side out, Rachel Creighton fired up with seven straight service winners.
“Everyone of them was a tough serve that Round Valley had trouble passing,” Stonebrink said.
Also in the win, Trinity England turned into an Elk slayer powering five kills.
In the third and final set, Payson jumped to an early lead and coasted to the 11-point win.
“It was drama free,” Stonebrink said.
Katelyn Curtis paved the way to victory with four kills.
England led the team in kills with 11, Curtis finished with seven and Waugh had five.
All three also drew the coach’s praise for their hitting efficiency and Kaitlyn Wessel was lauded for her blocking, with three stuff assists.
“It was her best day ever,” Stonebrink said.
At the serving line, the Lady Horns turned in what the coach calls one of the better days of the season with 11 aces and only three errors in 73 serves.
“They weren’t powder puff serves either, they were a lot of low-ace, tough floaters,” he said. Individually, Megan Wessel had five aces, no errors and 12 service winners.
While serve receiving has been an Achilles’ heel for the team through the season, libero Rachel DiFelice stepped up against RV to become a potent receiving force with 11 digs.
“She was all over the court,” said Stonebrink.
England also turned in a commendable effort with 12 digs.