Some of the finest players to ever don Lady Longhorn volleyball uniforms turned out for the 2011 alumni tournament where the former team members had the opportunity to test their skills against the current varsity.
By the time the clamor of the event wrapped up on Aug. 6 in Wilson Dome, it was the Kool Kids who emerged victorious with a 2-1 victory over the Payson High School varsity.
Equally as impressive as the Kool Kids win; the Class of 2009 — a team who won the tournament last year — returned with their lineup intact.
“They continued with their terrific record of consistency,” said coach Arnold Stonebrink. “Every year since they graduated, every single one of their class group of seven girls has played together in the alumni tournament.”
Also participating in the five-team tournament were We’d Hit That, Kickin’ it Old School and the Lady Longhorn varsity.
“We had a great volleyball tournament,” Stonebrink said “And the greatest accomplishment — no one had a heart attack or died from exhaustion.”
The breakneck pace of the tournament has Stonebrink considering, whether or not he should “tweak the format a bit to give them more of a break.”
In individual pool play games, which were to 25 points, the varsity went 4-0 and Kool Kids, Class of ’09 and We’d Hit That took turns beating each other all finishing 2-2.
To find an opponent for the varsity in the championship finale, a tiebreaker was used, which was won by Kool Kids.
In the championship showdown, playing best two-out-of-three, the varsity broke up a tight first game in which it once led only 16-15 to win 25-17.
Not to be outdone, the Kool Kids won the second clash 25-18 to force a third and deciding game.
In it, the Lady Horns fell behind 13-3 mostly due to hitting errors.
“A comeback made it more respectable, but we still fell 15-9,” said Stonebrink.
“I can live with a team beating us, but I pull out huge clumps of hair when we beat ourselves.”
As distraught as the coach was over the miscues, he praised the Kool Kids saying, “They played smart and some of their players were agile and diving to make great saves.”
Several of the players on the Kool Kids had played at PHS before Stonebrink took over the program eight years ago.
One alumna impressed Stonebrink with the same heady play she was known for during her prep playing days.
“Especially dominant was Rheanna (Martinez) Gutierrez,” Stonebrink said. “She had some powerful killer hits and she had several solo blocks that went right back in our faces.
“Her back row play was heads up and solid — just as good as a top-notch libero.”
Rheanna was a three-sport star at PHS before graduating with the class of 2000 and moving on to Arizona State University.
Also on the Kool Kids were Jadyn Walden, Brandi Waugh, Brittany Owens, Haylee Huff and Hillary Hardt.
While the tournament was about competition and good times, it also allowed Stonebrink the opportunity to assess his players.
“I experimented with several different lineups, rotating girls in and out and also trying some girls at different positions,” he said. “It allowed me to gain a clearer picture of who the front runners are for varsity spots.”
Stonebrink conducted tryouts this week and will soon announce the varsity picks on a roster that appears to be as deep as any in the history of the program. “It may be the most difficult job ever in deciding who will make the varsity,” said Stonebrink.