It’s shades of the now defunct 3A East Region.
That’s what the opening season holds for the Lady Longhorn volleyball team that scrimmaged Aug. 25 against the Show Low Cougars and begins 2011 play today, Aug. 30, vs. the Snowflake Lobos.
All three teams were rivals in the former East Region that was abolished this year in an Arizona Interscholastic Association realignment that replaced the conference-region configuration with divisions and sections.
In volleyball, Payson has been aligned in Division III, Section I.
While Show Low and Blue Ridge are also in D-III, S-I, there are also several other teams in it that were formerly Class 4A schools including Chinle, Mohave, Mingus and Flagstaff Coconino.
The presence of those so-called “big schools” will make the competition for postseason playoff honors much tougher for the smaller schools.
But, before we look down the schedule road, let’s return to the season-opening scrimmage against Show Low in Wilson Dome.
“I thought it went quite well,” said coach Arnold Stonebrink. “The girls looked good for this time of year.”
Individually, the coach cited senior setter Rachel Creighton for her efforts saying, “She had an easy time setting because the passes were mostly right to her and a foot off the net so she was able to consistently involve all hitters in the offense.”
Creighton is coming off a banner junior year in which she was named to the All-East team and was all-state honorable mention.
Libero Megan Wessel drew praise for her stellar passing vs. Show Low and for turning in “a tremendous scrimmage.”
Kayla Woolwine started at middle hitter and was the team’s top performer with 23 hits, 11 kills and two errors.
Varsity newcomer Emmee Ashby finished as the Lady Horns’ ace server.
While Stonebrink was basically satisfied with the results of the scrimmage, he is more than a bit concerned over some of the players’ health and academic progress.
“We have been plagued with injury and ineligibility issues,” he said. “This week in practice I looked over and saw three of our players sitting in a row — one had ice on her thigh, one had ice on her back and a third had ice on her knee.”
The disturbing sight of players nursing maladies might open varsity playing time for some younger players.
“We may call a player or two up from jayvee to help us with depth,” the coach said.
For today’s match vs. Snowflake, most fans are expecting a barnburner because matches last year between the two rivals were absolutely fierce.
In one match Payson lost 3-2 with all three of the Lady Horns’ losses going into overtime. In another match, Payson won 3-0 with two of the wins in overtime. Of the eight sets between the two teams, five went into OT.
Freshmen action tips off today in Lobo gym at 4:30 p.m. The varsity game will begin about two hours later.