Lady Longhorn volleyball coach Arnold Stonebrink is calling Tuba City, Florence and Blue Ridge favorites to win the Payson Invitational Tournament that this year has expanded to 21 teams, up from the 18 it hosted for several years.
As for his own Lady Horn team, Stonebrink says, “We’ll have to play solid, aggressive, smart ball to even hope to be competitive with these three.”
The tournament is to be played Friday and Saturday, Sept. 2 and Sept. 3 in Wilson Dome and in the Rim Country Middle School and Julia Randall Elementary School gymnasiums.
Some games had to be moved to JRE from old PHS gym, because the roof in the high school gymnasium is being replaced.
Stonebrink is tagging Tuba City a favorite based on his observations at the Excel Team Camp held the past summer in Glendale.
“They looked extremely tough and they have good experience,” said Stonebrink. “Coach Harlen Barlow is only in his second season as head coach, but he knows his stuff and they look poised to have a dominating season.”
Also impressing Stonebrink at the Excel Camp, was that Tuba City took on, and beat, several “big school” teams from the Division I ranks.
Stonebrink says he’s awed with Florence because they “are solid in all facets of the game” and coach Casey Simon “runs a very successful and popular program and their depth shows it.”
Of the four summer tournaments Florence participated in, the Gophers emerged victorious in each.
Blue Ridge’s strength comes from a senior class that Stonebrink is calling “one for the ages — very talented and solid.”
BR coach Tami Ellsworth called upon several of the seniors, as sophomores, to start on the Jacket varsity.
“So on top of being loaded with great ability, they also have great experience,” Stonebrink said.
For Friday’s tournament play, the teams are aligned in three pools, Purple, Gold and Black with seven teams in each.
The Lady Horns are in the Black Pool with Blue Ridge, Joseph City, Miami, Wickenburg, Holbrook and Page.
Pool action begins at 9 a.m. in all three gyms and continues until 5:40 p.m.
The results of pool play will be used to seed teams into cross-pool play that tips off at 5:45 p.m. For it, games of 20 minutes will be played under a running clock. One game will be played, up to 30 points or until the time limit ends.
On Saturday, double elimination tournaments will be held in a championship and consolation bracket. The top 11 teams will be seeded into the championship bracket and the remaining 10 will battle in the consolation bracket.
Late Saturday afternoon the two survivors of the championship bracket will meet for the tournament title.
The final match will be conducted in best two out of three games to 25 points with no time limit.
At the conclusion of the tournament, trophies will be awarded to the winners of both brackets and T-shirts will be given to the players on each team. Also, an all-tournament team and MVP will be named in a voting of coaches.
Spectators are welcome and there is no admission charge.