Lady Longhorn volleyball coach Arnold Stonebrink is not mincing words over his three teams’ performances in the Blue Ridge Summer Tournament.
“It was a bittersweet experience for our program,” he said. “Definitely like kissing your sister — who doesn’t brush her teeth.”
The coach was referring to a tournament experience that was a bit dull and lifeless and almost resulted in a tie.
For the tournament, Stonebrink divided his 23-player roster into three different teams, which, he said, “Gave each girl lots of playing time.”
The results of fielding three decent teams rather than one dominating one was, “The play of the girls created even more of a hug logjam of who will be starters, especially at the outside and middle hitter positions,” Stonebrink said.
“We have a lot of depth and the competition for starting in those positions will be really cutthroat.”
The “A” team, made up of the leading candidates for varsity positions next season, entered the tournament fresh off of almost pulling the upset of the season narrowly losing last week to defending state champion Monument Valley in the championship of the Winslow Bulldog Invitational.
At BRHS, however, the girls stumbled on the way to winning the tournament’s consolation title.
“We had a couple of hiccups that cost us,” said Stonebrink. “A split to St. David and another to Florence B, in which we lost by one point, combined with a sweep by Safford relegated us to a 6-4 tournament record.”
The Safford loss was also by a single point.
In selecting the champions bracket teams, Payson lost a tiebreaker with another tournament team and was relegated to the consolation bracket.
In it, “the girls played extremely well going undefeated in cross pool play and sweeping our way through the bracket to win the consolation championship,” Stonebrink said.
In the consolation title game, Payson whipped the Holbrook Roadrunners.
The B squad
The B team, coached by Shelli Creighton, also fared well.
“Shelli really had her girls playing to their potential and their effort and results were tremendous,” said Stonebrink.
“The team was nearly, if not exactly as strong as the A team.”
In opening round play, the B squad played on even terms with most of its “A” opponents tying for third place and winning its tiebreaker.
In cross-pool play the team finished 5-3 defeating several “A” opponents.
With the finish, the team advanced to the championship bracket as a No. 13 seed only to find itself pitted in the first game against perennially tough Safford — a team that went on to finish third in the 30-team tournament.
Despite Safford’s lofty reputation, Payson surprised most everyone by winning the first game 21-13. The Bulldogs, however, barked and bit their way back to win the second clash 21-14.
In the rubber game, Payson and the Dogs were tied 9-9 before Safford reeled off back-to-back points to win 11-9.
Next up, Payson bounced St. Johns from the tournament to advance to a showdown against Blue Ridge A.
“They gave Blue Ridge all it could handle, losing 21-16 and 11-10,” said Stonebrink.
The C team, the coach said, “Took a few lumps here and there, but was able to win a couple of games.”