Although the power point rankings have not been recently kind to the Lady Longhorn volleyball team, coach Arnold Stonebrink is confident his team can sneak into the postseason playoffs.
Last week, the Lady Horns were ranked No. 15 in Division III points, but after dropping three straight sets to Blue Ridge on Sept. 27, Payson fell to No. 21.
“If we can finish 4-2 from here on out, I think we still have a chance (of making the playoffs),” Stonebrink said.
The games he’s referring to are today, Oct. 4, vs. Camp Verde and regular season ending clashes vs. Mingus (Oct. 11 and Oct. 20) and Fountain Hills (Oct. 18).
In power points, Fountain Hills is rated No. 11, Mingus is currently ranked No. 17.
The D-III or “state” tournament begins Nov. 4 and power points will be one of the criteria used to seed teams into the fray.
In the match against Blue Ridge, the Lady Horns lost the first set 25-23 and then fell 25-18 and 25-19.
For the match, the team was without the services of an outside hitter who earlier quit and the ineligibility of a junior varsity replacement, who shined Sept. 23-24 in the Snowflake tournament.
The loss of the two prompted Stonebrink to make wholesale changes moving libero Megan Wessel to outside hitter, Harley Turney from defensive specialist to libero and junior varsity setter McKenzie Creighton to defensive specialist.
“The moves worked, at least at first,” said Stonebrink. “Megan ripped up from the outside and we jumped to a 17-13 lead.
“Blue Ridge fought back, but we still hung on to a 23-21 lead before two passing errors and two hitting errors did us in, in the first set.”
Also in the opener, Megan Wessel overpowered Blue Ridge with six kills, but the team struggled as Blue Ridge exposed Lady Horns’ weaknesses, especially within the 10-foot line.
“We often were not quite in position and did not do well anticipating their hits,” Stonebrink said. “Blue Ridge did not outhit us, but they certainly out tipped and out finessed us.”
Individually Megan Wessel led the team in hitting efficiency with a .291 mark on 24 hits, 12 kills and five errors.
Katelyn Curtis led the team in serving efficiency with aces (3) and service winners (9) and tied with Harley Turney and Megan Wessel in digs with 11 each.
Kaitlyn Wessel and Turney led the passers in serve receiving.
“We passed the ball well when we reached the ball, we just didn’t do well in covering tips,” said Stonebrink.
Although the Lady Horns are experiencing some dissension, Stonebrink contends the team is maintaining its strong chemistry.
“I would go to battle with them any day and that’s what we will do,” he said.
Among the players the coach singles out as a true “warrior” with a focus on what high school sports should be all about is Kaitlyn Wessel.
“She is one of the bona fide stars on our team,” said Stonebrink. “In the Snowflake tournament she led the team in serving and serve receiving.
“But when she struggled fiercely trying to hit (vs. Blue Ridge), she was yanked as a front row player.
“Her response was giving me a solid high five when she came out and staying positive and cheering her teammates on from the bench.”