A 3-0 loss to the Mingus Marauders has put a big-time crimp in the Lady Longhorn volleyball players’ hopes and aspirations of advancing to the postseason Division III “state” tournament.
Coach Arnold Stonebrink understands the situation well, “Now our backs are really against the wall.”
The Lady Horns incurred the heartbreaking defeat Thursday, Oct. 20 in Wilson Dome.
For the Lady Horns to now earn a seed into the state tournament via the power points at-large route, Payson must win today at Notre Dame against a powerful Saints team that is currently 14-1 and ranked No. 4 in power points.
Stonebrink is predicting before the season is over and the state tournament begins, “I think they (Notre Dame) will be No. 1 (in power points).”
In addition to having to whip powerful Notre Dame to stay alive in the chase for postseason play, the Lady Horns need another very unlikely scenario to unfold.
“Shadow Ridge (12-4) must lose to Youngker (9-8) and I’m not holding my breath — last week Shadow Ridge beat them 3-0,” said Stonebrink.
As for today’s PHS match against Notre Dame, the two teams will be no strangers to one another, having met Sept. 26 at Notre Dame.
In that clash, the Saints won 3-0, but the Lady Horns showed some spark losing by nine, six points and two points in overtime.
“We actually played well,” said Stonebrink.
As for the team’s approach in tonight’s game, “It is to give it the ol’ college try and see how it goes,” Stonebrink said.
Taking a glimpse at the current power point standings will erase any doubt about how crucial today’s game is.
Currently Payson is sitting 18th among 49 D-III teams in power points.
The teams that will advance to state as at-large selections will most likely come from the top 16 schools in power points.
Which means Payson must pass 17th-ranked Higley, 16th Shadow Ridge and hold off 19th Amphitheater and 20th Mingus to earn a ducat to state.
So for now, Payson’s postseason hopes rest on upsetting the Saints and having Shadow Ridge lose to Youngker.
Although the odds are stacked against Payson in today’s game vs. Notre Dame, Stonebrink remains optimistic because the current edition of Lady Horns has faced the toughest schedule in recent memory and in some challenges has prevailed, including 3-2 over Snowflake, 3-0 against Fountain Hills and 3-2 vs. Mingus in the first meeting of the two teams this season.
In the most recent meeting between PHS and the Marauders, Mingus won 25-15, 25-20 and 25-23.
“The most critical part of the match occurred in the second and third sets,” said Stonebrink. “In the second set, we led 18-16, but Mingus closed on a 9-2 run to put us in a big hole.
“In the third set, we led 22-20, before giving up a 5-1 run to lose it.”
Following the match, a gracious coach Arnold Stonebrink praised the Marauders, saying the players were “good and aggressive, and their super-fast offense run through their middles (hitters) killed us.”
Also, he added, “They had terrific height in the middle and their middles consistently put the ball down at about the 12- or 13-foot lines, right in front of our back row.”
Seeing that, the coach exhorted his back row players to move up to shallower positions, which he admits is an “unnatural feeling,” but the players could not adjust.
Seven service errors in the first set alone also contributed to the Lady Horns’ demise.
There were, however, some bright spots in the loss, especially the serving of Kaitlyn Wessel, who led in serving efficiency and aces with four.
Stonebrink also praised middle hitter Kayla Woolwine, a player who has suffered health issues most of the season, but returned Tuesday into the starting lineup.
She responded with a banner night, posting 11 hits, five kills and just one error.
Katelyn Curtis finished with 22 hits, six kills and two errors.
Setter Rachel Creighton dished out 16 assists.
Although the Lady Horns couldn’t pull out a much-needed win over Mingus, the team did score an upset of sorts two days earlier, Oct. 18 in Wilson Dome, dumping No. 8 Fountain Hills 25-21, 26-24 and 27-25.
The final set might have been the most thrilling as the Lady Horns battled back from a 19-12 deficit to win.
“That speaks volumes for this group’s will to win and determination,” Stonebrink said.
In the come-from-behind win, Payson hitters dominated at the net with 17 kills.
Curtis tallied six, Megan Wessel had four and Emmee Ashby and Woolwine contributed three each.
For the entire match, Rachel Creighton was what Stonebrink is calling “a cold-blooded killing machine” mostly because she turned in probably her best match of the season with 17 hits, nine kills, no errors and 34 assists. Most of her hits were on power sets.
Kaitlyn Wessel and Curtis led the team in serve receiving.