A wise old prep coach once bemoaned playing opponents “that have a deity on their side” — meaning a parochial school — hinting that a supernatural immortal being could swoop down and sway the outcome of the game in favor of the supposed holy ones.
The coach, of course, spoke with tongue in cheek.
But when the Lady Longhorns volleyball team took to the court Tuesday evening against Notre Dame, it was the team with the Saints mascot that prevailed.
ND, a pricey parochial school in Scottsdale, swept the Lady Horns, 25-20, 25-18 and 25-22, to put an end to Payson’s hopes of advancing to the Division III “state” tournament via the at-large power points route.
To attain an at-large berth, the Lady Horns probably must finish at the end of this week among the top 16 schools in power points.
But the loss to Notre Dame left the team at No. 18, with only a handful of games to be played around the state.
“I think it’s possible we could move up to No. 17 as the last games play out,” said coach Arnold Stonebrink. “But No. 16 or higher is inconceivable; I’m sad to see it.”
In looking back on the loss to Notre Dame, the coach is citing ragged passing as the Lady Horns’ Achilles’ heel.
“Especially serve receiving,” he said. “Notre Dame was able to land a lot of tough, low-arc serves and the result was winning only 33 percent of our serve receives.”
Although scouting reports on Notre Dame revealed the Saints to be well rounded with solid players and few weaknesses, the team struggled to return Lady Horns’ serves.
“I was a bit shocked at the problems they had,” said Stonebrink. “We served well … in fact, we won 54 percent of our serves.”
Megan Wessel finished with 12 winners in 18 attempts and three aces.
Her twin sister, Kaitlyn, finished with two aces, as did Rachel Creighton.
Kaitlyn also led the team in digs with 14.
As for hitting, Emma Randall recorded seven kills, Rachel Creighton had six, Taylor Randall five and Emmee Ashby finished with four.
Playmaker Rachel Creighton dished out 20 assists.
The loss probably marked the end of prep careers for seniors Kayla Woolwine, Rachel Creighton and Katelyn Curtis.
“They were tremendous and will be hard to replace,” said Stonebrink.
Creighton and Curtis were three-year letter winners and a big part of the volleyball program.
Among the underclassmen vs. Notre Dame, the Lady Horn jayvees traveled to the Scottsdale school with a 17-0 record and hoping to finish the season undefeated.
But a tough Notre Dame junior varsity, that Stonebrink said “resembled some varsity teams we’ve played,” put an end to hopes for an unblemished record with a 2-1 win. Notre Dame won the first set 25-14, Payson took the second 25-19 and the Saints claimed the third 15-10.
“Jayvee coach Shelli Creighton did a wonderful job, considering all the injuries and ineligibilities and short lineups she had,” said Stonebrink.