“Our schedule has two weeks of back-to-back-to-back games ... not good for academics and not good for our quest to be competitive.”
Varsity volleyball coach
The Payson High School volleyball schedule might be one of the most demanding in school history with the team playing as many as three consecutive games on two occasions and being on the road for six straight matches in mid-September.
Coach Arnold Stonebrink was among the first to recognize the problems with the schedule and enlisted the help of first-year athletic director Don Heizer to try and remedy the predicament.
“He is trying to fix, or at least put a Band-Aid or two on our insane volleyball schedule,” Stonebrink said. “Our schedule has two weeks of back-to-back-to-back games and two weeks featuring back-to-back games.
“Whereas, we have two weeks with only one game.”
Possibly the most demanding portion of the schedule is Sept. 18 (at Mogollon), Sept. 19 (at Snowflake), Sept. 20 (at Coronado) and Sept. 21-22 (in the Snowflake Invitational tournament).
In that stretch, the team will be on the road five consecutive days and play as many as nine or more matches.
“Not good for academics and not good for our quest to be competitive,” said Stonebrink.
The stretch from Sept. 18 to 22, however, is not the only demanding portion on the schedule.
The team also has three consecutive games on Sept. 11 (at Camp Verde), Sept. 12 (vs. Fountain Hills in the Dome) and Sept. 13 (vs. Saguaro in the Dome).
“Before last year, we could generally count on a Tuesday and Thursday match every week,” said Stonebrink. “It was great, we always had Wednesday to rest and practice for Thursday’s opponent. “But not anymore.”
While Stonebrink faces one of the most taxing schedules in prep volleyball, he takes some solace knowing he could take to hardwood wars a talented team capable of making a run into the state tournament.
“They seem to not only have great ability, but also seem to have some extra maturity,” the coach said. “They play at a very even keel.”
Individually, he lauds McKenzie Creighton, Sydney Samuels, Emma Randall and Kaitlyn Wessel for their play, especially in the recently concluded Payson summer tournament.
Creighton, Stonebrink predicts, has the potential to be as good as her older sister, Rachel, who was the Lady Longhorn four letter winner and starting setter for three seasons.
Samuels, Stonebrink says, racks up big time stats in spiking, hitting, serving efficiency and kills.
Randall developed her game over the summer and has become a standout hitter who commits few errors.
Wessel is one of the team’s leading passers and serve-receivers.
The Lady Horns travel to Show Low today, Friday, for a four-way preseason scrimmage with Blue Ridge, Florence and the host Lady Cougars.
Sets begin at 5 p.m.
The team opens the season in earnest Aug. 28 in Wilson Dome against Snowflake. Game time is 6 p.m. The varsity clash will be preceded by a freshman game at 4 p.m. and junior varsity at 6 p.m.