Payson’s aspiring young volleyball players are using the summer months to fine-tune their skills in preparation for the upcoming middle and high school seasons.
The summer agenda has included a junior camp that drew 44 girls of elementary and middle school age as well as an appearance in a 35-team tournament in Lakeside.
Also, the high school girls have participated in the All-American Volleyball Camp and will travel this month to tournaments in Florence and later this month host their own summer skirmish.
On Labor Day weekend, the Lady Longhorns will host their annual season opening Payson Invitational, which has been expanded from 18 to 24 teams.
The addition of more teams means two facilities, Wilson Dome and old PHS gym, must be used.
The old gym, however, is currently getting a new and upgraded roof installed and might not be available.
“I pray like crazy it will be open,” said coach Arnold Stonebrink.
Payson High was represented at the Blue Ridge-hosted tournament, which was conducted June 23 in Lakeside, by two teams — A and B squads.
The A team tied for seventh overall and the B took fourth in the consolation bracket.
“Decent showings, not great and not bad,” said Stonebrink.
“Our highlights included losing by just one point to eventual No. 2 seed St. David and winning a three-set match over a tough Window Rock team.
Individually, Stonebrink cited McKenzie Creighton, who will be a first-year varsity setter, for her efforts.
“She was fantastic, leading the team in setting, serving, passing and hitting.”
Sophomore Sydney Samuel also drew praise for her all around play as did freshman Lizbeth Ochoa who started as a back row specialist.
“Many times, she sprinted back to save a seemingly unsaveable ball, miraculously put an arm under the ball and brought the ball up enough for someone to save before she smashed into the floor,” said Stonebrink. “It’s plays like that which fire up a team.”
The coach says he sometimes worries when Ochoa slams into the floor after diving to save a ball but “she has never been hurt yet.”
Also in Lakeside, Emmee Ashby — one of the stars of last year’s team — played what could be her final game for Payson.
The teen and her mother are expected to move to Queen Creek before the onset of the 2012-13 school year.
“She was our top hitter last year and her shoes will be big ones to fill,” said Stonebrink. “But, we have some girls that have stepped up their game and are eager to prove their worth.”
All-American Volleyball Camp
Former collegiate standouts Amanda Omar and Whitney Phillips headed the volleyball camp held last week in Wilson Dome.
Omar played collegiately at Southwest Missouri State and coached and played professionally in Finland.
She currently plays semipro ball for the Arizona Sizzle.
Phillips played at Portland State and was once named the Big Sky Conference Player of the Year.
Last season she played professionally in Finland and plans on playing next year in England.
Stonebrink lauded the pair for hosting a top-notch training camp, “Both girls did a tremendous job; it may have been the best camp we’ve been to.”
The campers, most of whom will contend for playing time next season, “All showed nice improvement, even though it kicked their butt.
“We had a lot of sore girls at the end.”
The volleyball players are scheduled to make the appearance in the Florence tournament on July 14 and on July 20 will host about 20 teams in Wilson Dome.