The 2012 season has come to an end for the Lady Longhorn volleyball team. The girls traveled to Prescott Valley Friday for the first round of postseason play meeting Blue Ridge.
The Lady Longhorns lost to Blue Ridge, 19-25, 17-25, 23-25.
The two teams met on a path that included a meeting once before, but their subsequent paths to the postseason were near polar opposites, said coach Arnold Stonebrink.
“When we met Blue Ridge earlier in the season, we were 9-0 and confident, whereas Blue Ridge had two losses, including a surprising one against Round Valley. We easily won the first set and Blue Ridge won the next three sets to win the match. Then the fortunes of both teams dramatically changed the rest of the season,” he said, adding Blue Ridge’s early-season win over Payson keyed a 10-match winning streak heading into state.
“That first loss pushed us into a tailspin that resulted in eight losses in nine matches headed into state. Granted, our last half schedule was markedly tougher than our first half; in fact, there was only one loss that I would say we played poorly.
“At the 9-0 marked we were ranked No. 12 in the state. To finish 10-8 and still be high enough to earn a state birth (at No. 14), I was thrilled, to say the least,” Stonebrink said.
Recapping the Payson-Blue Ridge contest in Prescott Valley, he said, “The first set at state, we jumped out to a quick 6-2 lead, thanks to terrific passing and hitting. Blue Ridge momentarily grabbed the lead, but another run gave us a 16-11 lead. Then a Yellow Jacket run proved to kill us. Suddenly, we could not pass; our passes were to the 10-foot line, with an occasional one drifting to right on the top of the net. The 14-3 Blue Ridge run destroyed what early momentum we’d built up, and we lost, 19-25.
“The second set was never close; we quickly fell to a 1-8 hole, and Blue Ridge coasted from there.”
Stonebrink said of the third set, “We really went to our hot hand, sophomore middle hitter Rachel Larned, our call-up from the JV. She repeatedly launched kills over and around the Blue Ridge block, and we were able to build an early four-point lead. But when Rachel had to rotate out of the front row, we lost the lead and momentum. Things looked really grim as we fell behind, 20-15. But a last-gasp effort tied the game at 21. Blue Ridge scored three of the next four to go up 24-22. We got a side out to almost force overtime, but a Blue Ridge kill gave them the win and sent us packing.”
Stonebrink said he was very proud of the girls. “With the tough schedule, and being in the tough division that we were in, winning enough to be able to make it to state was a very nice accomplishment.” He said, although the Lady Horns struggled in the hitting department, Rachel Larned had a monster game; she had nine kills in 17 attempts with only one error, for a fantastic .471 efficiency.
“Having two more years of her play gives us a very bright future.”
Serve receiving wasn’t quite up to snuff, Emma Randall had a terrific game passing serves, as she had a 2.56 efficiency. Megan Wessel followed at 2.35.
The top servers were Mckenzie Creighton and Shayna Neal, as they led the team in efficiency (1.61 and 1.92, respectively), winners (11 and seven points, respectively), and aces (three and two, respectively). Mckenzie distributed 25 assists. Emma Randall had three block assists, followed by Rachel Larned’s two block assists.
“Megan Wessel completed her three-year varsity stint with a terrific last season,” the coach said. “Her 1.71 serving efficiency was the best ever in my nine years of coaching, and her 2.35 serve receiving was tied for my second best ever (behind Jade Heglie’s 2.51 of 2006).”
Kaitlyn Wessel also made her last of three varsity seasons a memorable one; her .172 hitting was the second best ever for a right side hitter for Stonebrink (behind Laughlin Potvin’s 2.79 of 2008), and her 2.35 serve receiving was the same as her sister, the second best ever for the coach. Rachel Larned’s .295 hitting was the second best ever for Stonebrink (behind Tori Wilbanks’ .327 of 2006).
• Mckenzie Creighton was fifth in the state in Division III in assists per set;
• Megan Wessel was seventh in aces per set and Shayna Neal was ninth;
• Emma Randall was 11th in the state in kills per set.
• Hitting leader, Rachel Larned, .295;
• Kills leader, Emma Randall, 289;
• Serve efficiency leader, Megan Wessel, 1.71;
• Aces leader, Megan Wessel, 97;
• Serve receiving leader, Megan Wessel and Kaitlyn Wessel, 2.35;
• Assists leader, Mckenzie Creighton, 887;
• Blocking leader, Taylor Randall, 61 total;
• Digs leader, Megan Wessel.