Coming on the heels of a rare three-match losing streak, the Lady Longhorns’ volleyball clash today against Fountain Hills is shrouded in heavy implications.
A win over the homestanding Falcons could possibly nail down a Division III state tournament invitation for PHS. Conversely, a loss could signal the beginning of the end of Payson’s playoff hopes.
Currently in power points rankings, the Lady Horns are rated 10th, which is plenty good enough to earn a spot in the postseason.
But a loss to Fountain Hills today, Oct. 16, coupled with follow up defeats in the final two matches of the regular season — Oct. 20 vs. Mingus and Oct. 22 vs. Notre Dame — could result in a loss of power points that would drop Payson below the final seed.
“Last year, our nine wins was one win short of state,” said coach Arnold Stonebrink. “This year, I’m guessing even if we go 10-8, it may not be good enough to go to state.”
In the last power point rankings, which were posted Oct. 9, the Lady Horns were 10-3, but since have lost earlier matches to Mingus and Notre Dame.
The recent demise of the Lady Horns began Oct. 4 with a 3-2 loss to Saguaro and continued Oct. 9 with a loss to Mingus and Oct. 11 when PHS fell to Notre Dame Prep.
In both most recent defeats, Payson was swept 3-0.
Losing to Notre Dame was not entirely unexpected since the Saints are Division II’s top-ranked “big school” team.
“We lost the first set 25-16, but we were only down 20-16 when the Saints scored five straight (points) to close it out,” said Stonebrink.
In the hotly contested second set, Payson trailed 23-21 and were rallying when ND scored two straight points to win 25-21.
In the third set, the Saints cruised 25-16.
Following the loss, Stonebrink praised Notre Dame, saying the team had a strong setter, several good hitters and serve receivers who “were rock solid and we were never able to take them out of their offense for very long.”
Individually for Payson, Shayna Neal and Mckenzie Creighton served two aces each and Megan Wessel finished with eight service winners.
Emma Randall let the team in kills with seven and Taylor Randall’s hitting mark of .333 was best on the team.
The coach also lauded Harley Turney for what he called “a splendid passing day” and finishing with a serve receiving mark of 2.80.
Jade Holland was credited with two block assists and Creighton dished out 17 assists.
In the loss to Mingus, Payson fell 25-15, 25-17 and 27-25.
Stonebrink cited Marauder server Delaney Scanlon for pacing Mingus’ win, saying she is “perhaps the best we’ve seen this year.
“She serves jump sets, is very deceptive, runs a very quick offense and is able to set the ball on the money even if she has to run out to the 15-foot line to retrieve the ball.”
Scanlon was voted the Payson Invitational Tournament’s Most Valuable Player when the fray was contested Aug. 31 and Sept. 1 in Wilson Dome.
Stonebrink also had words of encouragement for Lady Horn players, saying twin sisters Megan and Kaitlyn Wessel hit well, finishing .250 and .200 respectively.
Kaitlyn also paced the team in passing with a 2.03 mark and Megan finished with nine service winners. Jade Holland had contributed block assists, and Kelsee Stonebrink led the team in serving at 1.78.
Rachel Larned played just one set, but tallied two kills in three attempts with no errors.