An amazing three match winning streak in the course of three days has fans believing the current edition of the Lady Longhorn volleyball team might be the best in coach Arnold Stonebrink’s tenure at PHS.
Of course, that shouldn’t be a surprise — the venerable coach has been touting something similar since the onset of the season.
The red-hot streak began Sept. 11 in Camp Verde, where the Lady Horns disposed of the Cowboys 3-0, winning 25-23, 25-13 and 25-18.
The following day, Wednesday, in Wilson Dome, Payson ambushed longtime nemesis Fountain Hills 3-0, with 29-27, 25-15, 25-22 victories.
Playing Thursday in the dome, the Lady Longhorns completed the sweep upsetting a very good Scottsdale Saguaro team with 25-18, 25-18 and 25-19 triumphs.
The win kept PHS undefeated on the season — the first time a Stonebrink-coached team has been 6-0.
The coach admits playing a schedule-quirky three matches in three days was a challenge for his players.
“It was not the ideal schedule, but the girls battled hard, stayed focused and stayed on an even keel Stonebrink said.
Against Saguaro, the coach attributes tight passing for the win because it enabled the players to effectively run their offense.
As evidence, setter Mckenzie Creighton dished out 21 assists and outside hitter Shayna Neal might have turned in her best night in a PHS uniform finishing with 14 attempts, eight kills and no errors to finish with a .571 hitting average. Neal also had the team’s only stuff.
“Phenomenal,” Stonebrink said of Neal’s efforts.
Sydney Samuels, a middle hitter, turned in a .273 average and outside hitter Megan Wessel finished at .200.
The players also shined from the service line missing on only four of their 72 serves. Cierra Rose paced the team with 12 service winners and Creighton had nine.
“The (serving) effort largely kept the ball out of the Saguaro hitters’ hands,” said Stonebrink.
In the win over Fountain Hills, the Lady Horns were at the top of their game most of the evening, but during the down times, “gutted it out,” Stonebrink said.
Emma Randall led the team at the net with a team-high 41 spikes and 13 kills, another team high. She also hit a sterling .146.
Creighton had eight kills in 25 attempts with no errors.
Taylor Randall had six kills, hit .250 and paced the Payson “D” with one solo stuff and two stuff assists.
Megan Wessel, Kelsee Stonebrink and Neal all tallied two aces and led the team in serving efficiency.
Megan Wessel paced the team in service winners with nine.
Of the three-set wins over the Falcons, the first proved the most difficult mostly because PHS trailed 22-19 before going on a 3-1 run.
Eventually, Fountain Hills reached double-set point, 24-22, but the Lady Horns rallied to tie, 25-25, and send the set into OT.
In the extra time, Neal’s ace eventually settled the issue lifting Payson to a two-point win.
In the victory over an outmanned Camp Verde team, about the only facet of the match that proved trouble for Payson was serve-receiving.
“We had the same problem last year in their gym,” said Stonebrink. “One server had a hard top spin that gave us fits and another had a hard floater.”
With the Lady Horns stymied by the Cowboys serving, Jade Holland stepped up to lead PHS in serve-receiving.
Payson’s second set win proved to be the most dramatic as Kaitlyn Wessel rallied Payson from a two-point deficit with 13 straight service-winners and 14 straight points.
“She turned a deficit into a wipeout,” said Stonebrink. “She totally shredded the Cowboy receivers.”
As a team, the Lady Horns finished with a whopping 25 aces.