Emmee Ashby and Mckenzie Creighton were keys to Payson’s strong volleyball season.
And the seniors have been recognized for their contributions to the Longhorns’ 26-14-6 campaign.
Both were named to the Division III All-Section IV Volleyball Second Team in voting by coaches at aia365.com. And Ashby was also selected to The Arizona Republic’s Division III All-State Second Team. Creighton was Honorable Mention.
Flagstaff, which finished second to Snowflake in the section before rolling to the state championship a year after claiming the Division II crown, had four of the seven first-team honorees on the AIA all-section team. Snowflake, which beat the Eagles and went 8-0 in section play, had two, including Player of the Year Tandis Yellowhair. Flagstaff’s Beth Haglin was named Coach of the Year.
Ashby, who’ll continue her volleyball career at Simmons College in Boston, Mass., flourished in her return to Payson a year after transferring to Queen Creek.
The 6-foot-0 Ashby ranked first among Division III middle hitters with a .310 hitting efficiency.
“It was the best any middle hitter has ever done for me, and the second best anyone has ever done for me,” said Payson coach Arnold Stonebrink.
Outside hitter Tori Wilbanks hit .327 for the Longhorns in 2006.
“She had a tremendous year, and was a welcome returnee. She played as a sophomore here, before playing her junior year at Queen Creek. Emmee also led the team in kills (314). She also led the team in solo blocks (27) and total blocks (50) and was third in serving.”
Stonebrink was hoping Ashby would make the first team on both the AIA all-section and Republic all-state squads.
“I was bummed about both a bit,” the coach said. “In the section voting, no middle hitters made first team. I felt Emmee was very deserving, because she hit .310, and was the No. 1 middle hitter in hitting efficiency in the state, according to MaxPreps.
“A couple coaches wrote their middle hitter had a better average, but either they didn’t get their stats on MaxPreps, or they didn’t have enough attempts to qualify. A middle who was voted ahead of her on first team (all-state) hit in the low .200s. Quite impressive, but pales greatly compared to Emmee’s .310.
“That said, there may have been others who hit higher than Emmee, but aren’t on MaxPreps. So I’m not going to squawk too much. I’m pleased Emmee at least made second team. She was very deserving.”
Stonebrink said Ashby was dedicated to improving as a player.
“Emmee was a very goal-oriented and driven player, and she reached many goals, the foremost being making all-tourney in two regular season tournaments, and earning a scholarship to play college volleyball,” the coach said.
“Emmee worked hard to become a powerful, dominant and versatile middle hitter. She can hit slides, 3s, 1s, and As all quite proficiently. She also is a solid blocker. She developed a tough, high velocity standing serve that sometimes floats, and sometimes is a fast top spin. Emmee was a great captain for us, and had a great thirst for winning and excelling.”
The Horns’ offense ran through Creighton, the setter, who was also a captain. She finished fifth in the state among Division III players in assists per set.
“She was the workhorse of the team,” Stonebrink said. “She played in over 99 percent of the team’s play this year. Mckenzie had great hands and great accuracy. And especially impressive was her tipping and pushes. She hit .306, which is the best any setter has ever hit for me, and would be sixth in the state if she had had enough attempts.”
She was also second on the team in serving efficiency and aces (56).
“She had great, soft hands that you want so much in a setter,” Stonebrink said. “She was on the money as a setter; very accurate, and hard to read.
“Another dimension to her game is attacking. You not only have to defense her hitters, you have to defense her, as well. Mckenzie also had a tough floating jump serve.”