Club Payson 17-years volleyball team overcame the loss of several key players to finish first in the opening round of the Arizona Region’s championship division tournament.
The team’s win was a bit of a surprise to coach Trevor Creighton who recalls, “Going into the tournament, I wasn’t sure how things would go. I have 10 girls on my team and two were out of state and another two were down with the flu.”
Which meant, Club Payson had just six players active, the minimum number for a full team.
“No subs,” said Creighton.
Further compounding the club team’s woes is that due to the absences, three of the team members had to play out of position.
Kaylee Byers and Shealea Garza, both back row specialists, played outside hitters and Cori Barnett, an outside hitter, was forced to play middle hitter.
In the first round of the tournament, which was played Jan. 5 in the Valley, Payson rolled to easy 25-14 and 25-4 wins over the Desert Spikers 18-years team.
“All the girls passed and served very well,” said Creighton. “Morgan DiFelice abused the other team with .315 hitting and nine kills.”
Next up for Payson was a club team from Parker — a town and school with a reputation of producing excellent high school teams that usually play deep into the state tournament.
“We won the first set 25-16, but dropped the second, 25-19,” said Creighton.
With the match tied 1-1, Club Payson rallied to win the third set 15-6 behind excellent serving from Garza and Byers.
With the pair of wins, Club Payson qualified for the championship match against the Arizona Saguaros 18-years team that was top-seeded in the tournament bracket.
“They were quite intimidating during warm-ups as they had several girls approaching 6 feet tall and were crushing the ball before the game,” said Creighton.
True to the Saguaros’ impressive pre-match warm-up, the team dominated Payson winning 25-18.
In the second set, after Creighton made several adjustments, Club Payson survived a 25-22 thriller to tie up the gold medal match.
In the third and deciding set, Payson won rather easily 15-8.
“Our girls came out firing,” Creighton said.
Individually, the coach cited Cori Barnett for her hitting and blocking in the middle and Jade Holland and Mckenzie Creighton for their spirited all-around play.
Creighton finished the tournament with eight aces, 11 kills and 52 assists. Holland had 15 kills even though she was playing out of position.
The win, Creighton said, “Vaults us into third place overall in the Championship Division in the entire state.”
Club Payson 17 returns to tournament play Feb. 2 in the Valley with a goal of remaining one of the state’s top-ranked teams.
Creighton says he’s anxious for the next showdown, “I can’t wait to see what we can do with a full squad.”