The Payson team entry in the White Mountain-based Go-Girl volleyball club program continues to turn heads.
Only weeks after rejoining the Go Girl program and racking up a second place tournament finish, the Rim Country team scored yet another silver medal during a six-team tournament Feb. 23 in Show Low.
Even though the tournament had three fewer teams that the earlier one, coach Arnold Stonebrink was pleased with the runner-up finish.
“I felt the result was more impressive because out of our eight players, only three were not freshmen,” he said. “Also we had only one middle hitter; our other middle position was filled by committee – four different girls played the position at various times.”
After compiling a 3-2 record in the tournament’s pool play, Payson took a No. 2 seed and a bye in the first round of bracket play.
In the semifinals, Payson beat Megan’s Team 21-19 in the first set, but lost 21-18 in the second. In the third and deciding set, Payson won 15-3.
The “W” propelled Payson into the championship against No. 1 seeded Lady D’s.
The first set of the gold medal match quickly turned into the mother of all nail bitters as Lady D’s rallied from a tie score to reach set point, 20-17.
But Payson roared back with three straight points to force overtime.
In OT, however, Lady D’s survived the thriller, 22-10.
The second set turned into a Payson highlight show as the Rim Country net crew ran amuck during a 21-13 win.
The rubber match to decide the tournament title was a nip and tuck showdown played side out, side out, side out, Stonebrink said.
Late in the going, Lady D’s held a double championship point, 14-12, advantage, but struggled to score the winning point.
After a Payson side out, Lacey Standifird’s two service winners and Chloee Connolly’s kill gave the team championship point, 15-14.
Payson, however, couldn’t seal the deal as Lady D’s scored the next three points to win 17-15.
The loss didn’t dampen the enthusiasm Stonebrink has for the young team, “They posted varsity-like numbers, served very efficiently, received well and hit a tremendous .246.”
Individually, Kaitlyn Wessel paced the team in passing and serve receiving stringing together a 2.65 average (out of 3).
Stonebrink calls the mark “A tremendous average to maintain for a whole tournament.”
He also contends the 2.60 average of freshman Klara Sorenson was equally as impressive, “She moved her feet well, got into perfect position and held perfect form time and time again.”
The coach calls her performance, “The biggest and most pleasant surprise of the day.”
Shayna Neal also drew praise from Stonebrink for her outstanding hitting that included 34 kills in 69 attempts.
“She also hit a phenomenal .362, tops among the hitters,” he said.
Kelsee Stonebrink, the coach’s daughter, hit .400 while playing setter and was second in kills with 21 on 50 attempts. She also finished with just one error and turned in an exceptional serving performance that included 16 aces.
The Payson team returns to the Go-Girl circuit in two weeks at yet another White Mountain area tournament.