It was a homecoming for Morgan DiFelice.
And boy did she enjoy it.
The Fountain Hills senior outside hitter turned in a strong performance to lead the visiting Falcons past her former volleyball team on Thursday night. DiFelice transferred from Payson to Fountain Hills during her sophomore year. Her older sister, Rachel, also transferred at the same time after being voted the state’s Most Valuable Libero in Class 3A her junior season at Payson.
But it was her younger sister that stole the spotlight this night.
“We were victimized especially by a player we honored that night,” said PHS coach Arnold Stonebrink. “Morgan scored many Falcon points with her tough, floating serve and her deceptive hitting and tipping.”
Behind DiFelice, Fountain Hills won 27-25, 25-21, 19-25, 26-24.
“We lost a tough one to a tough team,” Stonebrink said. “Fountain Hills is a good team and played really well against us. They really elevated their game.
“We played well, too, and the score was closer than the 3-1 result would indicate. Two of our losses came in overtime.”
PHS led 22-21 in the first set, but the Falcons prevailed by scoring six of the final nine points.
Fountain Hills put up a strong double and triple block against Emmee Ashby in the second set. It didn’t stop her or the Longhorns but it slowed PHS down enough for the visitors to win by four.
Ashby had success tipping around the block in the third set. And hitters Taylor Randall and Cori Barnett heated up and PHS’s serve receivers had some success passing the Falcons’ tough servers as the home team won by six.
The Falcons led by four points in the fourth set before Kelsee Stonebrink served five consecutive winners, including three straight aces, to help PHS take a one-point lead. However, another FH run made it 22-20.
A side out and three straight Barnett service winners put the home team at double-set point and on the verge of forcing a fifth set. But the Falcons forced a side out and DiFelice closed out the match with a three-point serving run.
Ashby led the Longhorns in hitting with a .241 efficiency and 14 kills (29-14-7). Jade Holland hit .240 (25-9-3) and Barnett .200 (15-6-3).
Stonebrink led the team in serve efficiency, aces (five) and service winners (12). Harley Turney tallied nine winners, and Barnett garnered seven winners.
Stonebrink also led the team in serve receive efficiency, followed by Shealea Garza. Kaylee Byers’ 19 digs led the team. Stonebrink’s 13 followed her and Mckenzie Creighton added nine. Creighton dished out 42 assists for a solid 10.5 average per set.
The loss dropped PHS to 3-2.
“It would have been great to start the season 4-1,” the coach said. “The girls’ effort was definitely there. They battled with all their hearts and never gave up. They played well. Ultimately our goal is to make state, first and foremost, and it will involve winning a few tough matches. Hopefully we’ll be strong enough ability-wise and mentally to do it.”
The Longhorns play host to Mogollon tonight before a big match at Snowflake on Thursday.