Paulson Sisters All-State In Softball

Arianna Section 5 Player of the Year; Cori Barnett, Sadie Dunman 1st team all-section


When Payson High’s softball team stepped onto the field this season, Arianna and Arissa Paulson shone as the best players on the diamond.

So it was no surprise that both made the Division 3 All-State First Team. Voting for the Division 5 Player of the Year ends this week with Arianna Paulson the odds-on favorite after her selection as Player of the Year in Section 5, the best section in the state.

But the voting at did harbor one irritating surprise: Coaches somehow didn’t vote Arissa Paulson onto the all-section, 15-member first team. She instead made the 16-member second team.

Other Payson players who did make the first team included juniors Cori Barnett and Sadie Dunman.

Ari, as her friends and teammates know her, made first team all-state and all-section for the third consecutive season. She was the key to the best three seasons in program history after her family moved here from Ohio before her sophomore season. Payson broke the school record for wins her sophomore (28-4) and junior (29-5) seasons, reaching the state semifinals both years. This year PHS matched last year’s win record, going 29-9 in reaching the title game for the first time ever before losing 5-3 to Winslow.

The Longhorns posted an 86-18 record the last three years in large part because of Ari’s right arm.


Arianna Paulson


Arissa Paulson


Cori Barnett


Sadie Dunman

“That record basically has to do with her pitching,” said Longhorns head coach Kadi Tenney. “She brought our program to a level that it’s never been or it hasn’t been in a long time because of her pitching.”

Coaches did vote Ari, who’ll continue her career at Brigham Young University, onto the all-division and section teams at pitcher, where she was 16-3 with a 1.18 earned run average and 218 strikeouts in 112 2/3 innings.

“She throws six great pitches,” Tenney said. “When she hits her locations, she’s hard to beat.

“Her rise ball is great. When her drop ball is on, it can be just detrimental to batters because it looks like a strike and all of a sudden the bottom just falls out of it. Her favorite pitches this season and the ones she throws best are the curve ball and the change-up. She throws all the pitches well. Her change-up is so deadly because you can’t see it. At lot of times when a pitcher throws a change-up you can see their body slow down a little bit so you recognize it beforehand. With Ari, there’s no difference. And so you don’t see it coming.”

But she was also a great hitter, batting .547 with six home runs, 26 doubles, two triples and 35 RBIs from the lead-off spot.

“She just wants good hard line drives,” Tenney said. “She’s going for the base hit and if she happens to get the double or home run, great. But she just wants to hit it hard and get on base.”

She also took pride and worked on her defense.

“She’s excellent defensively whether she’s pitching or playing shortstop,” Tenney said. “She just doesn’t make errors.”

As the team’s only senior, the class salutatorian was a natural in the team leader role she needed to fill.

Tenney said sure, Ari was talented, but she worked harder than any kid she’s ever known to improve.

“Her work ethic is unmatched,” Tenney said. “I’ve never seen it in another player. That sets her apart more than anything in my mind. She knows that it takes work and she puts in the work.”

Both Ari and Arissa, as well as their younger sister and brother, get up every weekday at 4:40 a.m. and are in the gym by 5, working for an hour. Then they go home, shower and eat breakfast and head to seminary school from 7-8 before school. And Ari stayed after softball practice to work on parts of her game several times a week.

“Her life is designed around getting physically stronger and better and her academics,” Tenney said. “I personally know no other teenagers that are working out at 5 o’clock in the morning.

“So, that’s the difference is she puts in that extra bit. And she does that all year long.”

Arissa Paulson, also a dominating post player in basketball who made the all-section first team in softball as a freshman, has already verbally committed to play softball at BYU. She was Payson’s top slugger, crushing 12 home runs, to go with a .468 batting average, 12 doubles, a triple and 42 RBIs from the No. 3 spot in the batting order. As a pitcher, she was 9-1 with a microscopic 0.89 ERA and 109 strikeouts in 55 innings.

“She’s just a great softball player,” Tenney said. “She’s a dangerous hitter. She’s got to strike fear into any pitcher. And she’s just a powerhouse pitcher. She throws even harder than Ari. She throws so hard and fast that she’s hard to catch up with. She throws fast, puts some movement on it and she hits her spots. When that happens she’s phenomenal. She’s hard to beat.”

She’s also able to excel defensively wherever she plays. Although she spent most of her time playing shortstop this season when not pitching, she even took over at catcher when starter Payton Petersen’s shoulder injury flared up and performed at a high level.

“She’s solid wherever you put her on the field,” Tenney said.

And she’s only a sophomore. “She’s so good now that people think, ‘how do you get any better than that?’” Tenney said. “But she will, I guarantee it. Her potential is through the roof.”

Dunman, a junior second baseman, batted .385 with seven doubles, a triple, a homer and 17 RBIs in her third year on the varsity.

“She’s just a solid consistent player,” Tenney said. “She’s in her third year on varsity and she got more and more consistent and more aggressive defensively, and I think some of that was just more maturity and just putting in a lot of hard work. And she improved offensively this year and that comes down to time spent at practice and after practice taking cuts.”

Barnett, a junior, took over in center field after playing a corner outfield spot as a freshman and batted .293 with 12 doubles, a home run and 18 RBIs. She took charge of a young and inexperienced outfield.

“Her position is center field, but she probably ended up playing three quarters of the outfield because she’s so aggressive,” Tenney said. “Plus she’s so confident in what she can do. When you put aggressiveness, confidence and speed together, she made some fantastic plays. And she’s got a great arm that other teams respected so they weren’t taking extra bases on her.

“And she hit in the No. 5 spot and hit very well and did some major damage. She helped us out a lot.”

Division 3 All-State Softball

Selected by coaches voting at

First Team

P Name   School Yr.

C Ashley Godfrey Estrella Foothills Sr.

IF Halle Hayes Winslow Sr.

IF Taylor Godfrey Estrella Foothills Jr.

IF Kelsey Smith Empire Sr.

IF Tazia Hernandez Empire Jr.

OF Megan Lymer Winslow Sr.

OF Kaelyn Smith Empire Sr.

OF Heaven Acquart Sahuarita Jr.

U Arissa Paulson Payson So.

U Jaleisa Hayes Winslow Sr.

DH Jesleena Casillas Morenci Jr.

P Arianna Paulson Payson Sr.

P Taylor Baca Winslow Sr.

P Kellye Springstead Tanque Verde Jr.

Player of the Year – voting in progress

Coach of the Year – Carl Nix, Show Low

Second Team

P Name School Yr.

C Hailee Branson Winslow So.

IF Richelyn Villanueva Winslow Jr.

IF Amanda Springstead Tanque Verde Sr.

IF Maddie Bullington Sahuarita Jr.

IF Frances Estrada Nogales So.

OF Ashlyn Butler Snowflake Jr.

OF Alex Fedo Estrella Foothills Sr.

OF Paula Espinoza Nogales So.

DH Debbi Tai Neff Snowflake Jr.

P Brittany Woolridge Empire Jr.

P Kelsey Smith Empire Sr.

P Taylor Reidhead Show Low Jr.

P Tiffanie Thompson Coolidge Sr.

Div. 3 All-Section 5 Softball

Selected by coaches voting at

First Team

P Name School Yr.

C Tycee Coplan Snowflake Jr.

IF Halle Hayes Winslow Sr.

IF Tandis Yellowhair Snowflake Sr.

IF Sadie Dunman Payson Jr.

IF Brandi Cline Holbrook Jr.

IF Wesley Inman Show Low Jr.

OF Megan Lymer Winslow Sr.

OF Ashlyn Butler Snowflake Jr.

OF Cori Barnett Payson Jr.

OF Marissa LaRue Round Valley Sr.

U Jaleisa Hayes Winslow Sr.

DH Debbie Tai Neff Snowflake Jr.

P Taylor Reidhead Show Low Jr.

P Arianna Paulson Payson Sr.

P Taylor Baca Winslow Sr.

Player of the Year – Ari Paulson, Sr.

Coach of the Year – Carl Nix, Show Low

Second Team

P Name School Yr.

C Alizia Foster Holbrook Sr.

C Bethany Hudson Globe Fr.

C Hailee Branson Winslow So.

C Stacey Newman Blue Ridge Sr.

IF Shae Walker Round Valley Sr.

IF Richelyn Villanueva Winslow Jr.

IF Demo Perkins Holbrook Sr.

IF Savannah Barajas Globe Sr.

OF Tess Baldonado Holbrook Sr.

OF Heather Johnson Blue Ridge Sr.

OF Mackenzie Isaacs Show Low Fr.

U Arissa Paulson Payson So.

DH Bayleigh Merrill Show Low Fr.

P Arissa Paulson Payson So.

P Tori Flake Snowflake So.

P Anilese Hayes Blue Ridge So.


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