Two Club Payson volleyball teams have excelled this season.
And both the 16-and-under and 18-and-under squads are in Los Angeles, Calif. to participate in the Southern California Girls Junior National Qualifier, scheduled for Saturday-Monday.
“The tournament showcases the top talent in the southwest, and we are excited to compete at this level,” said Trevor Creighton, who coaches Club Payson’s 18’s.
Both Trevor Creighton, and his wife, Shelli, who coaches the Club Payson 16’s, are seeking tax-deductible donations to help reduce the financial burden of the trip on the girls.
“We could use some help in the form of sponsors to help defray the cost to the players,” Trevor Creighton said. “If you are interested in helping out, please contact Shelli Creighton at (928) 595-1275.
Since the season began in December, the Club Payson 16’s players “have been training and working towards proving that they can be competitive,” Shelli Creighton said. “This is a strong group of girls whose goal from the beginning was to let the rest of Arizona know that a little town in the mountains can stand up against the lions.”
The 16’s team won its first three tournaments without losing a match in the Club 16’s Division. On Saturday, the team had the opportunity to challenge the top eight teams in the state. Payson entered the tournament ranked No. 6 but wound up winning the tournament after battling for six hours.
“The success of my team is not all about the athleticism, but the bond that my team carries,” Shelli Creighton said. “My girls do not need to be best friends off the court, but on the court they become a family and fight as one. My goal as a coach isn’t to just have my girls become better volleyball players, I want them to become strong in themselves and with each other.”
They opened with a straight-set win over a team from the west Valley behind strong serving and hitting. The second match was a “dogfight” with a Mesa team that they beat in three sets in the previous tournament. Payson won in three sets again. “One huge key was our consistent serving (94 percent) and smart play from our hitters,” Shelli Creighton said.
The 16’s then beat a Tempe team in the final. “We were able to watch (Tempe) throughout the day,” Shelli Creighton said. “They had a couple of amazing outside hitters and a very disciplined back row. In the end, it was our patience and team play that gave us the win.“
The 18’s team is also going strong, finishing first, first and second in its first three tournaments.
They were ranked No. 7 out of the 143 teams in the Championship Division entering last weekend’s tournament. “That meant we would face the top eight teams in the state,” Trevor Creighton said. “That was a challenge enough. But on top of that, we only had six players for the tournament, with two on family vacations, one in Greece on the school trip, and another at home with the flu. Despite this, we won our first two matches 2-1 against a north Valley team and a team from Yuma. In both matches we were down one set at the beginning and rallied back to win.”
Club Payson advanced to meet top-seeded Rise Addidas in the final. “They had a very tall team, and their hits during warm-up were very intimidating,” Trevor Creighton said. “However, our girls were extremely scrappy, as the other coach described us, and we won in straight sets.
“I couldn’t have been prouder of my athletes for the way they fought and stayed calm during the day. Their hard work and team play has definitely paid off.”