After bowing out in the first round last year, Payton returned to its successful roots Thursday by winning its sixth regional in seven years, defeating Bulls Prep 25-9, 25-12 in the Class 3A Senn Regional.
The Grizzlies (24-11) got off to a quick start with Maya Rodriguez back at the service line, helping Payton run out to a 7-0 lead. Rodriguez had three aces in the opening run. Any time the Bulls built momentum, Payton ended it with another run. Bulls Prep closed the gap to 10-5, but a kill by Morgan Barnes erased any hope the Bulls had of reducing the margin.
“We knew we couldn’t lose focus,” Alina Rosales said. “It doesn’t matter who we play, we have to keep our heads in the game.”
Payton held Bulls Prep (16-5) without a kill in Game 1, as the Bulls scored all their points on aces or Payton errors.
Game 2 was much like the first, with the Grizzlies getting off to an 11-2 lead with the help of four kills by Olivia Rozmus and three from Barnes. Strong serving again set Payton apart from its opponent, as Lena Mickelson and Rozmus both went on long serving runs. Bulls Prep went on its own run at the end of the set, but the Grizzlies were too far ahead.
“We can learn a lot from a game like this,” Rosales said. “We learn from our mistakes both by what’s going on on the court and by watching from the bench. Communication is key for us.”
Barnes led the Grizzlies with eight kills, while Rozmus had seven and Rosales five.
The regional final appearance was the first in Bulls Prep program history.