The Aztecs’ senior-laden volleyball team started the season with high expectations of making an impact at tournaments, and during the regular season and has not faltered.
Currently power-point ranked at only No. 8 with an 11-0 record against teams that count in the state ranking system, the Aztecs, however, have been ranked as the No. 1 Division I team.
This ranking, though, will no doubt be in jeopardy after the team’s fourth place finish April 14 at the prestigious Brophy Invitational Tournament. Injury to starting setter Jake Nuneviller pushed backup setter Kyle Niemtschk into the spotlight.
“I am very happy with how we played and how we finished (at Brophy),” said coach Brynne Evans. “Kyle’s first match setting, after Jake’s injury, was only three days before the tournament when we defeated a very competitive, tough Desert Vista team 3-1, April 10.”
“Kyle did a great job against the Thunder, especially using our 6-foot-8 middle blocker Matt Seall,” said Evans. “We were able to run Matt in the middle and expose a weakness in Desert Vista’s defense against him.”
Corona’s finish at the tournament was hindered by the usual contenders, Gilbert and Highland, both in the top 5 power-point rankings.
The 10 returning Aztec players, on a mission to win state, are looking at the Brophy finish as just a bump in the road, though.
To have an opportunity to get to the championship game, the Aztecs will need to get past the Gilbert Tigers and Highland Hawks plus, the power-points rankings suggest, Sahuaro and Salpointe Catholic in Tucson and then Deer Valley and Ironwood Ridge.
“The power-point rankings are crazy,” said Evans. “We won’t know until the last game is played where we really stand.”
What they do know is that Corona is currently No. 3 in Section 3 power-point rankings behind Gilbert and Highland. Only the top two teams are guaranteed a spot in the state tournament. Corona can get in the state tournament, however, by being one of the top 16 ranked teams overall.
The Aztecs do not meet the Tigers in the regular season. They beat them at the Chandler Wolf Howl Invitational but then lost 2-0 to them at the Brophy Invitational without starting setter Nuneviller. They could potentially meet Gilbert at the Mesa Tournament later this month.
As far as Highland goes, the Aztecs are split in their matches against the Hawks, defeating them early in the regular season, March 7, 3-0, but then losing to Highland in their elimination game of the Brophy Invitational.
Evans credits the senior leadership and a new tendency to put teams away as giving them a chance to make it to the state championship match.
“We have a group of boys who have not only played together since middle school, but who are great leaders that bring knowledge and composure to the court that is unique to other teams,” said Evans.
“In addition, I started to notice at our first tournament, that this year’s team was different than my previous Corona teams,” said Evans. “Instead of starting strong and then losing momentum as the match continued, this team is able to build intensity and get better as the match continues which helps us win big matches.”
It also helps to have talented offensive and defensive players who are stepping up and continuing to improve as the season progresses.
“On defense, our only middle blockers, Matt Seall and Nic Plott, have really stepped up for us this season,” said Evans. “They bring us a lot of strength defensively and are starting to become offensive threats as well.”
“Then Charlie Hualde and Jake Nuneviller have been instrumental in putting our offense in motion,” said Evans. “Charlie, our libero, passes the ball to the perfect spot so Jake has a settable ball he can get to our hitters consistently.”
In addition, the team receives quality play from a deep bench.
“At the net, senior Zac von Allworden, a first time volleyball player last season is now able to focus less on understanding the basics of the game and more on higher level volleyball this season,” said Evans.
“In the back row, Gabe Encinas and Mitch Thomas have been developing their defensive skills and bring competitiveness in practice that pushes their teammates to play harder,” said Evans. “Kyle Niemtschk has come off the bench this season to set and swing opposite and give us a boost of energy with his enthusiasm.”
The Aztecs were scheduled to play at home against Mesa April 18 and Marcos de Niza April 19 before competing in the Mesa Tournament. They will then have only three remaining matches to improve their rankings: April 24 at home against Dobson; May 2 at McClintock; and May 3 at Seton.
Corona’s baseball team has had an overall good season, continuously climbing the ranking to the No. 8 spot on March 26, before falling out of the top 10 rankings the next week when they lost three games in a row. At 16-9 heading into their last three games of the regular season, fans should not count the Aztecs out of the state championship race just yet.
“After winning two of three last week (April 10-13), we are back in the mix,” said coach Dave Webb. “Hopefully we can step up against Mountain Pointe and Dobson the last week of our schedule. With those two wins, we might be able to put ourselves in the mix. Once you get in, anything can happen.”
The Aztecs proved they were back by defeating the No. 2 power-point ranked Mesquite 7-6 at Tempe Diablo Stadium April 12 in a very tight game. The Aztecs were up 7-0 at the end of the third before Mesquite changed pitchers to mount a comeback.
With that win, the Aztecs’ power-point ranking was No. 11 overall and No. 5 in their section. With three games left in the regular season, Corona should move up with the help of powerful batting from the likes of Josh Ethier, Kyle Jorgensen, Rick Riley, Colby Hamilton and Jeff Carter, just to name a few who have stepped up in the hopes of getting Corona back to another state championship game.
“Kyle has led the way all year hitting .485 with seven home runs and 32 RBI’s,” said Webb. “We are also getting help from our shortstop, Josh Ethier, hitting .461 and catcher Colby Hamilton, hitting .406. Colby is also a terrific catcher throwing out 85% of the base runners.”
“Then we have Jeff Carter, our second baseman, who is not only hitting .342 but is a base-running machine with 21 stolen bases so far this season.”
In addition to batting, the pitching success has been much better than expected after preseason predictions of Corona’s pitching success were hampered by injury early in the season to the No. 1 and No 2 pitchers. Step in the No. 3 pitcher, Chris Tate, then Nathan Birecki and Trevor Wood with some help from senior everything Jorgensen, and the Aztecs have not lost a step.
Jorgensen earned a win against Mesquite, April 12, striking out five batters and only allowing nine hits, but received help from Wood, Nick Radford and Tate, usually a starting pitcher, who stepped on the mound in the seventh inning when the Aztecs needed him to help get their last out.
Tate pulled out a much needed win for the Aztecs against the No. 2 power-point ranked Wild Cats when he was able to strike out Mesquite’s Jake Howard on three pitches with the bases loaded to end the game.
“Chris Tate has stepped up big time on the mound for us and has become our No. 1 arm,” said Webb. “He currently he has a 3.84 ERA and is 5-2.”
“In addition, Kyle Jorgensen has pitched amazingly, going 3-1 and a 2.21 ERA,” continued Webb. “Then a huge surprise has been the emergence of Sophomore Nathan Birecki on the mound who is 4-0 with three saves and a 2.45 ERA.”
The leading fielders, Ethier, Jorgensen, Hamilton and Carter, with assistance from Billy Clemens, Nathan Chokey, Ryan Riley and Shawn Maloney have helped give the team 461 putouts with 39 double plays and only 36 errors so far this season.
Although Coach Webb has not had any verbal leaders emerge this season, he feels he has several players who lead by example.
It’s not all about the starters either. Seniors Tyler Peterson and Justin Zimmer have come off the bench to contribute to the team’s success.
“Tyler has done a fantastic job of stepping in at times and getting some key hits,” said Webb. “Justin has really relished the role of courtesy/pinch runner. The position may sound kind of funny, but he is a fantastic base runner.”
The Aztecs hold their state championship chances in their mitts, so to speak, the last three games of the regular season. They played at home against Mountain Pointe April 18, at Dobson April 20 and then will have their last home game April 24.
Honored on this last game of the season will be seniors Jorgensen, Zimmer, Vince Quintana, Mike Gammon and Peterson.
Corona Track and Field
Corona was able to take nine athletes and a men’s 4×400 relay to the Acadia Invitational in Arcadia, Calif., April 6-7, to compete in one of the nation’s most prestigious meets.
Corona had not competed at Arcadia since 2007 when they took Katie Cartwright, who competed in the 300 meter hurdles, Phil Fineberg in the high jump and Samia Stokes and Ryan Kelly in the discus, according to head coach Tim Kelly.
“These kids earned the privilege to go to this meet through qualification standards and their work on the team and dedication to the program,” said Kelly. “I was very proud of their accomplishments where almost every one of them achieved a personal record.”
Sophomore Nate Rodriguez won the one-mile Rising Stars run with a time of 4:21:85 while another sophomore Tevin Mayfield was second in both the 110 and 300 meter hurdles.
Sophomore Nick Creasman took third in the 800 meter run while junior Cody Jackson came in sixth in the same race. Senior Drake Ridge was seventh in the 400 meter dash and another sophomore George Wright long jumped for a sixth place finish.
Corona’s 4×400 relay team of Mayfield, Ridge, Jackson and Rodriquez placed eighth.
Senior Megan Benson took fourth in the 300 meter hurdles and fifth in the 100 meter hurdles while junior Hallie Swenson was eighth in the 800 meter run.
Senior Dana McKenzie cleared 5-foot-3 to take 10th in the women’s high jump. Grace Ashu qualified in the 300 meter hurdles and Lauren Lucky in the shot put. They were both on the alternate list but did not attend, according to Kelly.
The young track stars who attended the Acadia event are just a few of the young athletes that Corona’s coaching staff has been able to attract to the program as witnessed by recent meets directed at the younger set.
Corona’s freshman athletes competed against 16 other Division I teams in the Becky Matthews 2012 Freshman Showcase, April 13, hosted by Desert Vista. The girl’s team came in third behind Desert Vista and Xavier while the boys team was sixth.
Corona’s boys and girls JV and freshman teams all finished second behind Desert Vista in the Tempe City Meet held April 11 and hosted by Corona.
Freshman teams from Corona and McClintock high schools competed against 16 teams in the 2012 Freshman Showcase hosted by Desert Vista April 13. Several of these athletes were able to place garnering points for their respective teams.
Corona’s girls 4×800 relay teams of Kelly Nauman, Madison Voigt, Amberly Ricks and Sidney Bussler took first place while the 4×400 relay team of Aery Ware, Adrianna Fill, Ricks and Tayana McIntosh were fourth.
Corona’s boys 4×800 relay team of Johnathan Lopez, Eric Villatoro, Andrew Eversden and Alex Hart came in second.
In the hurdles events, Corona’s Brooke Frahm took third in the 100 meter and fifth in the 300 meter.
In the boys hurdles, Corona’s Diego Parra was third in both the 110 meter and 300 meter hurdles while Tyler Stehr was fourth in the 110 meter.
In the long-distance races, Corona’s girls received points when Nauman was third in the 800 meter run.
Corona’s boys team had Eversden finish second and Lopez fourth in the 800 meter run.
Aery Ware was fourth in both the girls 400 meter and 200 meter dash.
In the field events, Corona’s highest finisher was Dakota Summers who took second in the boys triple jump.
McClintock’s Braden Kartchner was sixth in the 300 meter hurdles while fellow teammate Signory Mutach was second in the boys 400 meter dash and fifth in the 100 meter dash. Mutach was also fifth in the 200 meter dash while Michael Rojos was fifth in the 3200 meter run. Kartchner was placed eighth in the boys high jump.
Jolie LoBrutto was third in the long jump and sixth in the triple jump for the girls team.
Corona Boys Tennis
Corona’s boys tennis team hasn’t lost a match all season and should make it into the team state tournament April 24 without too much trouble.
“We have Dobson, Mountain Pointe and Casa Grande left to play,” said coach Rick Wanta on April 17. “We’ve already defeated Dobson and Mountain Pointe earlier this season so if we can run the table, we’ll most likely end up with the No. 4, No. 5 or No. 6 seed.”
“Being seeded in the top eight should guarantee us a first round home match but not necessarily an easy match,” said Wanta. “There are so many strong teams with two or more losses, due to tough schedules, that they could easily upset higher seeded teams.”
The individual state tournament started April 20. Alex Lawson will be attempting to win his second single and fourth state championship overall. As the No. 1 seed, he has a bye for the first round but will still play on the starting day at 4:00 in the second round at Scottsdale Indian School Park.
Corona’s doubles team of Divya Rayudu and Kevin McMahon play at 2 p.m. on April 20 also at Scottsdale Indian School Park.
Corona Girl’s Tennis
Corona’s girls tennis team should also have no problem getting into the state team tournament having only lost one match over the season. Corona should be one of the top 10 seeds.
Sarah Rutkowski, Corona’s No. 2 singles player, will be playing in the singles individual tournament starting April 20, also at Scottsdale Indian School Park.
The doubles team representing Corona is Maia Castiglione and Tien Tran, entering the tournament as the No. 5 seed with a 6-3 record this season, according to coach Carol Sandvig.
On April 11, Corona hosted the 2012 Tempe JV and Freshman City Meet. Several local high school athletes placed in the meet to earn points for their respective teams.
Corona’s team all finished second behind Desert Vista while McClintock women’s JV team was fourth, the women’s freshman sixth, the men’s JV sixth and the men’s freshman fifth. Marcos de Niza’s teams all finished fourth except for the women’s JV which finished fifth. Tempe’s teams finished fifth for freshman women and JV men’s and the other two teams sixth.
Some selected highlights from each team is included the following:
Corona’s 4×800 boys JV relay team of Nilesh Bissessur, Patrick Cullings, Grant Fishburn and Nick Martinez were first as was the 4×800 freshman relay team of Johnathan Lopez, Chase Wile, Jack Curtin and Jacob Dorweiller. The JV boys 4×400 team of Jack Robertson, Fishburn, Cody Shipp and Sean Ewan crossed the finish line in first place.
Corona’s freshman girls 4×800 relay team of Kristina Nedelkova, Madison Voigt, Sidney Bussler and Amberly Ricks came in first as did the freshman 4×400 team of Aery Ware, Tayana McIntosh, Kelly Nauman and Mykiel Johnson.
Not to be outdone, the JV 4×400 team of Amina Swenson, Erin Wochner, Ifeatu Mmegwa and Anna Lee were first as were the freshman 4×100 team of Maggie Reid, McIntosh, Ware and Ariana Orona. Ware was first in the freshman 200 meter dash.
Corona freshman Tyler Stehr was first in the men’s 110 meter hurdles while Eric Villatoro was first in the 400 meter dash.
Corona’s long distance Johnathan Lopez was first in the freshman 800 meter run and freshman Dokata Summers was first in the boys triple jump
McClintock’s Michael Rojos was second in the freshman 1600 meter run, Ethan Clah third and Dhalak Shekay fifth in the freshman 800 meter run. JV runner Marc Sanchez was third in the 200 meter dash while Angelo Nevarez came in sixth in the JV 1600 meter run.
McClintock’s girls JV team of Claudia Mguyen, Malika Posey, Bailey Dunn and Miya Lucas finished first in the JV 4×100 meter relay while Posey was first in the 200 meter dash, second in the 100 meter dash and second in the girls110 meter hurdles.
Marcos de Niza’s Caiden Murray was fourth in the men’s 110 meter hurdles while Jacob Hinton was fifth in the JV 1600 meter run.
Kyle Lawrence was fifth and fellow freshman runners Daniel Phifer and Johnny Aguero took third and fourth place in the 400 meter dash and freshman Casey Silva was fourth in the 3200 meter run.
For the Marcos girls team, the 4×100 freshman relay team of Antionette Ware, Kree Villescaz, Kamala Hernderson and Jennifer Gonzalez took third place while the boys 4×100 meter freshman relay team of Broderick Drew, Sam Moreno, Kameron Camp-Figueroa and Kyle Lawrence came in third.
Freshman Antionette Ware crossed the finish line second in the girls 400 meter dash while Savanna Smith was third in the freshman 800 meter run and 1600 meter run. Marcos freshman relay team of Ware, Jennifer Gonzalez, Eliana Magallan and Yasmin Power were third in the 4×400 relay.
Megan Lubbers was first and An Tran third in the JV girls 800 meter run. Leah Hermanson was fifth running the JV 300 meter hurdles. The 4×400 JV relay team of Swayla Moore, Moriah Matt, DiOndre Mosley and Bridget Mirizio were fourth.
Marcos boys team had Jacob Lagunas take first in the JV triple jump and third in the long jump while Logan Palmer was third in the JV triple jump. Broderick Drew and Daniel Phifer were third and fifth in the freshman long jump.
On the girls team, Alexa Reyes was third in the JV girls shot put, Kamala Hernderson fifth in the freshman long jump and DiOndre Mosley fifth in the JV long jump.
Tempe’s Victoria Lebario crossed the finish line first in the girls freshman 400 meter dash and 800 meter run and freshman teammate Vanessa Bello was fourth in the 800 meter run.
Adrian Cervantes was fourth in the girls JV 1600 meter run and Aisa Moreno third and Erica Santana fourth in the JV 3200 meter run. JV teammate Lizbeth Lopez came in fifth in the 800 meter run and was third with Fanny Cassanova fifth, in the 400 meter dash.
Tempe’s Nojeem Adebule came in second in the JV 200 meter dash, Matt Zavala was third in the JV 300 meter hurdles and Elias Jose finished fourth in the JV 800 meter run. JV runner Andrian Cervantes was fourth in the 1600 meter run while Marco Selgado and Josue Gonzalea were fifth and sixth in the 3200 meter run.
The Buffalos’ 4×100 JV boys relay team of Sabastian Watkins, Johnnie Worley, Chris Orosco and Adebule were second, while freshman runners Jose Soto and Ramiro Ortiz were second and fourth in the boys 800 meter run.