Corona athletes honored were Stephanie Kennedy and Kasey Kiefer for volleyball, Sam Radford, Aaron Simons and James Contes for football, Nathan Rodriquez for cross country, Chloe Hacker in diving and Halie Carpenter for girls golf.
Senior Kennedy, playing the libero position, led the team in digs with 475, or 4.4 digs a set, and in service receptions with 553. She was the main passer for the 23-16 Lady Aztecs and the second service ace leader with 23 aces.
Kiefer, a senior outside hitter for Corona, likewise played a big role in the Lady Aztecs’ success, not only leading in service aces but averaging 3.6 kills and 2.4 digs a set, plus she was credited with 66 total blocks.
Contes was by far the Aztecs’ leading rusher with 177 carries, gaining 1,336 yards or over 130 yards a game, scoring 14 touchdowns and 86 points.
Part of his success can be attributed to Corona’s offensive linemen Radford and Simons, who were partly responsible for blocking and creating holes for Contes to run through.
Junior Hacker, who won state diving championships in both her freshman and sophomore years, had a great school season, winning all regular events until an injury just before the state diving meet hampered her chances of repeating.
Rodriquez, only a junior, is ranked fifth in the state for his time in 2012 of 15:12 set at the Division I Section II cross country meet. He finished third at the Division I state meet and consistently placed in the top five all season.
“Nathan’s drive and dedication has been a great influence to Corona’s cross country team,” said coach Ari Rodriquez. “Nathan, along with Ryan Normand, helped our team take third place at state this year. If all goes well, I anticipate both Nathan and Ryan being the top-ranked runners in the state next year with a chance to finish first and second in the state meet.”
Carpenter, also only a junior, had a terrific golf season last fall after spending the summer working out in the gym getting stronger.
“Halie really stepped up and played a more serious role of ‘getting the job done’ every time this last season,” said coach Pat Reed. “She was consistent, hardworking and ready to play every match and tournament, dropping 2.3 strokes throughout the season and placing 16th in the state tournament. I can’t be more happy than having her back on our team another year.”
Marcos de Niza — The Padres had six players who helped Marcos win 11 football games and make it into semifinals this past season. Award recipients were Mauriece Lee, Josh Eckley, Jaron Jones, Richie Becerra, Derek Craig and Priest Willis.
Lee was the Padres’ leading rusher, averaging over 140 yards a game with 21 touchdowns and 144 total points.
Eckley, only a junior, should be back next season at quarterback and aiming to improve on his stats and recruiting prospects after an impressive 220 passing yards a game while completing over 63% of his passes for 25 touchdowns.
Senior placekicker Jones made 57 out of 66 points-after-kick attempts and two field goals, scoring 67 points for the team.
Senior defensive lineman Becerra was the quarterback sack leader on the team with eight sacks and two fumble recoveries, while senior defensive linebacker Craig averaged close to 10 tackles a game with one interception.
The highly Division I-recruited Willis made his presence known on and off the field as defensive back for the team with 1.5 sacks and 2 interceptions.
The Padres also had two swimmers, Zachary Kyman, in the boys 100 freestyle, and Taylor McMullin in the girls 100 butterfly, receive All-City Awards.
Tempe High — Kayla Melgar, junior middle blocker and one of only nine members of the girls volleyball team, had an impressive season, playing in 57 of the 61 possible sets, leading the team in several categories including kills with 104 or close to 2 kills a set, 26 service aces and 89 total blocks.
The same was true for senior cross country runner Diana Garcia Muñoz, who had an exceptional year in all regular-season meets and then went on to win the Division III girls 5K state meet with a time of 18:39:189.
The Buffaloes’ football team had an exceptional year as well, going 6-4 with the help of defensive linebacker Nojeem Adebule, who averaged over 12 tackles a game with 73 solo tackles alone to lead the team.
McClintock High—Senior running back Sammy Jones led his team in total yards rushing, with 1,129 or 112.9 yards a game while scoring five touchdowns over the season. Rachel Fagerburg was given an award for volleyball and Abhishek Rajadas for the 100 backstroke, Londen Thomas for the100 butterfly and Jared Potter in the one-meter diving event.
Corona wrestling — The Aztecs had two wrestlers win championships at the prestigious and highly competitive Flowing Wells Invitational last weekend but fell short of securing the overall team championship. The trophy instead went to wrestling powerhouse Sunnyside from Tucson.
“Glenn Farina, at 132 lbs., had a brilliant performance at Flowing Wells,” said coach Jim Martinez. “He won his first two matches by fall and the last three by technical fall. He outscored his final three opponents 50-5. He was without a doubt the best wrestler in his weight class.”
Corona’s second champion is having an magnificent year with a current 37-0 record.
“Ethan Tursini, wrestling at 160 lbs., continues to impress anyone who watches him, because he might be the best wrestler, pound for pound, in the state” said Martinez.
Tursini’s championship match, with his undefeated record on the line, was touch and go with emotions running high, according to Martinez.
“Ethan not only had to overcome some questionable calls early in his match against defending state champion Pierre Guad of Cibola, but also a final penalty call at the end of the match which made it appear t he had lost, said Martinez. “Once the error was corrected and the point awarded correctly, Ethan actually tied the match and took it into overtime.”
“Once overtime started, Ethan was super aggressive in attacking and scored a takedown about 40 seconds for the win.”
Two other wrestlers, although not placing first, had good results at Flowing Wells.
“Michael Clare, at 182 lbs., has taken a huge step in establishing himself as someone who wants to contend for a title,” said Martinez. “Before making it into the finals, he beat a defending state champion from New Mexico which then set him up to get another shot at Desert Vista’s Alex Bambic for the championship. Unfortunately he lost to Bambic, 5-2, to take second.”
Zach Walton, winning five of his six matches, was the other place winner at Flowing Wells.
“Zach took third place with his only loss coming to a nationally ranked wrestler from California in the semi-finals,” said Martinez. “Zach also beat highly regarded Blake Monty of Mesa Mountain View to set himself up for a top seed heading into Sections and State.”
With only four Corona wrestlers placing at Flowing Wells, the Aztec coaching staff was disappointed but also looking forward to the opportunities provided to get their wrestlers ready for the section tournament Feb. 2.
“The good news is that Flowing Wells was a good time for us to match up against the best wrestlers in the state because it leaves us with enough time to make any changes that should help our wrestlers improve on their results at Sections and State,” said Martinez. “The real benefit is that wrestlers who did not place can use it as motivation to work harder and make the changes necessary to finish out the last three weeks of the season strong.”
The bad news is that Corona is in undoubtedly the strongest Division I section which includes Sunnyside, Chandler and Desert Vista, all top 10 finishers at Flowing Wells.
“Sunnyside, which has competitive wrestlers in all weight classes but is especially strong in their lower lineup, will be the team to beat in Sectionals and State,” said Martinez. “It is very important that we qualify as many wrestlers as possible for state in order to earn points. We will need to have wrestlers wrestle above their seeded position to give us any shot at a state championship.”
One important turning point could be Clare’s sectional performance. Clare, with a current 22-5 record, is preparing to face for the third time this year a two-time state champion at sectionals.
“Desert Vista’s Bambic is definitely the guy for me to beat,” said Clare. “It will be a challenge to make it to State but once you get there you have to step up your focus and game even more.”
One of the ways Corona wrestlers get better is by working hard in practice matching up against their own teammates to learn techniques and gain experience from strong competitors according to Colton Winstead who was 3-2 at Flowing Wells and has only lost six matches all season in the 152 lbs. category.
“We are working harder than we have since my freshman year and I think all the Aztecs will come out firing on all cylinders at Sectionals and State this year,” said Winstead. “Everyone has awesome practice partners like my top guys, Ethan Tursini, Zach Walton, Glenn Farina and Bridger Barker, who make me better every day by regularly beating me up and pushing me around.”
One thing is clear, in order to beat Sunnyside and get a high seed going into the state tournament, the Aztecs will need to work hard these last couple of weeks and focus every second in every match.
“You have to wrestle every match like it’s the state finals and prepare for a war every time,” said Tursini. “Everybody is a threat towards the end of season and you have to wrestle that way if you’re going to get what you want, a state championship.”
Corona, who had not lost a dual match to a team in Arizona in the last two years, had its last dual match at Hamilton on Jan. 24.
Tennis Star in the Making — The Kyrene Corridor may have a tennis star in the making in 14-year old Delaney Nothaft, who recently finished third out of 128 girls tennis players in the 14 and under singles bracket of the USTA Winter National Championships held in Tucson.
Delaney, who started playing tennis when she was six years old at Tempe’s Lifetime Fitness Center, had an outstanding tournament, taking out three seeded players before she lost in the semifinals to a fourth-seed.
Delaney, who has her eye on becoming at professional tennis player on the WTA tour, attended Waggoner Elementary School before deciding to be home schooled so she could concentrate more on her tennis. That does not mean she doesn’t work hard at her studies since she also states she would like to study medicine at maybe Michigan, UCLA or Stanford.
Delaney started competing in tournaments when she was nine years old and has not looked back.
“I’ve been lucky enough to earn over one hundred trophies for winning or placing in tournaments big and small,” said Delaney. I recently won the 2012 Southwest Closed Singles title for 14 and Under, the 2012 Arizona Junior Championship Singles title for Girls 16 and Under. Last summer, I was number one on the roster for Southwest Section for the National Zone Team Championships where I went undefeated in singles play.”
What is it Delaney likes about playing tennis other than the rush of doing well and winning trophies?
“I like to compete and be challenged plus I like the physical nature of tennis, using my body;” said Delaney. “The bottom line, though, is that tennis is a game and it’s fun to play.”
Delaney, a left-hander, also plays doubles, finishing fourth at the USTA Winter National Championships, and has the strokes to be successful in both events, it appears.
“My forehand is my most powerful and consistent stroke,” said Delaney. “I get lots of topspin underneath the ball which not only generates good racquet head speed but also I’m able to get a spin on it my opponents don’t see very often because I’m hitting it left handed.”
Delany’s favorite shot, though, is her inside-out forehand.
“When I run around my backhand to hit a forehand, I use all that momentum to crush the ball,” said Delaney.
Delaney is currently preparing for the Spring National Championship in Palm Springs scheduled for March. Later this year she hopes to start competing in some Junior ITF events against girls 18 and under from all over the world.
Corona Boys Soccer — The Aztec soccer team, currently on a roll in January winning six out of seven games, have defeated Hamilton twice, won a revenge game against Desert Vista at home, and then had victories against Dobson, Mesquite and Mountain Pointe. Their only loss so far in January, was against Dobson on Jan. 15.
Corona’s first game against Hamilton appeared to be a win until Hamilton tied the game with 50 seconds to go on a direct kick. Ellis Rudititi scored the winning goal for Corona in the second overtime period.
In their second straight game against Hamilton, Dylan Conboy made a direct kick to the upper corner of the net to make the score 1-0. It appeared that the Huskies might pull off another last second tie with 30 seconds to go but they were called for a penalty on the play and Corona was able to secure the win in regulation.
Corona, who had lost in their first game of the season to Desert Vista, was focused and determined to win in their second meeting, in the first half anyway, when with the Aztecs were leading 2-0. Problems occurred when Leo Santos was given a second yellow card with 25 minutes left to play in the second half and the Aztecs had to play the rest of the game short one player. They held on to pull out a 2-1 victory in less than ideal circumstances.
On Jan. 19, Corona defeated Mountain Pointe 4-2 when another player, Aaron Flegenheimer, elevated his game by scoring two goals in that win.
This winning streak has boosted the No. 5 ranked Aztec’s confidence heading into the last two regular-season games. Defeating Mountain Pointe on Jan. 22 and Mesa on Jan. 24, should improve their power point rankings and help them secure a favorable playoff spot for the state tournament.
Tempe Junior Golf Championship — Players from Corona del Sol, Marcos de Niza and McClintock high schools emerged as winners in the city of Tempe Junior Championship held in December.
Kai Kobayashi of Marcos won the 15-17 year old division. Others were Vincent Suarez, Marcos; Alexis Leyba, McClintock; and Chase Foster, Corona.
Sponsors included Dairy Queen at Rural and Elliot; NYPD Pizza at Ray & Priest; Dick’s Sporting Goods at Warner and I-10; Baskin Robbins at Guadalupe and McClintock; and Jimmy-n-Joes Pizzeria at Ray and McClintock.
Mike Bochenek was tournament director.