Corona’s girls volleyball team, at the Westwood Tournament of Champions on Sept. 17, went undefeated in eight matches, losing only two sets in the process, to play against the state’s No. 1 ranked team the championship finals.
The Aztecs defeated the Hamilton Huskies in this prestigious tournament 25-20, 22-25, 16-14 to take home the championship trophy.
The Aztecs, 17-1 so far this season, are ranked No. 4 in the state and recently moved up to No. 17 in the Xcellent 25 Writers Poll. Corona is poised to be one of the contenders when the 6A state championships are played in early Nov.
“We have a good level of experience on varsity, which has really helped us be successful so far this season,” said head coach Ben Maxfield. “We are able to remain calm in a stressful situation because we have been there before.”
Corona has lost only one match, and that to Hamilton earlier in the season when they were playing without their kill leader, junior Brooke Nuneviller.
Nuneviller, one of the six returning starters out of 11 returning players, has compiled, as of Sept. 26, 149 kills averaging over four kills a set hitting .342 while playing in 37 of the teams 49 sets.
“Brook is a very smart player,” says Maxfield. “She can see the court very well and scores a lot of points for us in a lot of different ways.”
Contributing to the Aztecs’ success is the fact that they have a number of outstanding offensive weapons in three other hitters who have all had over 100 kills each this season.
Senior middle blocker Lauren Forte is hitting a team high .443 with 114 kills on 194 attempts, or 2.6 kills per set. On top of that, Forte, at 6-foot-4, is the leading blocker on the team with 13 solo and 37 assists for a total of 50 blocks or over one block per set.
“Lauren is very tough for blockers to stop when we set the ball high enough for her,” said Maxfield. “Her hitting presence in the middle really opens up the net for our pin hitters, plus her size alone forces our opponent hitters to adjust how they hit. Which has a tendency to result in hitting errors.”
Forte’s presence was most likely felt in Corona’s latest match again Desert Vista when the Thunder had twice as many hitting errors, at 24, compared to the Aztecs’ 12. Forte was also a presence at the net with five blocks against the Thunder. Two consecutive blocks in the third set helped cement Corona’s three straight set win, 25-12, 25-10, 25-15 over Desert Vista.
Fellow senior outside hitter Erica Ronda does not only attack the ball with over 115 kills or 2.5 kills per set; she also plays back row where she has been credited with 135 digs or close to three digs a set. In addition, Ronda is currently tied for second with Nuneviller for service aces, with 20 each.
“Erica has a variety of hits and shots that keep the opposing defenses off balance,” said Maxfield.
The last hitter on Corona’s team with over 100 kills so far this season is the 6-foot-2 junior opposite hitter Emma West, who is averaging 2.2 kills a set.
“Emma is very versatile in where she can hit from,” said Maxfield. “She brings a lot of power to her hitting and has worked hard on developing her placement shots.”
West is the third leading blocker on the team, with 32 total blocks. But 5-foot-9 senior middle blocker Jessica Murphy is second on the team with 39 total blocks.
Murphy had five blocking assists in Corona’s big championship win at the Westwood Tournament of Champions recently against Hamilton.
Corona not only has a variety of good players on offense; their success is directly tied to their defense, setting and serving abilities.
Senior Libero Camryn Tucker is the leading digger on the team, with over 190 digs on the season averaging close to four digs a set.
“Camryn is the anchor in our back row,” said Maxfield. “She reads where the ball is going to go very well and consistently digs a nice high ball to the middle of the court so we can run a great transition offense.”
Tucker may not be able to hit the ball playing in the back row only; she is credited with being partly responsible for 125 points by starting the play with a good serve. Tucker, who has had the most serve attempts of anyone on the team, has gotten in 95% of her 196 serve attempts.
“Camryn is one of our more consistent servers who does a great job at hitting spot areas both short and deep,” said Maxfield.
Senior Madi Reum plays defense in addition to setting the ball, earning 4.5 assists a set.
“Madi takes pride in playing defense first and keeps a lot of ball in play that most setters would not,” said Maxfield. “When setting, she sets a nice, fast ballot the outsides which allows our hitters to beat the middle blockers.”
Junior Abby Meyer has a slight lead on Reum in assists with 277 or close to six assists per game as a setter but she is also a great server and is currently leading the team in aces at 27.
“As a setter, Abby does a great job exploiting matchups and getting the ball to our hot hitters,” said Maxfield. “Abby also is one of our better servers. She has a tough, flat serve which makes it hard for our opponents to consistently pass.”
Other members of the team who contribute on and off the court to Corona’s success are seniors Brooke O’Meara, Logan Wallerstedt, Keelan Nelson and juniors Isis Mitchell, Lexi Vlcek and Allie Wade.
Corona was scheduled to play two away games this week, Sept. 27 at Highland and Sept. 28 at Desert Ridge, before facing Sacred Heart in the Nike Tournament of Champions on Sept. 30.
With only six regular season games left after the Nike Tournament of Champions to determine the 6A state championship seeding, the Aztecs will most likely face some challenges for position within their own section. What can’t be denied is that this 17-1 record has the team energized and focused on winning straight through to the finals.
Up next, after taking a break in matches for fall break, the team will play at Desert Vista Oct. 11, at home against Desert Ridge Oct. 18, at home against Gilbert Oct. 19 and at Gilbert Oct. 20.
Corona’s boys varsity team won the Ojo Rojo Lions Invitational at Tumbleweed Park in Chandler for the second year in a row with Liam Kovatch crossing the finish line in second place and Slade Sumners in fourth. Rounding out the top five spots for the Aztecs were Tyler Thompson, 15th place; Josh Whitney, 16th; and Joel Wadsworth 17th.
Corona’s girls team finished third with sophomore Mackenzie Burgess taking 21st place out of 111 runners. Senior Renee Payne and junior Riley Wright were just one off Burgess placing in 23rd and 24th place respectively.
Sophomore runners Abigail Cordiak, finishing in 35th place and Cybelle Cozart, 44th, rounded out the top five runners for Corona. Other Corona racers included Bella Sarno, Kristina Phillips, Mia Da Rosa and Adelina Thomas.
“I was very pleased with how the girls performed at the Ojo Rojo Invitational,” said Ari Rodriguez.
“It was a great team effort where almost every girl on the team ran personal bests.”
In the 3-Mile Non-Varsity event at the Doug Conley Invitational held at Shalimar Country Club in Tempe on Sept. 24, Corona’s boys team placed first with 85 points.
McClintock’s team was ninth, Tempe’s team was 20th and Marcos de Niza’s team was 43rd out of 44 schools that competed.
The Aztecs top five runners in this non-varsity event were Kyle Swindler who came in second with a time of 16:47, Anthony Sarno, 12th place, Daniel Bish, 18th, Andrew Ferreira, 19th and Zachary Johnson was 45th out of 605 runners who competed.
Corona’s boys team placed fourth in the 3-Mile Elite event out of 24 schools at the Doug Conley where Sumners was the top Aztec runner finishing in 8th place out of 165 runners with a time of 15:27.
Sumners was followed by teammates Kovatch in 15th place and Lincoln Johnston in 37th. Whitney, Wadsworth and Thompson once again finished in tandem this time 54th, 55th and 56th respectively.
The top five finishers for McClintock’s runners in this non-varsity run were Torren Baker finishing in 22nd place, Nathaniel Talkalai, 50th, Casey Brown, 56th, Jack Cleveland, 64th and Arauk Mohamed was 138th.
Also finishing the race for the Chargers was Jose Sabas, Carter Vierra, Graydon Sharp, Liam Huggins and Angel Plascencia.
The Buffaloes’ top runner in the non-varsity event was senior Nathan Zurn who finished 30th out of 605 runners. The rest of Tempe’s top five runners in order of their finish include Alejandro Briseno, Chris Bajarno, Javier Romero and Jaxen Davis.
Tempe’s girls team competed in both the 3-Mile Non-Varsity and the 3-Mile Invitational event.
Asli Burnham-Walker, finishing 86 out of 371 runners, was the top finisher in the non-varsity event for Tempe followed by Olivia Romo-Nieto, Brittany Perez, Madie Damasco and Daniella Chavira.
In the 3-Mile Invitational, junior Danyella Miranda finished seventh out of 126 runners from 24 schools. She was followed by teammates, Rubi Aguilera in 60th place, Karely Flores Garcia, Brenda Juarez, Jasmine Neal and Haile Sechrist-Gauntt.
Marcos de Niza had five runners in the 3-Mile Non-Varsity event finish the race. Xavier Newell was the first Padre to cross the finish lined followed in order of their finish were Jonah Ortiz, Sebastian Shuell, Ethan Storment and Pierce Hammock.
The Padres top finisher in the 3-Mile Invitational event at the Doug Conley was senior Kepano Ream followed by Orion Hunter, Kekona Ream, Miguel Calderon, Samuel Lumbra, Jack Hill and Jayden Pahona.
Marcos had seven runners from the girls team compete in the 3-Mile Invitational at the Doug Conley. The top finisher was sophomore Maureen Juarez.
She was followed in order of finish by Katy Meyers, Taylor Delgado, Anna Bell, Mackenzie White, Carlie Liko and Brianna Etsitty.
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