By Alex Zener
Corona’s boys volleyball program has the chance for a winning season with nine returning players, many who played club volleyball in the off season, and several talented young new players who joined the team Geoffrey Horewitch’s second season as head coach.
“We have a great group of guys this season,” said Horewitch. “Our returning players are helping the team remain more calm in stressful situations, plus the team cohesion we are working hard to develop should pay dividends on the court during matches.”
Out of the nine returning players, five are expected to have an impact on the overall success of the team now that the season is underway: Chris Davis, Ryan Pike, Garrett Percy, Dion Deguzman and Connor Niemtschk.
Chris Davis is a multi-talented player who is comfortable playing two positions on the court: setter and hitter. He is currently just one short of being the kill leader on the team with 58 kills in 25 sets or 2.3 kills a game.
Davis also has 16 blocks, second on the team, 44 digs, second only to the libero, and eight service aces. As a setter, he leads the team with 105 assists or 4.2 assists a set.
“Chris was a big contributor last year, as a sophomore, for our team,” said Horewitch. “He improved by playing club in the off season and we have been using him not only as a setter but as a hitter this season.”
“He is a smart player that sees the court well and can put players in the best spot to be successful.”
Ryan Pike, as the go-to outside hitter, will be expected to not only get kills from the left side but to keep the ball in play when he doesn’t get the best sets.
Pike is the kill leader on the team with 59 kills in 24 sets or 2.5 kills a game. Another versatile player who is expected to also play great defense, Pike has 43 digs, seven blocks and seven service aces.
“Ryan, a starter last year as a sophomore, became a key player for us as an outside hitter,” said Horewitch. “He is taking on a bigger role this season as our main pin hitter who will be expected to bring not only continuity to our lineup but will be relied on heavily to take lots of swings to keep us in matches this season.”
Garrett Percy, as one of the five seniors on the team, has played in 23 of the 26 sets amassing 45 kills or 2.0 kills a set, 11 blocks and 11 digs.
“Garrett did not get much of an opportunity to play last season but we are expecting him to have a big impact on our team this season as one of our tallest players at 6-foot-4,” said Horewitch. “The more experience he gets in actual match situations, the better he will be as we progress down the stretch.”
Dion Deguzman, another senior, plays libero, one of the most defensive position on the court with the main responsibility of keeping the ball in play if it gets past the blockers or the first line of defense.
“Deguzman is a serious volleyball player,” said Horewitch, “He trains with some of the top players in his age group at a high-performance camp during the summers in Florida and is in discussion with several colleges, including University of California Santa Cruz, to play at the next level.”
So far this season, he leads the team in digs with 55 plus 10 service aces playing in all 26 sets.
“Dion is the anchor of our back row,” said Horewitch. “He has the ability to read the ball well and can run the court in out-of-system plays to keep the team in-sync.”
Senior Connor Niemtschk has yet to step foot on the court during a match due an injury sustained in club during the off season but is expected to have an impact on the team’s success when he can play next week.
“Connor’s hitting presence in the middle really opens up the offense for our pin hitters,” said Horewitch. “He has a strong confidence demeanor about his play that carries over to the rest of the team.”
The team is also benefiting from the experience of seniors Evan Ronda and Andrew Lwowski plus junior Dallin Dayes and sophomore Niko Zeiner who were the other four returning players from last season’s team.
Ronda has played in 19 sets where he has contributed 29 kills, or 1.5 kills a set, plus 24 digs, six aces and three blocks.
Lwowski has seen action in 21 of the 26 sets tallying 11 digs and two aces playing defensive specialist while Dayes has made himself useful at the net with 17 blocks in 26 sets.
Niko Zeiner, who only played part-time with the varsity team last season, is a major piece to the team’s success this season as he shares the setting responsibilities with Davis.
So far this season, Zeiner has played in 25 sets amassing 100 assists, only five less than Davis, 21 digs, 10 aces and two blocks.
“Niko was a duel jersey for us last season as a freshman playing mostly at the JV level,” said Horewitch. “He became a much more skillful setter during the off-season with a better command of the offense and an ability to put his hitters in a good position to make a play on the ball.”
“His improved setting ability and versatility will allow us to have more variations in our line-ups based on our specific needs against different opponents.”
New to the team are senior Conner Frazey, junior Trey Kuyper, and sophomores Nick Straka and James Watson.
Frazey, a 6-foot-2 middle blocker has 1.3 kills a set and has been credited with two blocks while former JV players Nick Straka and Trey Kuyper should see more court time as the season progresses.
“Nick and Trey were big contributors on our JV team last season,” said Horewitch. “They have the ability to add to our varsity team and make a special impact when their numbers are called.”
“Both bring a new dynamic to the team that we have not had in past seasons,” said Horewitch.” They have a calm demeanor on the court and the ability to change the pace of the game based on where they put their swing.”
Sophomore middle blocker James Watson, filling in for injured Niemtschk, has played well, especially blocking the ball. He has been credited with 16 total blocks, second on the team, and 15 kills while playing in all 26 sets.
“James has stepped into a bigger role than he had as a starter on the JV team last season. He has been able to catch on at a rapid pace to the varsity style of play,” said Horewitch.
The Aztecs have a competent core group of players this season, many of whom played club volleyball in the off-season to improve their volleyball skills.
“The boys put in a lot of hard work during the club seasons to improve in their craft,” said Horewitch.” We are already seeing how the hard work they put in during the off-season is starting to pay off.”
“Matter of fact, three players on this year’s team, Dion Deguzman, Chris Davis and Connor Niemstchk, qualified for the upcoming 18’s Open Junior National Championships while playing club,” said Horewitch. “Their experience of being able to compete at that high level can’t help but carry over to the rest of the team.”
Corona needs to improve hitting efficiency in order to compete with some of the top teams in the state this year and make it into the playoffs but the Aztecs still have 15 matches left in the regular season to show they deserve to be in the playoffs.
The Aztecs were scheduled to play at Boulder Creek March 15. Up next they were to play at Mesa Mountain View March 21, at home against Seton Catholic March 22 and at Chandler March 23.
The following week, on March 28, Millennium was scheduled to play at Corona, then the Aztecs close out the month playing at Highland March 30.
Aztec Invitational Track Meet Results
The Aztec Invitational track meet held March 3 at Corona de Sol attracted 19 boys and 18 girls teams from some of the more prestigious track programs in the valley including Desert Vista, Chandler, Brophy Prep and Red Mountain.
Both McClintock and Tempe had participants in the boys and girls events as well.
Corona’s boys team finished tied for third place with Red Mountain with 67 points each behind Desert Vista and Chandler while the girls team finished seventh.
The Aztec’s highest finish was a first place in both the 4×200 and 4×400 relay race.
Adam Knuff, Benjamin Miller, Jalen Bryant and Jacob Dorr finished first in the 4×200 relay with a time of 1:32.65 while the 4×400 relay team of Sascha Delzeptch, Miller, Bryant, and Daniel Bish crossed the wire at 3:23.82.
Other key results for Corona include a second-place finish for Jalen Bryant in the 200 meters, a fourth-place finish for Jacob Dorr in the 40-meter dash, a fourth-place finish for Benjamin Miller in the 400 meters.
Graham Eversden took fourth in both the 800 meters and 1600 meters while Liam Kovatch finished in sixth place in both race, as well.
Slade Sumners placed ninth in the 3200 meters. Carlos Parra-Cihak was sixth in the 110 meter hurdles and eighth in the 300 meter hurdles.
In the field events, Josh Onwardi, fresh off the basketball court, took first in the high jump clearing the bar at 6-04.00 while Tyson McLain was 11th in the same event.
Top finishers for the girls team included a first-place finish in the 4×800 relay by Cybelle Cozart, Mackenzie Burgess, Riley Wright and Mia Da Rosa and a first place in the 800 meters for Renee Payne.
Other top 10 finishers included a second place in the 400 meters and fourth place in the 200 meters for Jackie Martin, a fifth place for Taylor Hyter in the 40-yard dash, an eighth place for Meg Horwath in the 100 meters and a seventh place in the 100 meter hurdles and a ninth place in the 300 meter hurdles for Kelsy Lum.
In the field events, Josephina Wright took second place with an 11-foot vault in the pole vault. Aria Jones was ninth in the long jump followed by Hyter who placed 11th in the same event.
McClintock Track Results
The top places for the Charger’s boys team included seventh place finish for Jack White in the 400 meters and a 11th place finish in the 200 meters
McClintock had two relays teams who were competitive against the mostly Division I schools including a third-place finish in the 4×400 relay by White, Adam Torregrossa, Carson Streiff and Zachary Land and a fourth-place finish in the 4×200 relay but Streiff, Land, Jerone Davison and Elliot Nester.
Damon Crawfort was the top finisher in the field events taking eighth place in the shotput event. Davieon Center placed 12th in the same event.
The girls 4×200 relay team of Kennidee Hill, Ellione Williams, Kennedy Nichols and Navaria Ortiz crossed the finish line in third place while the 4×100 relay team of Hill, Williams, Miah Cooper and Ortiz took seventh place.
Williams, Daniela Burgos, Hill and Ortiz participated in the 4×400 relay taking eight place in that event.
Tempe High School Results
DeAndre Hughes had a good track meet beating out runners from 18 other schools to take first place in the 40-meter dash with a time of 4.83.
Hughes also took first place in the triple jump field event with a 44-09.00 jump.
Nate Manley crossed the finish line in eighth place in the 400 meters while fellow teammate, Ivory Williams was 11th in the 300 meter hurdles, 10th in the 110 meter hurdles and 11th place in the triple jump.
My-King Johnson participated in the field events taking ninth place in both the shot put and the discus.
Top finishers for the girls team included a third-place finish for Eve Aranda-Carter in the 40-yard dash. She crossed the finish line in 5.56 seconds.
Danyella Miranda was eighth in the 1600 meters and the relay team of Rubi Aguilera, Karely Flores Garcia, Jasmine Neal and Symantha Ramos took 10th in the 4×800 relay.