Corona’s badminton team is working to fulfill its goal of being ranked in the top four by the time the state tournament rolls around in October. Bottom: Aaliyah Herndon, Nihara Mahesh, Hannah McCarley, Eileen Li, Yoonjae Cho; middle: Kate Chafey, Kristie Hale, Sydney Millerwise, Cameron Adams, Kyria Greb, Anna Morrow; top: Lexie Rangel, Katie Carroll, Susanne Reus, Brennan Agnew, Karthika Krishna, Lea Luke, Danielle Mealer, Sarah Faheem; not pictured: Langston Tillman (Photo for Wrangler News by Darren Ridge)
Corona’s badminton team will have a new head coach, two assistant coaches, and a competitive positive attitude when they play their first match of the season at home against Xavier Prep, the defending state champions, on Aug. 24.
New head coach Darren Ridge, with assistant coaches Marin Ridge and Colleen Ridge, spent time this summer working with the team on improving their badminton skills and competitive attitude.
“We love this team,” said coach Ridge. “The players are very coachable, have a desire to improve and have good team chemistry. We love the attitude and the hard work that these athletes have put in so far.”
“Many of these young ladies spent five weeks during the summer and then two weeks prior to the start of school practicing. We did not have our first official practice until this past week.”
The team has several returning athletes along with five varsity players from last season.
‘We have 14 players returning from last year’s squad,” said Ridge. “Sydney Millerwise, Kristie Hale, Cameron Adams, Katie Carroll, and Eileen Li are our returning varsity players.”
Adams, Hale and Millerwise have the most varsity court experience as seniors.
Adams and Hale qualified last year in doubles for the 2016 AIA Badminton Doubles Division I State Championship but lost in the first round to a team from Desert Vista.
Millerwise has taken a natural leadership position on the team.
“Sydney Millerwise has truly been phenomenal in her leadership role,” said Ridge. “As coaches, we feel that all players can be leaders, but Sydney has stepped up.”
“She leads by example. She sets the tone and pace starting with our warm-up laps and she continues through practice ending with our sprints at the end.”
Carroll is a junior and Li, the youngest player on the varsity team, is only a sophomore.
“The rest of our returning players include Brennan Agnew, Kate Chafey, Yooniae Cho, Kyria Greg, Karthika Krishna, Hanna Landers, Lea Luke, Anna Morrow and Langston Tillman,” said Ridge.
Langston Tillman is the only male player on Corona’s team.
“Langston, a senior this year, has been with the badminton program since his freshman year,” said Ridge. “Males can only play exhibition matches and only against another male. Therefore, he only gets to play if there is another male player on the opposing team.”
In badminton, only six players are slated to play in each match. During practice, there are ways to challenge for position. For instance, a player who did not play one week may be designated to play the next week based on what happened during practice.
Millerwise, Agnew, Hale, Li, Carroll, Adams, Krishna and Morrow are the players who have earned the right to be one of the six who are slated to play at the start of the season but that could potentially change every week.
“Our hope is that during the season, players will continue to work hard and compete each week to challenge for the top six spots,” said Ridge.
One player who was able to work her way into one of those top six spots through hard work is junior Brennan Agnew.
“Brennan will most likely have the biggest impact for a new varsity player on our team this season,” said Ridge. “Last year she was the number two JV player but she has since moved into the number two varsity position.”
“Brennan is not the only impact player on our team,” said Ridge. “Every single player is an impact player. We need every singles and doubles team to do their best for the sake of our team’s overall success.”
Coaches are always looking for improvements over the season and Corona’s badminton coaches are no different.
“We believe in constant improvement no matter the competitive level of a players,” said Ridge. ”Specific areas we plan on focusing includes improved footwork, strategic shot making, match intensity and positive mental tactics.”
Other members of the badminton program include Lexie Rangel, Nihara Mahesh, Aaliyah Herndon, Hannah McCawley, Susanne Reus, Danielle Meaner and Sarah Faheem.
The goal of the Aztecs, who came into the Division I state championship tournament ranked No. 10 last season, is to be ranked in the top four.
“If we want to be one of those top four teams at the end of the season, we need for every one of our young ladies to lay it on the line each match,” said Ridge.
The Aztecs are scheduled to play in the Highland Flying Feathers Invitational Aug. 25 at Highland High School.
Up next will be a home match Aug. 29 against Skyline before playing at Mesa High School Aug. 31. All regular season matches start at 3:30.
Corona Swim and Dive Team
The focus this season in Corona’s swim and dive team is on competitiveness which has been helped by the popularity of the sport and the willingness for swimmers to train in the off-season.
Although Corona lost 20 swimmers to graduation last spring the impact this fall should not be overly significant since the team gained over 35 freshman who are now sophomores who have come back after an off-season of club swimming to help Corona be competitive in the pool this fall.
“We had several of our swimmers join swim clubs,” said head coach Ron Musgrave. “I have seen a vast improvement collectively in the skill level of our team after just one week of practice. These swimmers are really excited to match their newly honed skills in the high school season.”
“Some of our swimmers who really focused on training in the off-season and who we are expecting to see improved times this fall include Dylan Edge and Francisco Esparza on the boys team and Danielle Devlin, Kalie Allen and Ryan Lerma on the girls team, just to name a few,” said Musgrave.
Secondly, swimming had become so popular at Corona that the swim team had close to 100 swimmers participate per season the past few years, according to Musgrave. This fall, an attempt was made to lower the number of swimmers on the team.
“Corona’s swim team, traditionally a no-cut sport, had become so popular over the past few years, that this fall swimmers are having to qualify for the team,” said Musgrave. “This process was several years in the making, in an effort, to reduce the size of our team.”
“The challenge was creating or establishing a “fair” criteria in which to evaluate those who made the team,” said Musgrave. “As far as I know, we are the first and only school in our district to establish these criteria.”
The need to qualify this year has cut the number down to close to 70 swimmers but the team is short on divers.
Mike Floyd, the dive coach, is particularly interested in any students with gymnastic experience that he can work with to transition into divers for the team, according to Musgrave.
One swimmer who did not need to qualify for the team was senior Ben Quon.
“Ben, who has had the ability to quality for the state swim meet in any and every event he has chosen to enter his first three years is exploring several college swim options,” said Musgrave. “He is extremely talented and intelligent enough to have his pick of schools and will be visiting several this fall.”
“We look forward to another great year with Ben who will be one of our team captions,” said Musgrave. “He has been very generous sharing his swim knowledge to assist developing swimmers at practice on a regular basis.”
Another swimmer to watch, according to Musgrave, is freshman Ben Hill.
“Ben is a highly touted swimmer who has been very successful in swim club,” said Musgrave. “We, assistant coaches Mike Herrmann and Mark Burnside”, and myself are looking forward to getting to know him better this season.”
Musgrave is expecting Chandler High School to be a challenge for his team in their first meet on Aug. 31 but is hoping that the team’s focus on having a competitive season will help them to well the rest of the season.