Corona’s defending state championship girls volleyball team lost key players to graduation but the Aztecs have not lost a step in their quest to earn another DI state championship trophy at the end of the 2017 season.
Sitting at 23-1 after losing a match to Xavier in the highest or Platinum division of the Nike Tournament of Champions last weekend, the Aztecs are currently ranked No. 4 in Maxpreps.com’s Excellent 25 Writers Poll and No. 2 in Arizona.
Before losing to Xavier at the Nike Invitational in three-sets (25-23, 19-25, 11-15), the Aztecs had a 37-match winning streak on the line dating back to last Oct.
Corona ended up taking fifth place in the Platinum division after beating Millennium in two sets.
“I am very pleased with our progress so far this season,” said Corona’s head coach Ben Maxfield. “We continue to improve on our ball control which has allowed us to use all of our offensive weapons.”
Corona returned several players from last season’s championship team including Brooke Nuneviller, Abby Meyer, Emma West, Madelyn Noble and Allie Wade.
Nuneviller, Corona’s outside hitter, was the kill leader on last season’s team averaging 3.6 kills a set but this season has increased her kill average to over five kills a set. Her hitting percentage is currently .424 which means in layman’s terms that 42% of every one of her hits is a kill.
“Offensively, Brooke is hitting at a higher percentage because she is even more efficient than last season,” said Maxfield. “She has such great vision which enables her to find the open spots on the court.
Nuneviller, a member of the USA Girls Youth National Team the last two years, contributes to Corona’s success in all aspects of the game including serve receive, digging, serving and blocking.
After playing libero on the national team, Nuneviller’s serve receive and defense in the back row are outstanding. She is also the team’s leading digger with currently 269 digs or over four digs a set.
“Brooke’s serve receive passing is even better than last season,” said Maxfield
Nuneviller is second on the team in service aces with 27 aces to Abby Meyer, Corona’s returning setter, who currently has 47 service aces.
Meyer, who played last season as part of Corona’s 6-2 scheme which involves sharing setter responsibilities, is the sole setter this season. She currently has 766 assists or over 10 assists a set, 34 kills, 11 blocks and 137 digs.
“Abby has done a fantastic job running the court,” said Maxfield. “She has always done very well at exploiting the blocking matchups and getting the ball to our ‘hot’ hitters.”
Playing the opposite position, Emma West is hitting a steady 2.3 kills a set with 25 total blocks more than halfway through this season.
“Like Brooke, Emma is hitting with greater efficiency,” said Maxfield. “She is scoring a lot of points for us because she has learned to move her hits around.”
Noble, a freshman outside hitter last season, has gone from an average of one kill a set to 2.6 kills a set. Last season she had a total of 28 service aces but is on her way to improve in that areas of her game as well since she currently has 24 aces.
“Mady Noble brings a lot of ball control to her position,” said Maxfield. “She passes well, plays great defense, and offensively is very crafty and smart with her shots.”
Wade, who was an outside hitter, moved into the libero position her senior year, is averaging 2.8 digs a set and currently has recorded 24 service aces.
“Allie Wade has been a pleasant surprise at the libero position,” said Maxfield. “She has never played the position before, but as coaches, we noticed that she was very solid in serve receive. With our libero Camryn Tucker graduating, Allie has stepped in nicely.”
The 2017 team also includes returning players Lexi Vicek and Isis Mitchell, along with newcomers Kaiessa Sounart, Sadie McRae, Celestial Miller, Baylee Leavitt, Kacie McCain, Becca Morse, Alyssa Wissinger and Krystal Blair.
Corona lost both of their starting middle blockers Lauren Forte and Jessica Murphy to graduation but currently have found other players attempting to fill this important position.
Senior Wissinger has 89 kills or an average of 2.2 kills per set along with 25 blocks while McRae, a sophomore, has recorded 84 kills and 37 total blocks this season and Sounart is averaging over a kill per set and has 10 total blocks.
“I am very happy with our two younger middle blockers, Sadie and Kaiessa, who have stepped in and played very well for us,” said Maxfield.
“Sadie is doing awesome at middle blocker,” said Maxfield. “She has really developed a lot of power in her hitting, and competing against Alyssa and Krystal in practice every day has elevated her game. Her blocking continues to improve. She has a very bright future in volleyball!”
“Kaiessa is the most positive player and willing to play anywhere,” said Maxfield. “She hasn’t played middle since she was 13, but since we needed a middle she stepped into that position without a complaint and has done great things for us.”
Corona was scheduled to play Desert Vista at home on Oct. 5 before competing in the Gilbert Invitational Tournament Oct. 6-7.
After that tournament, the Aztecs have five matches left in the regular season. The only chance to watch Corona play at home out of these five regular season matches will be on Oct. 19 against Gilbert.
Corona, currently ranked No. 2 in power point rankings will most likely stay in that position when the first round of the DI state tournament starts on Oct. 31 which is scheduled to be played at the higher seed which should be Corona. The quarterfinals are scheduled for Nov. 2, again at the higher seed.
The semifinals, Nov. 7 and the finals, Nov. 9 are scheduled to be played at Mesquite High School.
Marcos de Niza Girls Volleyball
The Padres volleyball team, with a 11-14 overall record and 3-0 section record is currently at the top of the standings in the 4A Desert Sky region.
Two juniors lead the team in kills. Elyse Olson is the kill leader on the team with over 130 kills or an average of over two kills a set. She is followed by Katy Johnson with 108 kills.
Freshman Hailey White has played in 45 matches so far amassing 96 kills or 2.1 kills per set.
Junior Jennifer Lauer is next with 85 kills playing in 65 sets.
While Lauer leads the team in service aces with 46, another freshman, Olivia Craig, has played in all 65 sets and is next in line with 33 aces while Johnson has 27 and Justice Craig has 18 aces.
White and Olson are the leadings blockers on the team. White has an impressive 27 solo blocks while Olson is close behind with 25. Other blockers worth noting are Johnson with 17 total blocks, Alohna Taylor with 14 total blocks, Melahni Washington with 13 and Lauer with 12 total blocks.
Playing defense, Justice Craig runs away with the dig category with an impressive 327 digs in 63 sets or 5.2 digs a set. She is followed by junior Katy Denham with 207 digs, Lauer with 126 and Sophia Ashmeade with 124.
Olivia Craig has the most assists with 243 or 3.7 assists per set followed by Lauer with 197 or three assists per set.
Other members of the team contributing on and off the court include seniors Daisy Salazar and Yahselah Thompson.
With five out of their last seven matches on their own home court, the Padres have an opportunity to be one of the top teams to compete in the 4A state championship.
Marcos de Niza Football
The Padres were on a two-game winning streak defeating Bradshaw Mountain 16-11, on Sept. 15 and Casa Grande 51-20, on Sept. 22 before the pendulum swung the other way and Marcos lost to 4A defending state champions Saguaro 42-7 on Sept. 29.
The Padres offense was most successful on the ground scoring points again both Bradshaw Mountain and Casa Grande by running the ball.
Against Bradshaw Mountain, the team rushed for 234 yards on 39 carries with two touchdowns.
Yakeen Baylis, carried the ball 19 times for a total of 140 yards and one touchdown and was named player of the game by the coaching staff.
Quarterback Marcos Moreno completed six out of 14 attempts for a total in the air of 70 yards but also carried the ball for 13 times gaining 52 yards. Moreno scored the second touchdown of the game.
Alex Torres caught five passes from Morena for 42 yards while Joren Davis gained 21 yards on three carries and Torren Union 32 yards on two carries.
In the win against Casa Grande on Sept. 22, Mario Gastelum was impressive with seven solo and a total of 11 tackles but it was his two interceptions, one Gastelum returned 58 yards for a touchdown, that earned him defensive player of the game.
Sophomore Adam Anchando was named special teams player of the game in the Padres game against Casa Grande.
On defense, Emilio Ortiz, was credited with sacking the quarterback for a loss of 10 yards and Brock Young recovered a fumble as did Joe Chavez who also had eight total tackles. Matt Canada finished the game with 10 total tackles.
Currently, the No. 14 power point ranked Padres have four games left in the regular season. Up next they were scheduled to play at Cactus Shadows on Oct. 6. Then followed two home games: Seton Catholic Oct. 13 and Higley Oct. 20. The last game of the regular season is scheduled at Tempe on Oct. 27.