In publication since 1991, Wrangler News is distributed free every other Saturday to more than 18,000 homes in the Kyrene Corridor area of South Tempe and West Chandler, and is supported by local and regional advertisers.

  Search past and present issues of the Wrangler
    Site search Web search                       
   powered by
Contact Us Links Media Kit Make a Payment Previous Issues

Back Home Forward

This year's teams have 'large shoes' to fill

By Nathan Schroetter

July 15, 2006

Following a season that produced one state championship, two state runner-ups and multiple top-5 and top-10 finishes, Corona del Sol High School's athletic teams have large shoes to fill for the 2006-2007 school year.

“I thought last year's sports season overall, fall, winter and spring, was fantastic,” said CdS Athletic Director Dan Nero.

“We had eight region championships, four state championship appearances, won a state championship in girls was just a great year.”

According to Nero, the Aztecs' record from 2004 through last year has been impressive; the coming year seems to be no different.

“If you look back over the past few years, I can only think of a couple losing seasons at any level in any sport,” Nero said.

“We are really spoiled here at Corona. I know many athletic directors that are lucky if their teams go .500, if they do they actually celebrate, but at Corona we just have a great program that I hope keeps improving.”

However, following up last year’s stellar performances could prove to be difficult, although possible, for the Aztecs.


Finishing the 2005 season with a rather unimpressive record of 5-5 and 2-2 in conference play, the Corona football watchers are looking positively on the upcoming season. 

The program this year has the addition of a new defensive coordinator from Tempe High School, but has to deal with the transfer of running back Justin Salum to Hamilton High School.

“It going to be a challenge; Justin is a good kid with talent, but we can’t concern ourselves with who isn’t here. We have to focus on who will put on the orange and yellow for Coach Venturo this season,” Nero said.

Despite the loss of Salum, the Aztecs will have strong defensive weapons with three linebackers, Tyler Blum, Eric Williams and Cory Benson. Also, junior running back J.R. Hamm, who received the majority of the carries last year, has the experience to lead the rushing attack.

While a majority of this season’s games will be won or lost on the defensive side, the offense, quarterbacked by senior Ryan Howard, has its own artillery as well. Wide receivers David Coxe and Justin Kelly will provide energy to a solid line-up, and senior field goal kicker Gavin Rodriquez is getting progressively stronger.

“We should be close to undefeated, with the exception of maybe a couple rival games,” Coxe said. “We’re a little smaller than the other teams, but a lot faster.”

?Boys & Girls Golf

The boys golf team, impressively posting fifth, third and fifth in the past three state championships, will have to deal with its third new coach in as many years.

Up until 2004, Coach Larry Hughes had directed the team, followed by Robert Beckwith, who led the team in 2004 to its highest finish in 15 years. Now, after two seasons, Beckwith is stepping down, allowing a veteran coach to take over. Jennifer Ray, who assisted with the girls team last year, hopes to bring her experiences to an already strong team. All of the players from last school year will be returning, with the exception of Mike Hedstrom, who graduated in the spring.

The girls team will be fighting to keep its head above water after losing its number one golfer, Courtney Belanger. Belanger led the team in all statistics last year and helped the team to a seventh place finish at state. Her absence will leave the team with a large hole to fill, but this year’s sophomores, Kelsey Hoyt and Lindsey Kohl, should be poised to lead the team back to state.


Students, faculty and parents are still talking about last year’s memorable season. Finishing with a 27-2 record and receiving state runner-up honors, the Aztecs finished just short of greatness. Led by three senior starters, including Sean Imadiyi, Central Region player of the year, Corona was an unflagging opponent.

“We had a fantastic season last year,” senior Johnny Beerling said. “But this year, people might not think we are going to have as great as a season. I think we are going to surprise a lot of people.”

The team looks to seniors Brad Carroll and Phil Feinberg, who will be returning to the starting line-up, to carry the team. There may not be as many standout stars on the team as last year, but depth and hustle should allow Corona to enjoy success this season as well.

“In order for our team to be successful, we need to play like a team,” Beerling said. “We can’t just score points like we did last year. If people play their roles right, we will be good.”

The team only lost one region game last season to Mountain Pointe, however, this year, Desert Vista will be a tough match-up. Corona beat Desert Vista, a team with only one senior who made it to the semi-finals five times last year.

“Desert Vista is looking for revenge this year,” Beerling said. “They are going to be very tough.”


If there is a year of opportunity for Aztec baseball, the upcoming season will be just that for Coach David Webb and his players.

The 2006 season was not memorable for anyone involved in the baseball organization, but with three sophomore starters, the team hopes to make dramatic changes.

“This season, I think we can make state and the playoffs,” senior infielder Gavin Rodriquez said. “Last year we were not very good, but this season we can win Region.”

Returning this year will be senior catcher Andrew Pollak, who was named to the All-City team last year.

“Andrew is our three-hole hitter who is always the best player,” Rodriquez said. “Our pitching will be led by Joey Schumer and Travis Kniffen, and the three sophomores who will be starting this year are really good hitters.” Those will be Kirby Pellant, Mike Felton and Tyler Giannonatti.

Chemistry will also play a big role in the team’s success and determine how much the team can achieve.

“Last year, the eight seniors on the team and the eight juniors did not get along,” Rodriquez said. “That’s one thing that this team will have to do differently, and I think if we can do that we will have a successful season.”

Girls Soccer

Girls Soccer, the only state champions of last year, is once again on the track to repeat. This year, the team will bring all of its players except for four graduated seniors who played a small role in winning the championship.

“Our team will be very similar to last year’s,” senior Alexa Daiutolo said. “We are used to playing together, so it won’t take the full year to get used to each other.”

Daiutolo, who was also named to the All-City team along with upcoming senior Holly Benson, juniors Brittany Cole, Este Rea and Stephanie Phillips, partly accredits last year’s success to team unity. This unity was clearly shown last year in the semi-final and championship games. Being down 3-1 against Gilbert, the team fought back to win 4-3 in the second half. Then, in the championship game, the team fought hard to win in extra time periods against region rival Mountain Pointe.

“Every game, someone different steps up and we never have that one person you have to rely on,” Daiutolo said.

“We play as a team and everyday someone new shows up as the star.”

This year’s team might have a little different look to it. Goalie Phillips and Benson are thinking about only playing club soccer and opting out of the school team. The absence of these two players would hurt the team severely and might prevent repeating at the state championship. It will again but up to the younger players such as, juniors Cole, Rea, Alexis Burkhart, and sophomore Ashley Kniffen.

“I love all the girls and we all get along really well,” Daiutolo said. “We had such a young team last year and hopefully we will get some good freshman this year and win it again.”

Track and Field

The Corona track and field squad may not have overall strength across the board, but it does have a lot of firepower in certain events.

Mainly, senior Phil Feinberg, who placed fifth in the Junior Olympics, jumping seven feet and a quarter inch, is the hands-down favorite to win State in high jump.

However, the team this year will be in a rebuilding stage. Losing runners such as Matt Mosley, who will be playing football at the University of Washington, and Katie Cartwright, who will be attending University of California/Berkeley on a track scholarship, does not increase the team’s chances of improving.

Last year’s team showed strength in the boy’s 4 by 100-meter and their overall fourth-place finish in State, and in the girl’s hurdles, which was led by Cartwright and sophomore Shelbie Kovach.

“I think we will be good if we keep working hard and practicing,” Kovach said. “Sprinting should again be the strong area for the team.”


Overall, the outlook on Corona’s season is promising. The teams have lost a lot of talent to graduation this past year, but the unity and depth that each team has will be beneficial to the success of Corona athletics.

Corona athletics, especially over the past few years, has been one of the best in the state. At the freshman, junior varsity and varsity levels there have been winning teams. This success proves that even if teams are in a rebuilding stage or have lost many seniors, the players and coaches can bounce back and eventually find the right winning recipe again.

Each player knows his or her role and can provide solid efforts day in and out to make a run at region and state.

“I want to see all of our kids grow, academically, athletically, and socially,” Nero said.

“If we have some great citizens come out of this school year, that is all I can ask for.”



Photo by David Stone


web site hit counter