|Photo by David Stone
Corona del Sol’s No. 3-ranked girls volleyball team recently took second place in the gold division of the 32-team Westwood Tournament of Champions to the only team it has lost to all season: Xavier.
The Lady Aztecs scheduled match against Xavier, Sept. 23, will be the third time in a little over a week that Corona has faced the defending state 5A championship team across the net. This time CdS is expecting the third time to be the charm.
Xavier and CdS started the season ranked in the top five. Both have won 13 matches. Both have only lost to one team. Xavier lost to Desert Vista in their first match of the season while Corona has only lost to Xavier.
Both teams have strong outside hitters, ace servers and outstanding setters. Junior Bethany Jorgensen is Corona’s leading hitter averaging 4.6 kills per game. Fellow junior Cassie Ronda averages 3.3 kills and 1 ace serve per game while senior setter Taylor Kesteloot averages over 9 assists a game.
“I think that we have a much better chance of beating them now that we’ve seen them play and know their tendencies like where they hit and tip,” said Jorgensen. “Also we will know how to work around their block.”
Hitting around the block may be a necessary key adjustment for the Lady Aztecs to win as Xavier has 6’2” senior middle blocker Alexis Pinson who alone has put up 48 solo blocks and averages an exceptional 1.5 blocks a game.
Another key to beating Xavier will be confidence and the ability to play defense and dig the ball. Corona has an outstanding senior libero Lexie Schroeder who averages close to 4 digs a game.
“Its going to be a tough match but if we play the best we can and stay mentally focused out there we can beat them,” said Schroeder. “Xavier is a great team and is one of the best in state, but our team has a lot of potential and can definitely beat them if we just play at the level we know we can play.”
With only eleven regular season matches remaining, Corona is still on target to reach the state 5A-1 championship match in November. In order to make it to that coveted match and potentially bring home the championship trophy, the Lady Aztecs are probably going to have to beat Xavier and No. 1 ranked Central Region foe Desert Vista. Team depth could be a major factor.
Xavier has already proven that it has depth using as many as 15 players during the Westwood tournament. Corona may need other players to step up and help Jorgensen and Ronda in the kill category, for instance. Between the two of them they have attacked the ball almost 300 times (177 for Jorgensen and 126 for Ronda) while the other five CdS hitters combined have only attacked a little over 200 times.
Corona’s leading blocker Emily Kaup, who averages 1 block a game, will need some help in the blocking category if the Lady Aztecs have a chance against Xavier. The entire CdS team only has 56 blocks on the season while Xavier’s Pinson has more than that by herself. Senior middle blocker Maddy Harmon and junior Katherine Gatz are likely candidates to add support in this category.
In addition, Corona’s three leading diggers, Schroeder, Ronda and Taylor Kesteloot will need help in the back row from freshman Haley Kesteloot. Haley Kesteloot, who is already averaging close to 1.5 digs a game, can potentially shore up Corona’s defense against Xavier’s high octane offense.
Regardless of the outcome of the latest Corona versus Xavier match, both teams should figure prominently in the post season. Corona del Sol players who stood out at the Westwood Tournament of Champions and were selected to the all tournament team, Bethany Jorgensen, Taylor Kesteloot, and Cassie Ronda will play a significant role in helping the Lady Aztecs make it to the championship match. As will libero Schroeder and blocker Kaup. Player development the rest of the season may determine who wins once they get there.
To find out more about schedules and results go to Corona’s athletic website at http://www.aztecathletics.com/.