Losing in the first round of the 5A-I state tournament as the No. 1 seed could not diminish the strides the Corona boys soccer team made this season.
The regular season was a great learning experience for the boys and they cleared some difficult hurtles by winning games against teams that they had struggled with in the past, according to head coach Dan Salas.
“I’m incredibly proud of all the players for putting in the effort for each other and playing for each other this season,” said Salas. “This team had so much talent and competitiveness. It was one of the rare teams that competed against each other daily practice. Sometimes our practice scrimmages were more competitive than games.”
This effort and competitiveness was obviously not lost on other Central region foes, as both the Offensive Player and Defensive Player of the Year awards went to Corona players. Forward Trevor Allen was the offensive and goalie Matt Bersono the defensive player. Both were also selected to the Central Region First Teams along with defender Josh VonAlwarden, midfielder Derek Rusher, midfielder Brian Hoyt and senior forward Matt Widjaja.
Central Region Second Team selections from Corona were defender Kevin Biniazan and forward Dan VanVleet. Honorable Mention Team selections were defender Chris Murray and midfielder Nick Cavaretta.
The team will be losing five seniors who have contributed to the growth and success of this season’s Aztec soccer team, according to coach Salas. Jackson Allen has set an example of training intensity and leadership for the team with a “ready-to-play” attitude every day which has been an inspiration to all the players and will be sorely missed, Salas said.
Nic Salhuana has a contagious personality, full of enthusiasm for playing everyday, Salas noted. He’s an intelligent player who enjoys creating and distributing the ball. Kaue Martins possesses imagination and technical skills that make his playing style unique. He has a certain personality and flare that Kaue may be able to take to the next level.
Matt Widjaja has been a vital part of the varsity soccer program for four years, according to Salas.
“Matt has only missed one regular season start in four years which is incredible,” he said. “He has been a great role model for all incoming players.
“He also has scored some of the most memorable goals, including a hat-trick against Highland when we were down 3-0 at halftime to give us a 4-3 victory as only a freshman.”
Joey Cavaretta, who had been injured and unable to play his first two years of varsity experience, showed up every day with purpose and grit, according to Salas.
“Joey came out as a senior with incredible determination, discipline and, most importantly, appreciation for the game,” said Salas. “Joey didn’t take a second for granted all year.”
The season-ending first-round loss was a tough lesson for the young Aztec team. It hopefully gave them a different perspective on how fast the season can be taken away. Salas is hoping it will sharpen their focus and make them realize they should not take a moment of training or game time for granted.
“We were a relatively young team in the beginning but ended up with many more mature players who finally began to realize our potential as a team,” said Salas.
“We came together from different clubs, backgrounds and friendships, but were ultimately able to work together as one cohesive unit. If the boys can capture that same magic and spirit next fall, the future looks bright.”
The Corona girls soccer team finished the 2008-09 season winning 15 games-just not the one they wanted most in the state 5A-I tournament.
After beating Buena 4-1 in the first round, the Lady Aztecs lost in the quarterfinals to Salpointe Catholic 2-1 on Feb. 7. Although Corona was unable to make it to the finals of the state tournament, they did win the Central region and garnered several Central region team selections.
First Team selections included seniors Ashley Kniffen, Lexie Schroeder, Sephanie Holladay, sophomore Sammie Weber and junior keeper Hailey Hayes.
Second Team selections were seniors Whitney Miller and Angela Williamson and junior Jessica Johnson. Honorable Mention went to senior Lauren McGill and junior Tori Papp.
With a win at Mountain Pointe Feb. 19, the Corona’s girls basketball team will end the 2008-08 season 11-15 in coach Andy Strom‘s first season as head coach. Strom has been pleased with the improvement he’s seen over this transitional period in both individual and team improvement.
“The girls have done a great job preparing for each game,” said Strom. “We made it a point to only focus one game at a time, and that has been beneficial. Though our record isn’t as good as we would like, I have seen improvement in our team from Game 1 to Game 26.”
The Lady Aztecs will lose 10 seniors to graduation this year:
Christina Stough, Nicole Coggins, Kim Pestalozzi, Taylor Godfrey, Katlyn Mason, Chantel Young, Alissa Beaird, Andrea Beaird, Jessica Pena and Susan Plasencia.
“We will be losing some valuable seniors,” said Strom. “The coaching staff, including coaches Ridge and Maki, would like to thank them for all of their efforts last summer and during the season. It takes a tremendous commitment to play high school sports and our girls, seniors down to freshman, bought into that substantial commitment.”
In spite of the ample commitment it takes to play any sport, several senior players currently rank being part of a team and becoming friends as one of the best experiences in their young lifetime.
“It was one of the best things in my life,” said Kim Pestalozzi. “I loved learning new skills and techniques throughout the years that has enabled me to become the player I am now.”
Pestalozzi was one of only six girls nominated from Arizona for the McDonald’s All-American team. It would be a great honor to be one of 20 final members chosen from all the girls basketball programs throughout the United State.
Pestalozzi was the team leader in three-point goals, making 46. Pestalozzi also tied as the leading scorer with Nicole Coggins, both close to 10 points a game.
Coggins, though, had the highest field goal percentage at 43 percent and led the team in assists at 3.5 per game. On the defensive side, Andrea Beaird led the team with 26 blocked shots and 162 total rebounds or more than seven rebounds a game. Twin Alissa Beaird was next with 11 blocked shots and 115 total rebounds.
“I will miss all the girls and all the fun times we all had on the court and off the court,” said Alissa Beaird. “I will have so many memories-all the pranks we would pull on each other, team dinners, fun practices just hanging out as friends.”
Losing 10 seniors, and with only five juniors on this season’s team, coach Strom could have a young team with little varsity experience next season. He will be counting on getting to know some of these younger Lady Aztecs during summer ball.
“We are expecting good things from the juniors that will return next season and some young girls will have to step in and play right away,” said Strom.
“I know, though, that coach Ridge and coach Maki have done an excellent job preparing the younger girls for the next level.”
The Corona wrestling team won the Central region title, boasts a 27-2 team record, and are still ranked No. 1 in the Arizona Republic among 5A teams attempting to win its first Arizona State Championship trophy heading into the state tournaments held over the next two weeks.
The 5A-I state individual champion tournament started its first session on Feb. 19 at Mesa High School. Session two of this individual tournament was scheduled to continue Feb. 20 at Jobing.com Arena starting at 11:30 a.m. and continuing at 7 p.m. that day. Sessions three, four and the finals are on tap at Jobbing.com Arena on Saturday, Feb. 21. Session three starts at 9 a.m., session two at 1 p.m. and the finals at 6:50 p.m.
The 5A-I state team tournament gets under way Saturday, Feb. 28, at Shadow Mountain High School. Round one, which includes eight teams, starts at 10 a.m. Semifinals are scheduled for 3 p.m. and finals at 6:30.
Winning the 5A-I State Championship Trophy has been the Aztec wrestlers’ mission after losing in the finals last year to Mesa High School. Similar to this season, Corona was ranked No. 1 entering the tournament last year.
“Although an individual title would mean a lot to me, it’s the state team title that is everyone’s goal,” said junior Derek Felton.
“Corona has wanted this title since the day it opened. To finally get it will be a huge relief and put a nice end to all the hard work we have been putting in, not only this year but in years past building up to this point.”