Coach Sammy Duane and the Corona del Sol boys basketball team finished the 2008-09 season with a 15-11 record and making it into the Arizona State 5A-I tournament six years in a row-every year since coach Duane took over the program during the 2003-04 season.
It was a great accomplishment to make it into the state tournament because the team was plagued with injuries throughout the season,according to Duane.
“We only had our whole team together for one two-week stretch,” said Duane.
“It is a testament to our seniors and their outstanding leadership that we were able to hold things together this year.”
The Aztecs honored their six senior players, Leland Devlin, Andrew Fox, Tory Gomez, David Logston, Michael Stahl and Grant Walton, Feb. 19 before winning their last home game against Mountain Pointe, 81-69.
“This group of seniors has been outstanding not only as basketball players but more importantly, they areoutstanding individuals,” said Duane.
“They represented Corona and our basketball program with great class and we will miss them.”
Coach Duane will look next to rebuilding his team during summer ball. Some players he expects to return and continue contributing will be seniors Marcel Towns, David Whitmore, Kyle Noon and David Whitmore and sophomore Calaen Robinson.
“Marcel really came on and played exceptionally well down the stretch after being injured early in the season,” said Duane.
“He will be a very good player for us next year.”
“David Whitmore was playing very well before injuring his knee,” said Duane.
“He really would have helped us against Highland in the state tournament.”
“Kyle and Calaen started several games for us this year and should help with our success next season,” said Duane. “The key to our season may be in finding more depth next year.”
Coach Rick Wanta has high expectation for his Corona boys tennis team this season after returning six lettermen from last year’s squad that went 16-2 and made it to the semifinals of the 5A-I state tournament before losing 4-5 to Central region foe Desert Vista. Returning players include senior Garret Dun as the No. 1 Singles player and junior Kyle Orgen as the No. 1 Doubles player paired up this season with freshman Alex Lawson.
“Garret is our best player and one of the top players in the 5A-I division,” said Wanta. “Kyle and Alex have been a successful doubles team for years playing in junior tournaments and should be a strong contender at the state doubles tournament.”
So far coach Wanta’s expectations are paying off because the team seems to have picked up where they left off during the regular season last year-winning tennis matches.
The Aztecs are already 5-0 in regular season matches even beating perennial fixtures in the state tournament Brophy 5-4 on Feb. 24th. The Aztecs have also won their first tournament of the season–the Kiwanis High School Invitational.
For the second consecutive year the boys team won this invitational tennis tournament held Feb. 27-28 at Kiwanis Park in Tempe. Garret Dunn won second place in Singles after losing to Mountain Pointe’s Andy Nguyen in the finals. Kyle Ogren and Ben Duong took third place in the Gold Doubles division and David Choi and Daniel Larsson took second place in the Silver Doubles division. In Mixed
Doubles, Cole Libera and Libby Vogt, from Corona’s girls tennis team, took first place after beating the Brophy/Xavier mixed doubles team. The Corona girls team, coached by Carol Sandvig, including players Lauren Hacker, Libby Vogt, Roopa Krishnaswamy, Michelle Wellnitz, Danielle Hoyme, Kristen Ohe, and Kelsey Lawson won second place in this invitational so the Aztec players were able to bring back to Corona the overall school trophy.
The Aztecs hope to continue their winning ways into the state tournament again this season. In addition to Dunn, Ogren, Duong and Choi, returning lettermen expected to contribute to the teams success are Daniel Larsson and Ryan Skuse. Newcomers to the varsity team competing for spots on coach Wanta’s tennis ladder include Lawson, Libera and Alan Lee.
Corona played Desert Mountain, Dobson and Mountain Ridge March 3, 4, and 5th. Up next will be Gila Ridge at home March 18, beforestarting Central region play March24 at Mountain Pointe and March 26at Desert Vista. See Corona’s athleticwebsite at http://www.aztecathletics.com for more information and updated scores.
Corona’s baseball team showed uplast week ranked No. 3 in the ArizonaRepublics 5A-I baseball rankingsonly behind Hamilton and Brophy. This year’s team is described as a veteran team with the potential to win Corona’s first state championship since 1993.
Talk about a veteran team. The Aztecs have 20 players on the varsity team-15 are seniors and 5 juniors. Seven were starters last season with 12 players all together returning from the team that lost to eventual state champion Hamilton in the state tournament last year.
“We have so many returning players that I’m hoping for a successful season,” said coach Dave Webb. “Offensively, we are as good as any team in the state.”
“Our No.1 through No. 9 hitters in the line-up can all hit for power and contact,” said senior Marshall Gottlieb. “We also have a lot of speed and guys that can come off the bench and play crucial rolls in the game.”
Although the team is known for their hitting, it may be its improvement in defense that will be key to winning Corona’s first state championship in 16 years.
“Our team is really known for our hitting but after the first couple of games our defense is looking to be one of our strong points,” said senior Tyler Giannonatti.
Coach Web is looking for seniors Mike Felton and Giannonatti, who have been on Varsity since their sophomore year, to provide leadership for the team but everyone is expected to lead while on and off the baseball field. In addition to senior leadership and experience, the Aztecs have some junior talent that will add depth to the team.
“We don’t really have any young players on the team this year,” said Gottlieb. “Greg Ryan is a junior who has stepped into the line-up and has given us some juice with key hits. Also junior Andy “Dex” Nist has been incredible behind the plate defensively throwing out runners and working with our pitchers.”
The Aztecs have returning pitchers Kevin Collinge and Brock Abbadini who they hope will have another great season like last year in order for the team to make a run for their last chance at a Central region championship and the finals of the state tournament according the Giannonatti. It has been 13 years since the Aztecs have not won the Central region trophy.
One area the Aztecs are working on this season is improving their base running skills.
“Base running has always been a struggle for us,” said Giannonatti. “We have great team speed but always seem to get picked off.”
“We have a ton of speed on this year’s team,” said Gottlieb. “So definitely improving on taking extra bases and putting pressure on the defense would be helpful in accomplishing our goal of winning the Central region and wearing a state championship ring at the end of the state playoff.”
Other seniors hoping to wear a championship ring include Kirby Pellant, JT Armstrong, Billy Upham, Tanner Tripp, Chris Lopez, Erik Wanta, Ben Deem, Brian Kent, Ryan Moore and Evan Ritchey. Rounding out this year’ Corona “team with potential” are juniors Trever Allen, Austin Doll and Brandon Yee.
Corona’s baseball team continued playing in the Aztec Baseball Classic March 6-7 and will play in the Mesquite HS Spring Tournament March 14 against Mesquite and Gilbert. The Mesquite tournament continues into the following week, March 18-19, when Corona will play Westwood and Mountain View.
Everyone has high hopes for the success of this year’s Corona baseball team but what makes this team special? They are some of the most talented players Corona has seen, according to coach Webb, who also adds they are a fun group to be around.
“Our ability to never be out of the game, no matter what the score, puts us above the competition,” said Giannonatti.