Mid-season turnaround fails to score

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The Aztecs had a tough schedule in 2010-11, playing in a region that ultimately produced the 5A state championship team, Mesa Mountain View, plus two other serious contenders in Gilbert and Mesquite. The team finished with a 9-10 regular season, 6-6 Central region and overall 24-15 record, including tournament matches, according to coach Brynne Evans.

“We started the season only taking 10th at the Chandler Tournament, but midway through the season we solidified as a team and took first at the Antelope Classic,” said Evans. “We capped off the regular season with a great second-place finish at the Brophy Invitational, which was a huge improvement over our seventh place last year.”

Although the Aztecs achieved outstanding results in their last two tournaments, their regular season record is what gave them a No. 15 ranking heading into the 5A state tournament.

“Unfortunately we faced off against No. 2 seeded Hamilton in the first round of the state tournament,” said Evans. “Hamilton played a fast-paced game, taking us out of our offense quickly.”

“We struggled to get into a rhythm, and when we did get a run, it was usually to catch up,” said Evans. “Hamilton defeated us 15-25, 21-25, 20-25.”

The Aztecs honored three seniors, Danyal Kadi, Sean Zwenger and Peter Rueckle, at their last home game. Kadi was voted the Most Improved player for his hard work, effort and competitiveness, according to Evans.

“DK, as we called him, played only this season but he never stopped working to learn and improve,” said Evans.

“Sean brought height for our blocking on the right side,” said Evans. “As a left-hand hitter, he was able to use his lefty arm swing to put down a ball that was difficult for the opponents to defend.”

“Peter was one of my most versatile players,” said Evans. “He brought quickness to the game on both defense and offense. Opponents so respected his offensive skills that he always had the attention of a blocker, which allowed our other hitters to be open for kills at the net.”

Next season’s team will be a senior-dominant squad, with six out of seven starters from this season returning. Three of those players received recognition by being selected for awards.

Alex Davis, outside hitter for the Aztecs, was named to Tempe’s All-City team, Central Region first team and 2011 All-Arizona high school boys volleyball team second team.

Setter Jake Nuneviller also was named to Tempe’s All-City team. He was awarded Honorable Mention in both the Central region and the All-Arizona team.

Charlie Haulde, libero, was Honorable Mention on both the Central region and All-Arizona high school boys volleyball team.

Other members of this year’s team included Matt Lim, Kyle Niemtschk, Gabe Encinas, Scott Burdick, Zac von Allworden, Matt Seall and Blake Pendleton.

“Blake ended up playing our second outside hitter position which is not where I originally planned on playing him,” said Evans. “He did a great job in understanding the need for consistency and placement, not always a big kill.”

With 10 seniors predicted to be on next season’s team, Evans will be looking for some young talent moving up from the JV squad to balance out the team and also to prepare for subsequent seasons. The returning players, plus sophomore Nic Plott, junior Mitch Thomas and freshman Matt Lake are playing in a high school summer league organized by Mesa High School.

Corona Girls Tennis 

The record that Corona’s girls tennis team compiled over the regular season may have been considered good by any other standard but it’s the two could-have-been wins that may have made a different between a good and a great season.

The Lady Aztecs 11-5 record could have been 13-3 if they had won the close 4-5 losses at Hamilton and Highland. Regardless, the team had a great season, taking second in the Gene Autry Doubles Championship, repeating as the Tempe Union City Championship and making it all the way to the quarterfinals of the state team tournament before losing to eventual champion Tucson Salpointe 5-0.

Altogether, Corona qualified two doubles teams and two singles players in the Division I state tournament.

Senior Lauren Hacker and sophomore Maia Castiglione entered as the No. 8 doubles seed and made it to the round of 16 before being defeated by the Hamilton team of Rizzi-Wise and Werkhoven.

Hacker, who is a three-time Tempe All-City Award winner, four-time AIA Scholar Athlete, four-time varsity team member, Most Valuable Team Player and 2011 class Valedictorian will be playing tennis at Webster University in St. Louis next year.

Senior Drew Blasco and sophomore Hannah Pfotenhauer, the second CdS doubles team, defeated the Dobson team of  Dinh and Swanson 6-1, 6-4 in the first round before losing to a Pinnacle team in the second.

Blasco had an overall 12-4 record this season, winning a number of key matches, according to coach Carol Sandvig. Blasco is a two-time Scholar Athlete, two-time Tempe All-City, 2011 Joe Selleh and Most Valuable Team Player Award winner who will be attending ASU’s Barrett Honors College next fall.

Sophomore Tien Tran represented Corona in the singles tournament, losing in the second round. Senior Yonit Upart also played singles, advancing to the round of 16.

Upart is a three-time Tempe All-City award winner and three-time Scholar Athlete; she was elected by her team as a Most Valuable Team Player and will be attending ASU’s Barrett Honors College next fall.

Senior Katherine Li was elected by her team as the 2011 Most Improved Team player. She is a National Merit Scholar Finalist who will be attending University of Arizona next fall.

Hacker, Castiglione, Upart, Blasco, Pfotenhauer and Tran were also selected to the All- City 2011 team, and junior Rachel McKay was the Most Improved Varsity player, according to Sandvig.

Coach Sandvig is anticipating at least three spots open on her varsity team next season.

“I’m expecting fierce competition from Rachel McKay, Joyce Wen, Nicole Courtney, Sarah Rutkowski and Shari Oke to fill these three spots,” said Sandvig. “Returning varsity players Castiglione, Pfotenhauer and Tran will have to make a big jump this summer to keep us among the elite teams next season. No spots are guaranteed.”      

Corona Boys Tennis

Corona junior Alex Lawson was recently named 2011 Player of the Year and part of the All-Tribune First Boys Tennis team. Lawson won this season’s Division I singles state championship after already winning consecutive 5A-I state titles in doubles with Kyle Ogren in 2009 and 2010.

Lawson switched to singles this season and never looked back after Ogren graduated. He played the entire 2011 season without losing a set until the championship match, when he lost to his USTA playing partner, Nicolas Montoya from Horizon, in the first set. Lawson then went on to win the next two sets and the singles state championship.

The Aztec boys tennis team compiled an 8-8 regular season record, playing some of the most competitive teams early on and losing the first four matches by five or more points.

“It was a brutally tough dual-match season but I was very proud of the effort put in all season long by the players,” said coach Rick Wanta. “It would have been very easy for the players to get discouraged early in the season, but they realized the level of the competition, kept working hard and never lost focus.”

The Aztecs finished second in the East Valley Invitational Doubles Tournament at Gene Autry Tennis Center earlier in the season and entered the state team tournament as the No. 11 seed.

Corona defeated the No. 6 seed, Mountain Pointe, 5-2 in the first round of the 5A-I state team tournament before losing in the second round to the No. 3 seed Hamilton 5-1.

The team also had three players qualify for the Division I state singles or doubles tournament besides Lawson.

Thaminda Edirisooriya defeated Joseph Kuban of Skyline, 6-1, 6-0, in the first round of the singles tournament before falling to Nathan Keso of Mountain Pointe.

“Thaminda put forth the extra effort for us all season,” said Wanta. “He and Divya Rayudu played some great doubles during the regular season for us this year.”

Rayudu played with Kevin McMahon in the state Division I doubles tournament, where they defeated the Desert Ridge team of Chacko and Sanchez 7-5, 6-4 before losing in the second round to Leclerc and Saleem of Desert Vista.

McMahon was awarded the Varsity MIP award, according to Wanta.

Entering the doubles tournament unseeded, Ryan Wanta and Justin Zeien won the first three rounds before eventually losing to the No. 7 seeded Horizon team of Morris and Rickman.

“I’m very proud of Ryan and Justin, both seniors and two-year lettermen, for making it into the round of 16 at the state doubles tournament,” said coach Wanta. “Justin is tied for 10th place in career wins in Corona history, with 105 wins and was this season’s Joe Sellah Award winner.”

Vamsi Varra, our other senior, performed well in doubles all year long earning him his first varsity letter,” said Wanta. “Vamsi was also Corona’s senior class valedictorian.”

Losing three senior players, Wanta will be looking for some younger players to help out Lawson, who won the Varsity MVP award from his team, and the rest of the returning players next year. Wanta already has his eye on a few players to contribute to the teams success.

Conor Prindiville should play an important role in next season’s success,” said Wanta. “I’m also expecting good things from Connor Harber, Pranav Balaji, Charles Wen, and Chris Lee next year.”

Meanwhile Wanta is expecting his players to spend the summer and potentially next fall taking lessons as well as playing USTA tournaments.

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