All-city Sports Notebook: Coach discounts team’s youth, says last season’s returnees can help offset weaknesses

Corona del Sol’s baseball team is young this season but strong on speed, hitting, defense and baseball knowledge, according to head coach Dave Webb.

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“Our weakness is probably youth,” said Webb, “but they can still play the game.”

Webb will also be relying on the experience of seven players from last season who played significant varsity games to have an impact this season and help lead the Aztecs’ young team: Kyle Jorgensen, Josh Ethier, Jeff Carter, Shawn Maloney, Michael Gammon, Rick Riley and Chris Tate.

“Starters from last season include senior Jorgensen, a utility player who can flat out hit, with a .454 batting average and seven home runs last season,” said Webb.

“Kyle has great potential to compete at the next level.”

“Returning juniors include Ethier, a slick fielding shortstop who started and hit .350 as a sophomore,” said Webb, “and Carter, a switch hitting second baseman and stud leadoff hitter, who hit .330 last season and is a terror on the bases.”

“Another returning starter is junior Rick Riley, a catcher who can throw and hit with anyone,” said Webb. “Rick hit .442 as a sophomore. He has a twin brother, Ryan, playing outfielder on varsity this season who is every bit the player as Rick.”

New to the team but expected to make a big contribution to the team’s overall success are sophomores Nathan Chokey, Trevor Wood and Nathan Birecki, according to Webb.

Unfortunately, the Aztecs are going to need their pitchers to step up big for the team this season because they already have lost two pitchers to injury.

“We lost our No. 1 and No. 2 arms already,” said Webb. “Garret Poole, who pitched on varsity last year as a freshman, tore his ACL and is out for the year, and then senior Michael Gammon, who saw action in 18 games as catcher, with 59 put-outs, and seven as pitcher, is out for the first couple of months with elbow issues.”

Other players who hope to help the Aztecs improve on their 14-15 overall record from last season and return to the state tournament include Colby Hamilton, Tyler Peterson Jake Martin, Thomas Gordon, Justin Zimmer, Vince Quintanna, Nick Radford, Charlie Markman, Billy Clemens and Nick Marciano.

The Aztecs started the season playing in Brophy’s annual Adam Donnenfield Memorial Tournament Feb. 22-25, winning three (NorthCanyon, 16-6; Seton, 14-6; and Gila Ridge, 6-2) with one loss (Sandra Day O’Conner, 10-3) before their final game against Brophy was postponed.

The Aztecs had an 8-3 record, as of March 18, and were on a four-game winning streak after defeating Desert Vista in a close 4-3 game at the Thunder’s home field.

Aztec pitchers Nathan Birecki and Chris Tate faced 32 Thunder batters altogether, struck out 5 and only allowed 3 runs while the Aztecs had a big fourth inning to hold on for the win. Kyle Jorgensen, Josh Ethier, Ryan Riley and Rick Riley all scored in the fourth on RBI’s by Colby Hamilton (2), Shawn Maloney (1) and Rick Riley (1).

The Aztecs then went on to defeat Brophy 17-9 in a game where Ethier scored a team-high 4 runs with 3 stolen bases while at bat 4 times with 4 hits earning a 1.000 batting average.

Three Corona pitchers saw action and gained valuable experience against Brophy, Trevor Wood, Billy Clemens and Jacob Martin, allowing only 13 hits on 146 total pitches.

Corona then went on to beat Chandler 7-3 on March 9 and Hamilton 12-5 on March 15.

Up next Corona was expected to play in the spring break Husky Baseball Tournament March 19-22 against teams from all over the country during.

Marcos Pink Softball Fundraiser for Cancer Research

Marcos de Niza’s softball team started the first annual Pink Softball fundraising event for breast cancer and received sponsorship and Padre pink uniforms from Chapman Auto Body. Team includes, from left, bottom row: Head Coach Korine Gomez, Assistant Coach Raina Gomez, Captain Stephanie Montanez, Sabrina Hernandez, Eryca Garcia, Assistant Coach Jackie Acedo, Assistant Coach Loren Anguiano. ow: (L to R) Debbie Arnet From Chapman Body Shop, Izzy Matus, Ciera Caldwell, Niza Bilducia, Caitlin Watson, Captain Mallory Schneid, Bena Ormsby, Elena Quihuis, Deanna Rodriguez, Captain Lili Flores, Sara Sotelo, Kyla Jacobs-Cornish. — Photo contributed by John Claus

Last year’s efforts by the Marcos de Niza softball team to raise money to help prevent breast cancer was just the beginning. At 9 a.m. March 31, the team will host its second annual Pink Game with the goal of doubling the group’s efforts to increase attendance and raise awareness for the Susan G. Komen Foundation for Breast Cancer Research.

“Statistics show that one in eight women will eventually get breast cancer,” said Marcos softball team captain Stephanie Montanez. “So someday someone I play ball with right now might end up with breast cancer. If there is anything we can do now to raise awareness for the need for breast cancer research, then we are all out for doing what we can to help prevent it.”

With the help of head coach Corine Gomez, the team found a sponsor, Chapman Auto Body Shop, to supply the pink jerseys, and are now in the process getting everything organized for the Saturday game against Seton.

“Stephanie got the idea from the football team’s pink game,” said senior outfielder Sabrina Hernandez. “But we didn’t raise as much money as we hoped last year, so this year we are starting early to get the word out in the hopes of getting more community involvement and support.”

Both Seton and Marcos players will be sporting their pink jerseys and representative from the Komen Foundation will attend to not only raise money and increase awareness for breast cancer research but for girls athletics.

“We work hard, we train hard, and we take our commitment to our team and the softball program very seriously,” said Montanez. “Last year, the total monetary value of what we collected didn’t compare to the awareness we created for cancer research and our softball program.”

The game, held on the MdN softball field, should be a fine showcase of student athletes organizing an event for a charitable cause.

Marcos de Niza Track and Field Team

After incredibly good results during the 2010-11 season, the Padres will probably be in rebuilding mode this season.

“We felt that we had our most successful year overall in regards to the end results for the boys and girls team in 2011,” said head coach Samuel Johns. “We had more kids qualify for state than we have had in the past, plus we finished well in several events.”

“Our girls team finished sixth at the DII state meet,” said Johns. “Our 4×800 meter relay team was state champion, as was Kylee Kieser in the 1600 meter run. Kieser, who graduated last May, was also runner-up in the 3200 meter run, while then sophomore Savannah Whitehead took second in the pole vault.

The boys team had champions at the state meet last season in the 100 meter dash and the 4×100 meter relay. The good news this season is that the Padres return 16 key members from last year’s boys team, and Johns is predicting them to be strong in the sprints and jumps.

“We return three runners from that champion 4×100 relay team: Brian Drew, Priest Willis and Josh Eckley. In addition Drew will run the 400; Willis the 100 meter, long jump, triple jump and high jump; and Eckley the 100 meter, long jump and high jump,” said Johns. I also expect Royal Bailey to have an impact in the 110 and 300 meter hurdles.”

“We also have three solid distance runners, Julio Felix, Victor Lopez and Robert Cubedo.”

Jacob Lagunas and Logan Palmer are our best jumpers, and then our senior pole vaulter, Chris Wong, who should have a great year,” said Johns.

“In the field events, I expect Tylor Henson and Marco Barros to be competitive in the shot and discus events.”

The Padres’ focus this season will be not only in rebuilding but in defeating Ironwood Ridge, who Johns expects to be their main competition at the DII state meet.

The Padres won their match up against Desert Ridge at home on Feb. 29 in their first meet of the season. They also competed in the Aztec Invitational against several DI-A schools where the girls team finished seventh and the boys team ninth.

Notable girls team results included a first place for Michelle Colbert, Jessey Tenorio, Kelly Wolf and Kaitlyn Law in the 4×800 meter relay race. The Marcos 4×100 meter relay of Antionette Ware, Teleya Bailey, Daria Clinton and DiOndre Mosley came in fourth.

Tenario was also eighth in the 800 meter run as was Jamie Chan in the 1600 meter run and Wolf in the 3200 meter run.

In the field events, Whitehead finished fourth clearing nine feet in the pole vault while Iris Fanene was fourth and Curaun Thompson sixth in the shot put.

On the boys team, top finishers included Josh Kirkwood’s third in the 40 yard dash and a third for Felix in the 800 meter run. Dominique Brown was sixth in the 100 and 200 meter dashes.

Wong took seventh in the pole vault while Taylor Henson was ninth in the discus throw.

Corona Softball

The Lady Aztec softball team, with 10 returning players, nine of them seniors, should be more experienced, stronger and better than last season, according to head coach Jeep Ray.

Sometimes having so many seniors can be a challenge, said Ray, but she is counting on all nine of them to provide leadership, especially ASU-bound Abby Spiel, Nicole Giannonatti, Nicole Schwalbe, Lani Redmond, Paige Vallejos and junior BriAnna Schrimpf.

Other players expected to contribute to the team’s overall performance include seniors Katie Koponen, Abby Johnson, Maddie Mayol; juniors Leah Kroeger, Christy Farrell, McKenna Isenberg, Bria Schmitt, Andrea Urias; sophomores Cassie Navarro and Mackenzie Bates; and the lone freshman, Sarah McCabe.

Coach Ray is expecting Basha, Desert Ridge, Gilbert,Red Mountain, Perry and Mountain View to be the Aztecs’ main competition in Section II and the DI state, in addition to Deer Valley and Pinnacle.

The Lady Aztecs started off their season playing in the Lion Country Tournament at Skyline High School Feb. 22-25, defeating Skyline 21, Perry 18-4 and Saguaro 12-2 while losing to Queen Creek, Basha, Skyline and Red Mountain.

Corona then went on a five-game winning streak before losing an away game to Chandler 3-2 March 9.

The Lady Aztecs, currently 8-4, were scheduled to play at Dobson March 20 before playing in the Desert Mountain Tournament March 21-23.

Games scheduled after spring break included an away game March 27 at Desert Vista and then two home games: March 28 at Chandler and March 30 at Mesa.

Corona Track and Field 

Nate Rodriguez set a new meet record in the 1600-meter run at the Aztec Invitational March 3. — Photo courtesy Chris Huch

Corona’s track and field team returned a solid core of over 50 varsity members who worked hard in the preseason to come out strong with both the girls and boys teams defeating Basha in their first meet and taking second to Desert Vista in their own Aztec Invitational,  March 3. The boys team only lost to the Thunder by 10 points, 152-142.

“We have a solid core group on the boys team which should be able to make a run at the City Championship and place in the top five at state,” said head coach Tim Kelly.

The track events (relays, sprints, hurdles, mid-distance and distance running) are currently the strength of the boys team according to Kelly.

The Aztecs showed this strength at the Aztec Invitational when Nate Rodriguez set a new meet record with his 4:23.58 time in the 1600 meter run and Cody Jackson took first and Rodriguez second in the 800 meter run. Tevin Mayfield also came in first in the 110 meter hurdles and second in the 300 meter hurdles while Quinn Robertson came in a strong third in the same event. Brian Skinner was second in the 40 yard dash as was Nicholas Woods in the 200 meter dash.

The boys relay teams all came in second at the Aztec Invitational: James Contes, Mayfield, Stephen Hill and Dylan Huch in the 4×100; Hill, Huch, Woods and George Wright in the 4×200; Woods, Cody Jackson, Mayfield and Rodriguez in the 4×400; and Patrick Buck, Nick Creasman, Blake Fischer and Nick Martinez in the 4×800.

The boys team continued to do well in the track events at the Brophy AMDG Invitational, March 8, where the Aztecs took third place overall.

Several previously mentioned Aztec runners placed in the top 10 in addition to other top finishers including Drake Ridge and Grant Fishburn in the 400 meter, Jacob Whitney and Fischer in the 1600 meter and John Osgood in the 110 meter hurdles.

The boys field event team, although not as strong as the running events, sshowed improvement over last season.

“Our best boys team field event athletes were sophomores last year and are now juniors who are making huge strides after last year’s experience and the off-season workouts,” said Kelly.

This improvement was evident at the Aztec Invitational when Wright took second and James Contes fifth in the long jump, Aaron Simons second in the discus and sixth in the shot put and Wyatt Larson fifth in the triple jump.

These same athletes finished in the top 10 at the Brophy AMDG Invitational in addition to Blake Jones in the high jump, Connor Littleton, Colen Ruan and Matt Eckles in the pole vault, Drake Ridge and Dakota Summers in the triple jump, Sam Radford and Jordan Summerville in the discus and Pat Carlson in the shot put.

The girls team is young and had a few setbacks, such as injuries, early in the preseason according to Kelly but appears to be improving as the season progresses.

In addition to taking second at the Aztec Invitational, the girls team finished fourth at the Brophy AMDG Invitational with strong finishes both the track and field events.

Notable track results at the Aztec Invitational included: Second place finishes for Hallie Swenson in the 800 meter run, Jackie Vogt, 100 meter hurdles, Grace Ashu, 300 meter hurdles, Ashu, Justice Onwordi, Vogt and Gabrielle Dotson in the 4×100 relay and Dani Lemieux, Victoria Haun, Kelly Nauman and Amberly Ricks in the 4×800 relay.

Lemieux was third in the 3200 meter run, Ashu fourth in the 100 meter dash as was Haun in the 1600 meter run. Stephanie Allen came in third and Dana McKenzie fourth in the 100 meter hurdles while Vogt was fourth in the 300 meter hurdles.

The Lady Aztecs also received points from two third place relay teams. Onwordi, Maggie Reid, Aery Ware and Mykiel Johnson were third in the 4×200 meter relay as were Ashu, Amina Swenson, Dotson and Vogt in the 4×400.

Although McKenzie runs the hurdles events, she is strongest in the field events where she was first in the high jump, fourth in the triple jump and seventh in the long jump. Dotson was third in the long jump.

Lauren Lucky isCorona’s main competitor in the shot put and the discus throw where she took first and sixth respectively at the Aztec Invitational.

Most of Corona’s girls team also competed in the Brophy AMDG Invitational track events with the addition of Megan Benson who placed in the top 10 in the 100 meter and 300 meter hurdles, Adrianna Fill and Ifeatu Mmegwa in the 400 meter dash, Jordan Chapman and Kelly Nauman in the 800 meter run, Caitlin Slater in the 100 meter dash and Sidney Bussler, added as part of a 4×800 relay team.

The same was true for the field event at Brophy with the addition of Liann Kline who competed in the triple jump, high jump and long jump, Carli Giese, Staphanie Galsim and Sarah Wheeler in the pole vault, Michaela Yelland and Zoya Oyzerovich, discus and Kayleigh Simons, shot put.

Coach Kelly expected the Aztecs main competition to come once again from Desert Vista, Mountain View, Chandler and Mountain Pointe but it appears that Brophy/Xavier and Basha are also doing well early in the season. Regardless, several aspects including off-season workouts and preseason training have had an affect on the competitiveness of Corona’s track and field teams.

“We are proud of the way the track teams have attacked the pre-season, the weight room, the camp, the Susan Mortenson Turley Cancer Run Community Service Project, the Car Wash Fundraiser and the setting up our Aztec Invitational,” said coach Kelly. “They have been positive, diligent and hard-working; no matter what we have done, our kids have been first class and committed the entire way.”

The team raised $1,400 to support the Susan Mortensen Turley Foundation in its third annual community run, held Feb. 20, to kick off the 2012 track season. Altogether 127 kids participated in this event, which raised money to help support vacations for families whose children suffer from cancer.

Corona will compete in the Chandler Rotary Mar. 23-24 before hosting Saguaro on Mar. 28, attending the Basha Relays Mar. 30, competing at Marcos de Niza April 4 and then attending the ASU Classic April 5.

Corona Boys Volleyball

No one, except maybe Corona’s coach and her team, gave much thought or ink to the Aztecs chances of being among the elite teams comprising the state’s 60 boys volleyball teams this season. That is until the Aztecs defeated everyone, except eventual tournament champion, Gilbert, at the prestigious Wolf Howl Invitational earlier this month.

Corona’s boys volleyball team not only took home the runner-up trophy from the Wolf Howl Invitational but moved into the No. 2 spot in the Arizona Republic’s rankings as of March 15.

After losing only two players to graduation last year, coach Brynne Evans has a team this season with strong senior leadership and tournament experience that could potentially propel it into the state finals in early May.

“One of our strengths this season will be our leadership,” said Evans. “We have 10 seniors and a group of starters who are very familiar with and used to playing with each other.”

The Aztecs have three senior co-captains with a combined 10 years of experience as starters as part of the 10 returning players from last season’s team.

“Our three captains, Alex Davis, Jake Nuneviller and Charlie Hualde, have experience and attitude,” said Evans.” They want to win state and are prepared to do whatever is necessary lead this team into the victories we need in order to give us that chance.”

Davis, the team’s go-to outside hitter and a starter all four years, along with three-year starters Nuneviller, the setter and Hualde, the team’s libero, all bring something unique to the team besides leadership.

“Alex is good at demanding the ball when we need a side-out or point,” said Evans. “Jake runs the court with his confidence and experience while Charlie steps in to take balls when needed and consistently digs up and places balls in order for Jake to effectively run our offense.”

The three other starters, seniors Sean Hughes and Matthew Seall, and junior Blake Pendleton bring additional individual skills that are needed by any successful volleyball team: blocking and hitting.

“Sean, our opposite hitter, sets a solid block over and over again,” said Evans. “Blake, our other outside hitter, often makes smart choices as a hitter and continues to read very well on defense while Matt, as our 6-foot-8 middle blocker, moves quickly to block and put powerful balls down on the other side.”

Other returning players expected to contribute the overall team success include seniors Gabe Encinas, Matt Lim, Kyle Niemtschk and Zac von Allworden.

New to the team are powerful middle blocker, junior Nicholas Plot, scrappy and quick defensive specialist senior Mitch Thomas and sophomore opposite hitter and setter Matthew Lake, a motivated and quick learner, according to Evans.

“Each and every one of the players on this team is capable of contributing to our overall success,” said Evans. “It is going to be a matter of whether we can do it consistently and relentlessly if we have a chance of winning a state championship.”

Evans is predicting four teams to offer the most competition to the Aztecs heading into the state tournament. Three teams, Gilbert, Highland and Hamilton, are not only among the 21 teams inCorona’s Section III, but are also currently ranked in the top 10. The fourth team,Deer Valley, is ranked No. 4.

The Aztecs, at 12-1, were on a three-game winning streak as of March 19. They were scheduled to play Mountain View at home, March 20, at Mountain Pointe, March 22, and then two home games, Seton, March 27, and Mountain Pointe, again March 28, to finish the month. Up next they were to play at Combs Apr. 3 and against Desert Vista at home Apr. 10.



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