The Aztecs’ boys volleyball team, with a new head coach, Geoffrey Horewitch, are in the midst of region play, hoping to keep their state playoff hopes alive among Division I Arizona High School teams with a 9-7 record as of April 13.
Horewitch, a Corona alumnus, has been coaching the girls junior varsity team the last two years but took over the boys varsity team this spring as well.
“It’s been a great learning process for both myself and the team to adjust to my coaching style, but I think we have performed well so far this season,” said Horewitch.
“We used the first tournament of the season, the Chandler Wolf Howl, to try different lineups, get our players tournament experience and evaluate each player at different positions,” said Horewitch. “Midway through the season we are starting to have the ability to hang with the top teams but still have not learned how to capitalize on others’ mistakes to win.”
The 14 players on the roster all bring unique skills that are needed for a volleyball team to be successful including athletes who can serve, pass, hit, block and dig the ball.
Although the ball must go over the net on the serve to start the point, the emphasis over the years has been moved away from starting each point to trying to win as many points as possible on the serve.
“We have been working on our jump serves to start the point on the offensive,” said Horewitch. “Jeff McCain, Ryan Iskandar and Chris Davis are getting better at being aggressively consistent with their jump serve.”
“Antonio Guarino and Dion Deguzman are our float servers,” said Horewitch. “They are becoming more proficient every day in getting their serve to drop into the court.”
Iskandar leads the team in ace serves with 15 aces, while Guarino and Davis both have 13; Ryan Pike has 10; and McCain and Dallin Days have 7 each.
“Ryan Pike and Dallin Days are two of the players who have improved the most since the beginning of practice, especially in their passing, serving and blocking,” said Horewitch.
Although hitters often get the headlines, it’s the passers who are key to winning points.
“We have one of the best passers or libero in the state in Antonio Guarino,” said Horewitch. “He can read the game so well and move into positon prior to contact. He and Dion Deguzman have the ability to defend on the back row and help the team have some great ups. Ryan Iskandar is also a great passer.”
Guarino leads the team with 175 digs or 3.9 digs a set. Iskandar is second with 138 digs or 3.1 digs a game. Davis, McCain and Pike are next with 96, 76 and 66 digs respectively.
The Aztecs have two main hitters who earn points by attacking or killing the ball.
Ryan Iskandar, and Jeff McCain have the ability to maneuver the ball around the court at will,” said Horewitch. “They have the power to hit the ball around the block and defenders.”
Iskandar leads the team in kills with 145 out of 384 attacks averaging 3.3 kills per set. McCain is second with 107 kills on 270 attacks. Pike, only a sophomore, has caught on how to attack the ball, with 61 kills on 194 attacks.
“Our hitters are developing the ability to hit out of multiple positions and setting speeds so we are doing a better job of keeping our opponents guessing.”
The Aztecs have been working all season at blocking the ball.
“We have seven players who have recorded significant blocks so far this season,” said Horewitch. “McCain, Davis, Pike, Iskandar, Connor Niemtschk, Austin Lange and Austin Dixon are putting those blocks up consistently.”
“They are starting to be able to read the opposing team’s setter and hitter, plus their vertical jumping skills have helped them penetrate the net for a great block,” said Horewitch.
McCain leads the team with 20 solo blocks and 26 total blocks followed by Niemtschk with 14 solo and 20 total, Iskandar with 13 solo and 19 total, Lange with 8 solo and 10 total; Pike with 10 solo and 11 total; and Dixon with 6 solo and 8 total blocks.
“Blocks are crucial in setting up our defense around them. In each game so far this season our blocking stats have been improving.”
Other players helping the team win on and off the court include Garrett Percy, Evan Ronda, Niko Zeiner and Andrew Lwowski.
With only eight games left in the regular season, the Aztecs still need to focus on decreasing their own errors in a match.
“If we can force the opposing team into more uncomfortable plays and we decrease our errors, we can have a lot of success the rest of the season,” said Horewitch. “The biggest thing is I want the team to stay aggressive with our play but improve our game intellect to cut down on unforced errors.”
The Aztecs were scheduled to play at Basha, April 14; at home against Mount View, April 18; at home against Hamilton, April 19; and at home against Chandler, April 21 before playing in the Dobson Invitational, April 22.
The last three matches of the season will be April 26 at Mountain Pointe; at home against Desert Vista, April 28; and at Campo Verde, May 3.
Tempe Girls Softball
Playing Division III softball, the Tempe girls softball team is 9-8 overall and 4-1 in Section III as of April 11 with seven games left in the season.
Leading the team in hitting percentage and RBIs is junior Desiree Muniz, hitting .635 with 28 runs on 40 hits and 24 RBIs so far this season.
Sophomore Mariah Jaquez is close behind Muniz, hitting .597 with 37 runs on 37 hits with 15 RBIs.
Dienna White had 23 RBI’s, hitting .524 with 13 runs on 22 hits, while junior Arsovena White was close behind batting .440 with 25 run on 22 hits and 18 RBIs
Marisa Fuse, one of the team’s pitchers with two wins after eight appearances, is batting .333 with 11 runs on 19 hits. Valeria Ramirez has 13 runs on 16 hits with 14 RBI’s.
Muniz leads all pitchers including Dienna White and Shylean Lanza with six wins and three losses or a 67% winning percentage after 13 appearances on the mound.
Other members of the team include Petra Collins, who has been at bat 37 times in 15 games, scoring 10 runs on 10 hits; Celicity Rivas, who started 16 of the 17 games recording 10 runs on 14 hits; Brenda Sanchez who has played in eight games; Shemaiya Pasha hitting .500 with seven runs on seven hits; and Brittani Solarez who has been at bat 14 times in seven games.
Sophina De Brum has played in 14 games and leads the team in stolen bases along with Jaquez, who also is the only player to hit a home run.
The Buffaloes were scheduled to play at Saguaro April 14, at home against Fountain Hills April 15, against Veritas Prep at Papago Softball Complex April 20.
The last home game of the season is scheduled April 22 against Maricopa. Nine seniors will be honored at this last game, including GG Seda, Alma Garcia, Jazmine White, Dienna White, Ramirez, De Brum, Lanza, Sanchez and Fuse.
The last two games of the season are April 25 at Washington and April 27 at Apache Junction.