Cory Nenaber will most likely be Corona’s new athletic director, awaiting approval by the Tempe Union High School District governing board, after long-time athletic director Dan Nero announced his retirement to be effective at the end of the school year.
Nenaber had just started coaching spring football practice when he accepted the offer to take over and succeed Nero, who has been at the school for 31 years, 20 of which were spent in the front office as assistant principal of athletics.
“I spent my first 11 years as a math teacher and football, track and basketball coach,” said Nero.
When asked why he decided to retire, Nero cited personal reasons, especially family.
“Our youngest son, Luke, is graduating and the time just seemed right,” said Nero. “I plan on spending time with my wife Meg and our family, including our grandkids Max and Lily.”
Nero believes Nenaber is a great choice to replace him as athletic director.
“Coach Nenaber is an Aztec grad who ‘bleeds orange,’ and really cares about kids,” said Nero. “He knows what it takes to make Corona among the best in the state.”
Needless to say, Nenaber is thrilled to get the chance.
“I am very excited to become the new Athletic Director at Corona,” said Nenaber.
“I always thought about moving into this position someday, I just didn’t realize it would happen so quickly.”
“I think this is a great opportunity for me to be able to impact all student athletes in a positive way and provide direction for the Athletic Department in the future.”
Nenaber, who returned to his alma mater two years ago to revitalize Corona’s football program, was starting to make headway as evidenced by the Aztecs making it into the DII state football playoffs last fall.
Nenaber’s first undertaking as athletic director, with Nero’s help, was going to be helping to find his own replacement on the football field. (For how that process unfolded, see related story on Page 13).
Corona Girls Sand Volleyball — Corona was one of the 18 schools to participate in DI girls sand volleyball in its inaugural season as an Arizona high school sport this spring. Seven schools participated in DII.
Corona was also the only school from the Tempe Union High School district to field a team.
Sand volleyball at the high school level its quite different from the indoor game.
In sand volleyball, it’s two players versus two opposing players on the other side of the net for each of five matches.
It’s similar to high school badminton or tennis in that when competing against another school, the team that wins three or more of the five matches wins the overall match.
“For instance, at Corona, we had 18 girls on the roster but only five pairs and one alternative pair suited up for a match,” said Coach Ben Maxfield. “The girls played challenge matches to earn their way onto the team for the upcoming match.”
Corona had a rough start to the season, losing three out of their first four matches, with players new to the sport playing against some more experienced teams, but started to catch on midway through the season, according to Maxfield.
Part of the problem is that most of the girls only had experience playing indoors.
“In sand volleyball you have to develop all your skills—you need to be able to pass, set, hit, play defense, serve, etc.,” said Maxfield. “In indoor volleyball, it is way more position- specific, thus you might find some players who can’t pass very well but they don’t have to do it indoors.”
The Aztecs improved and finished the season strong.
“The girls worked hard to learn this new sport and we ended up winning five of our last six matches,” said Maxfield. “This experience will make them even better indoor players this fall.”
Some of the best players initially were outside hitters who usually have to play all the way around indoors and have to be able to pass, block, hit and serve.
“Our best blockers and attackers were our outside hitters from indoor,” said Maxfield. “Erica Ronda, Brooke Nuneviller, Desi Rodriguez, Brooke O’Meara, Allie Wade, Emily Stellburg and Kelly Warren were all quite good offensively and at blocking.”
“Our best defensive digging players on the team were Lexi Vlcek, Brooke Nuneviller, Erica Ronda and Brooke O’Meara,” said Maxfield. “As far as serving, Jill Cota had a wicked, awesome serve and Erica had a tough jump serve.”
All in all, Coach Maxfield feels pretty good about how the Aztecs first season turned out.
“We improved tremendously from the beginning to the end of the season, finishing fifth at the state tournament,” said Maxfield. “We look forward to continuing to build a strong sand program that consistently competes for state championships.”
Corona Baseball — The last thing the Aztecs expected, after being ranked No. 4 both in the state and in Division I with a 21-6 record and a bye in the first round of the 2016 AIA State Baseball Championships, was to be ousted in their first game of the post season at home against No. 14 ranked Chaparral on May 3.
Chaparral survived the first round, defeating No. 19 Sunnyslope by one point, 6-5, on April 30.
In the second and last round before the tournament became double elimination, Chaparral hung on to pull out a win by one point, 12-11, against Corona but in a much higher scoring game than the Firebird first round win.
The Aztecs went up 4-2 in the first inning, but the Firebirds stormed back to tie the game 4-4 in the second inning.
The Aztecs went up again by 2 at 6-4 in the third inning but could not hold on to the lead when the Firebirds scored eight runs to Corona’s two in the fifth inning.
The Aztecs fought back, scoring two runs in the sixth and one in the seventh inning but ran out of innings before they could get enough runs to catch the Firebirds.
It was an exciting game that was the end to a great season for the Aztecs and an especially poignant one for the seven seniors on the team who were honored at the team’s last home game April 25.
“Overall, this is one of the greatest collection of seniors I have ever coached,” said head coach Dave Webb. “These seven seniors are not just great baseball players; they are truly phenomenal human beings. I could not be more proud of them.”
Three of these seniors, Ryan Novis, Connor McCord and Price Barrett, were the leading batters on the team, hitting .468, .400 and .357 respectively over the season.
Ryan Novis scored 44 runs and 33 RBI’s and hit three homeruns his senior season. He was second to junior Chase Hamilton in stolen bases with 13 while Hamilton had 16.
“Ryan, pound for pound, is the best hitter in the state,” said Webb. “He’s a kid that plays unbelievably hard. He has a really bright future.”
Connor McCord was not only a leading batter for the Aztecs scoring 19 runs on 32 hits with 28 RBI’s and five homeruns, he led the team in putouts with 134 putouts on 151 chances.
To top that off, McCord started as pitcher seven times pitching over 40 innings and was credited with 35 strikeouts and five wins.
“Connor, a varsity player for three years, is a great team leader on the field and in the dugout,” said Webb. “We will miss his outstanding hitting and pitching, especially during clutch situations.”
Price Barrett was third on the team in hitting percentage where he earned 15 runs on 16 hits playing in 21 games.
“Price made some mid-season adjustments at the plate and his hitting really took off,” said Webb. “We will miss his hustle and big heart.”
Austin Treese, one of Corona’s 10 pitchers, made six appearances with two starts and a 4.58 ERA for the season.
“Austin is one of the greatest team players I have ever been around,” said Webb. “He is one of the most selfless human beings that you could find.”
Liam Stills played in all 27 games hitting .351 scoring 27 runs.
“Liam will be heading off to West Point after graduating this month and rightfully so,” said Webb. “I feel safer as an American citizen know that soldiers like Liam are serving us.”
Cuellar played in 18 games hitting .300 while scoring 13 runs while Minder played in 25 games scoring 11 runs.
“Josh Cuellar is a scrappy little player who really came into his own to help us his senior season,” said Webb. “He’s a great kid to be around and his attitude is infectious.”
“David Minder battled through adversity this season but came up big for our team many times,” said Webb.
Corona should return 15 players next season from this year’s very successful team including junior catcher Gehrig Sanchez who was credited with 122 putouts on 125 chances and junior pitcher Gordon Bracy and freshman pitcher Daniel Sotelo.
Bracy started as pitcher eight times pitching in 38 innings where he was credited with six wins and only two loses and an ERA of 4.24. Sotelo also started eight times and is credited with seven wins.
Several juniors, including Jacob Goodwin, Hamilton, Sanchez, Jacob Clemens and sophomore Matt Novis, gained valuable playing experience by each playing in over 20 of the 28 games this season which should bode well experience wise for next season.
Tempe Baseball — The Buffaloes finished the season 18-16-1 after honoring their nine seniors at the last home game. These nine seniors made up almost two-thirds of the team this season and will be sorely missed.
Ezra Johnson, Joey Matus, Rui Fusato, Silas Sprout, Zach Mitchell, Brock Williams, Phillip Valencia, Joeseph Dixon and Charlie Cano are the nine seniors who participated on and off the field for Tempe.
Fusato led the seniors in batting percentage at .338 followed by Johnson at .327, Mitchell at .296, Cano at .281 and Valencia at .245.
Mitchell, Cano and Matus, three of the eight pitchers on the roster played significant roles on the team with Mitchell pitching over 50 innings followed by Cano at over 33 innings and Matus over 14.
Williams, who played catcher all 25 games, caught and put our over 20 opposing players trying to steal base.
Marcos de Niza Girls Basketball Coach Larry Holmes, Jr., was recommended to the Tempe Union High School District Governing Board as the new head girls basketball coach at Marcos de Niza, succeeding Jermaine Whitaker, the previous head coach, who became recently was named assistant principal for athletics at McClintock High School.Holmes, who was expected to be approved at the Governing Board meeting May 18, has worked in Tempe Union high schools since 2010, during which time he has been not only a substitute teacher but also coaches several sports at two schools.
Holmes, with a bachelor’s degree in Physical Education and Sports Management from Johnson C. Smith University in North Carolina, was hired in 2010 as the Marcos freshman/JV girls basketball coach and the JV/varsity boys tennis coach at Mountain Pointe High School where he is the current badminton coach.
Holmes plans to continue coaching at Mountain Pointe in the fall and spring and coach girls basketball during the winter at Marcos
Mettlach to get nod as Aztecs’ interim head varsity football coach
Richard Mettlach has been chosen to take the helm for one year due to the promotion of Cory Nenaber to assistant principal of athletics.
Coach Mettlach has served as the defensive coordinator at Corona under Coach Nenaber for the last two years; he also coached with Coach Nenaber in Maricopa for three years.
Mettlach has coached football for 36 years in multiple states including Texas, Wisconsin, Arizona, and Michigan, where he was a head coach for 23 years.
In a statement from Corona’s administration, Coach Mettlach’s selection generated high praise.
“We believe Coach Mettlach is a great fit for our program during this time of transition.
“The position will be reopened at the conclusion of the 2016 football season.”’