By Alex Zener
The Aztecs ended the season ranked No. 10 in the state after making it into the DI state volleyball championship tournament as the No. 6 seed on May 7. Corona eventually lost to the Mesa Jackrabbits in the first round 3-1 but finished the season 22-11-1 and 6-1.
The seniors were honored at the Aztecs last home match, against then- No. 1 ranked Desert Vista. It turned out to be one of Corona’s most tightly contested matches.
The Thunder won the first set 25-21 but the Aztecs pulled out the second set 25-23 before Desert Vista took control in the third set with another 25-21 win.
Corona fought back to win the fourth set 25-22 before losing the final heartbreaking set 15-12 and thus the match, 2-3.
As a team, the Aztecs led in kills, 57 to the Thunder’s 50, assists 54 to 51, and digs, 90-81 but the telling stat was the blocking.
Desert Vista had 20 block assists and a total of 14 blocks while Corona was able to block the Thunder hitters only five time.
Senior Jeff McCain had his best outing, with a whopping 19 kills on 37 attacks, 19 digs, three solo blocks and one service act. His hitting percentage that night was .324, which is outstanding for a middle blocker.
During the season, McCain, a 6-foot-4 middle blocker, tallied a total of 265 kills or three kills a set, hitting .145. He was also third on the team in service aces with 31.
“Jeff McCain, with his tremendous athletic ability, developed a strong jump serve and was able to use it to get the opposing team out of system the majority of the time,” said head coach Geoff Horewitch. “When the game was close or we were down in the fifth set, it seemed Jeff would always go back to serve and keep us in contention to win.”
McCain was named honorable mention all section according to Horewitch.
Senior opposite hitter Ryan Iskandar also had a good game against Desert Vista, with 10 kills, three blocks, three aces and 15 digs plus 23 assists.
Over the season, he led the team in kills with 312 or 3.3 kills a set hitting .216, aces with 42, and was second on the team in assists with 106.
“Ryan and Jeff McCain were the best hitters on this team this season,” said Horewitch.
“They were given the ball to hit in the most crucial situations because the team believed in them to get the job done and they delivered.”
Iskandar was named to the All-Tribune Boys Volleyball Second team, All State honorable mention, Tempe All-City as well as to the AVCA watch list.
“Ryan was our Mr. Everything,” said Horewitch. “He had the ability to play any position and be successful at it. He led our team in almost every statistical category.”
Iskandar will be attending Loyola Marymount on a volleyball scholarship this fall, according to Horewitch.
Corona’s starting libero all season, senior Antonio Guarino, had 22 digs senior night against Desert Vista. His 355 digs over the season put him at the top of the leader board in digs for Corona’s 2016 team.
“Antonio Guarino not only led the team in digs this year,” said Horewitch. “He had a tremendous passing average on serve-receive at 2.41.”
“Antonio is an incredible defender with the ability to read difficult balls and play at a high level,” said Horewitch. “His special plays on the ball kept us in the rally and helped us succeed.”
The two other seniors honored senior night were 6-foot-4 middle blocker Austin Lange and 6-foot-6 opposite Austin Dixon.
“Austin Lange, after battling injuries his previous seasons, blossomed his senior year,” said Horewitch.
“He has the ability to stay positive through everything making great strides and contributing at a high level this season as a middle blocker.”
“Austin Dixon, one of the most competitive individuals on the team, is not only an amazing football player but was a constantly improving volleyball player,” said Horewitch.
“Austin has the ability to raise the play of people around him and make everyone more competitive not matter the situation.”
This was Coach Horewitch’s first season coaching boys volleyball, after playing on the team when a student at Corona, and he said he was pleased with the results.
“This season has been everything I could hope for,” said Horewitch. “We won the Dobson Tournament, entered the state tournament at No. 6 and improved on all stats from previous years.”
“It took a little bit to build trust among the team but everyone believed in the system and each other to make it a great competitive season. It was a remarkable process I look forward to next spring.”
Corona should return 10 players next spring including several standout players from this season including sophomore Chris Davis and juniors Connor Niemstck and Ryan Pike.
Sophomore setter Chris Davis had 27 assists again Desert Vista and a total of 713 or 7.2 assists a set over the season. Davis didn’t just set the ball, though, he is second on the team in aces with 36 and tallied 26 solo and 17 block assists over the season.
“Chris Davis, with tremendous growth this season, was our best setter who was able to run our full offense and get everyone involved,” said Horewitch.
“He can make every set and uses his athletic ability and volleyball knowledge to increase the level of play around him.”
Added the coach:
“Connor Niemstck is a great player and a tremendous blocker who not only has the ability to close the block but to also put his block up in certain situations to force the hitter to hit towards our strongest defender,” said Horewitch.
“On the other hand, Ryan Pike showed the greatest improvement throughout the season,” said Horewitch.
“He has always played on high level club team and made varsity as a freshman but this season he took on a lot more responsibility as a hitter.”
“Ryan became our second outside hitter and provided a ton of support not only as a player but in keeping everyone’s head above water when we needed him.”
Marcos de Niza Volleyball — The Padres, with new head coach Melissa Yee, played in Division II with 10 players on the roster this past spring.
Matthew Zazueta led the team in kills averaging 1.8 kills a set and service aces with 11 over the season.
Spencer Nelson was the top blocker on the team followed by Mateo Reyes and Zazueta.
Tyler Yu and Zazueta were had the most digs on the team while Yu was the setter with over 2.3 assists per game.
Zazueta was also the most successful at serve receiving with 25 while Brandon Jones was next with 17.
Other members of the team included Fernando Guardado, Kolby Lund, Abdellatif Manassa, Joseph Hernandez and Justin Janda.
Corona Girls Tennis — Elisa Magtoto was named to the All-Tribune Singles Tennis Team.