Sports: Blend of experience a plus for end of volleyball, track season

Corona’s boys volleyball team has high hopes for a remarkable season with five returning starters from last season and quality leadership from the 10 seniors on the team. Team includes, from left, Finn Boyle, Ahmed Wali, Niko Zeiner, Zach Lobeck, Tyler Lai, Santiago Connolly, Micah Lloyd, Connor O’Brien, Owen Vullo, Yuki Yamada, Uday Mohanty, Sebastian Burgos, Carson Bryan, James Watson and Goran Swansiger. – Photo courtesy Dion Deguzeman

The Aztecs have all the makings of a good team, with 10 seniors, five returning players from last season and six younger players who should soon be able to mesh to finish the season strong.

“I am very excited about this season,” says coach Geoffrey Horewitch. “We had a great group of kids come out for volleyball this year.”

“We have the potential for strong leadership among our group with 10 seniors and five returning players,” said Horewitch. “They all have the same drive and goals for the season.”

The returning players are Niko Zeiner, James Watson, Sebastian Burgos, Zack Lobeck and Tyler Lai.

This season is Zeiner’s fourth year on the varsity team and third year as the starting setter.

“Niko has continued to grow as a setter and become a dominant player on the court with
his ability to change the flow of the game” said Horewitch. “He was top three in the state last year in assists and should be able to repeat that performance this year.”

Zeiner currently has 231 assists over 32 sets or an average of 7.2 assists a set. Watson, who has 72 kills and 18 blocks in 32 sets is one of the three players Horewitch is expecting to be the better hitters on the team. Swansiger and Lai are the other two.

“James returns as one of our top players with the ability to play on the pin and in the middle,” said Horewitch. “He was very dominant last year in the middle for us but has increased his volleyball IQ a lot over the off season so he may be even be able to help us in another position.”

Burgos, who could play both middle blocker and outside hitter, is credited with 26 kills and 11 blocks so far this season.

Lai played libero last season, as a freshman, but has moved to the outside hitter position this season where he is leading the team in kills with 81.

“Tyler is one of the most athletic players on the team,” said Horewitch. “He has continued to grow on and off the court and it shows in his performance on the court this season.”

Lobeck was a transfer student last year so although he was able to practice with the team, he was not able to play in any games. He became eligible at the beginning of this season and has already started to have an impact on the team’s success with 46 kills and 21 blocks.

“We are very happy to have Zach be able to play in games his senior season,” said Horewitch. ‘He is very athletic plus he has been working hard in the off season to be prepared for his final campaign.”

In addition to the five returning players, the Aztecs have some new promising players on the team that Horewitch is hoping will have an impact on the team’s success the rest of the season.

Goran Swansiger, a former baseball player, came out for volleyball his senior year.

“Goran played volleyball in middle school, so he knows the basics of the game,” said Horewitch. “As a left-handed 6-foot-3 hitter, has a very high ceiling and should prove to be an asset on our team.”

Milt Hatzidakis is the second senior transfer to Corona on the team. He is a soccer player from Nebraska who decided to go out for volleyball to give it a try.

“Although Milt does not have much experience playing volleyball, he is 6-foot-5 and very athletic,” said Horewitch. “He has the drive to help the team in any way possible.”

Connor O’Brien, just a freshman, is the starting libero for the Aztecs.

“Connor is new to the program but has a lot of athletic ability and is a very good libero,” said Horewitch. “He is leading the team in digs with 102 digs which is nearly one-third of the team’s current 313 total digs.”

Other members of the Aztec volleyball team include senior defensive specialist Yuki Yamada, opposite hitter Uday Mohanty, outside hitter Santiago Connolly, middle blocker Finn Boyle and middle blocker Carson Bryan, junior backup setter Micah Lloyd and middle blocker Ahmed Wali and sophomore defensive specialist Owen Vullo.

The Aztecs are 1-10 so far this season but should improve over the rest of the season in the hopes of making it into the state tournament.

“We have an athletic team that allows for some players to play multiple position,” said Horewitch. “Add that versatility to the fact that we are a lot taller overall than last season, our blocking and hitting should improve the second half of the season.”

Corona Track and Field

Nineteen teams competed at the annual Aztec Invite sponsored by Corona on March 2. Corona’s boys team took fourth place behind Desert Vista, Highland and Chandler.

The top finisher for the Aztecs in the track events was junior Jean Boyd who took first place in the 100 meters with a time of 10.92.

Boyd took second place in the 200 meters with a time of 22.55. Sophomore Jack Farley finished in fifth place while senior Joshua Holt took 16th place in the same race.

Freshman Jaden Shepherd was fifth in the 40-meter dash.

Junior Kaden Williamson missed getting fifth place in the 400 meters by .01 seconds. A runner from Chandler finished with a time of 52.30 while Williamson’s recorded time was 52.31 giving him a sixth-place finish.

Senior David Keeney took 8th place in the same 400 meters for Corona.

In the 1600 meters, junior Zachary Johnson took sixth place with a time of 4:37.81 while senior Raymond Mendoza-Lopez was 12th in the 800 meters.

Junior Domino Arellano was the top finisher for the Aztecs in the 3200 meters taking 16th place.

Junior Josiah Johnson was the top finisher in the hurdle events with a 16th place finish in the 110- meter hurdles.

With Boyd as the lead-off runner, Corona’s 4×100 relay team of Boyd, Farley, Devon McGee and Holt crossed the finish line in second place.

Keeney, Calib McIntosh, Williamson and James Van Wicklin finished sixth in the 4×400 relay while the 4×800 relay team of Bennett Gunning, Callum Rohier, Diego Diaz and Connor McGowen finished ninth in the 4×800 relay.

Senior Tanner Kippes was the highlight in the field events with a first-place finish in the pole vault setting a personal record with a 15-00 jump.

Senior Alexander Webber tied for 10th place also in the pole vault setting a personal record with a 10-06 jump.

Junior Issam Zerek took fourth place in the triple jump while junior Jordan Nichols finished in 11th place.

Senior Michael Hall finished in seventh place in the discus with a throw of 133-03 and ninth in the shot put while junior Alden Moody took 12th place in the discus.

Other notable field event finishers included a 14th place for junior Demetrius Rock and a 17th place for Holt in the long jump and a 17th place for junior Conner Burns and an 18th place for senior Casey Barmore in the relatively new to Arizona high school track events, the javelin.

Corona’s girls team was 10th out of 18 teams who competed at the Aztec Invite with two top finishers in the track events. Senior Trinity Pierce took third place in the 40-yard dash with a time of 6.24 and Meg Horvath placed third in the 100 meters with a time of 12.76.
In the 200 meters, the Aztecs top finisher was junior Anisa McLain who took 15th place while senior Lauryn White was 22nd.

Sophomore Audry Weidner was the top finisher in the 400 meters with a 17th place. Weidner was also Corona’s top finisher in the 800 meters crossing the finish line in 16th place followed by freshman Ashlinn Aguayo who was 19th.

Sophomore Peyton Burnside took 13th place in the 3200 meters while freshman Sachiko Devine was 25th. Pierce and sophomore Zoey Allen gave Corona a 15th and 16th placed finish, respectively, in the 100-meter hurdles, while Allen finished higher in the 300-meter hurdles with a 14th place finish while Pierce placed 20th.

Corona’s top finish in the relay events was a fourth-place by the 4×200 team of Horvath, McLain, Haley Johnson and White followed by a seventh place by the 4×100 team of McLain, Haley Johnson, Suzie Marshall and Horvath.

The 4×400 relay team of Aguayo, Zoe Johnson, Abigail Holmes and Anissa Rios took 10th place.

White was the top finisher in the field events with a third-place finish in the triple jump event with a jump of 34-07. She was followed by sophomore Kayla Cortez in 11th place, junior Marshall in 13th and junior Payton Deer in 15th place.

Deer was the top Corona finisher in the long jump taking 12th place with a jump of 15.02 feet. Agnew and Haley Johnson were impressive with a fifth and sixth place finish in the new javelin event while Agnew also competed in the shotput where she placed 15th.

In the discus event, senior Brooke Schmidt took 11th place with an 81-04.25 throw. Freshman Morgan Crudup was 19th in the shotput behind Agnew but then placed 14th in the discus just ahead of Agnew who placed 15th in the same event.

Corona competed a week later, Mar. 8, at the Brophy Prep AMDG Invitational, where some of the Aztec track and field athletes continued to improve their records and finish placement.

For instance, Boyd improved his time by setting another personal record in the 100 meters at the Brophy Prep Invite with a time of 10.86 and Williamson was able to improve his time in the 400 meters by setting a personal record of 51.98.

Zachary Johnson improved not only his time but his finish place at the Brophy Prep Invite by moving from up from sixth at the Aztec Invite to a fifth-place finish with a personal best time of 4:31.31 in the 1600 meters.

Mendoza-Lopez also improved his finish and time at the Brophy Prep Invite in the 800 meters by improving his placement from 12th place at the Aztec Invite to a fifth-place finish with a season record time of 2:04.96.

Josiah Johnson went from 16th at the Aztec Invite in the 110-meter hurdles to a ninth-place finish at the Brophy Prep Invite with a season record time of 17.10.

In the field events, Kippes continued to place first in the pole vault, but was joined by teammate senior Wyatt Hackenyos in the top ten when he took sixth place with a season record vault of 11-06.

Hall moved up from a seventh-place finish at the Aztec Invite to sixth place in the discus and Moody moved from a 12th place finish to ninth place.

Junior Christopher Torla, who did not compete at the Aztec Invite, placed eighth in the discus with a season record of 117-01.

Nichols, who finished in 11th place at the Aztec Invite, took sixth place with a personal record of 40-03.50.

Other notable finishes from the Brophy Prep Invite include senior Richard Pearsall, who did not run at the Aztec Invite but came in 10th in the 100 meters with a personal record time of 11.25 and junior Steven Ortiz who also did not run the 300- meter hurdles at the Aztec Invite but finished ninth setting a personal record of 43.69.

McClintock Track and Field

The Chargers competed in the Aztec Invite against mainly 6A schools but had some impressive results including a first-place finish by junior Jeremy Huckaby in the 40-meter dash.

Huckaby set a personal record time of 5.30 beating out runners from Chandler, Perry, Chaparral, Corona and Brophy.

Huckaby also took seventh place in the 100 meters while his teammate, freshman Prince Conteh, placed 10th.

In the 200 meters, Huckaby once again finished in the top 10 for McClintock with a sixth-place finish. Senior Jaleel Laffitte was ninth and Conteh finished 10th in the 200 meters.

Lafitte ran in the 400 meters as well finishing in fourth place with a personal record time of 51.13 McClintock continued to show they could compete with the larger schools in the shorter distances by taking a first place in the 4×200 relay with the team of Laffitte, Conteh, Huckaby and Aidan Duvallon-Lohan.

The Charger’s 4×400 relay team of Conteh, Huckaby, Laffitte and Keyon Lindsey crossed the finish line in fourth place.

The top finisher for McClintock in the field events was Duvallon-Lohan who set a personal record of 40-10.00 for a third place in the triple jump and a personal record 20-3:00 for an eighth-place finish in the long jump.

McClintock had nine runners compete in the track events and six in the field event from the girls team at the Aztec open.

The athletes who competed were: Seniors Areana Hamilton, Dymitrea Finley, Ayanna Augustine and Latise Howard; juniors Navaria Ortiz, Amelie Land and Mariska Bogaard; sophomores Selema Ortiz, Hailey Patrick, Olivia Fisher, Jordan Whitaker, Deyja Mack and Anje Hamilton; and freshman Ki’Anna Jones, and Ava Jacobson.

Navaria Ortiz took 10th place in the 100 meters and 11th in the 200 meters while Patrick was 39th out of 52 runners in the 100 meters.

Land finished in 18th place in the 400 meters while Jones was 25th out of 51 racers. Fisher finished 38th out of 55 racers in the 1600 meters.

Areana Hamilton ran in the 100-meter hurdles while Whitaker ran in both the 100 meter and 300- meter hurdles.

The Chargers 4×800 relay team of Selema Ortiz,

Jones, Land and Bogaard finished in fourth place while the 4×200 relay team of Land, Jones, Navaria Ortiz and Selema Ortiz came in eighth out of 12 teams.

In the field events Finley took sixth place with a put of 32-11.00 which was a personal record for her. She also placed 11th place in the javelin and set a personal record of 52-02 in the discus.

+Augustine placed 16th out of 45 athletes in the shot put while Howard was 26th and Mack was 35th in the same event.

Mack also competed in the discus where she came in 31st and in the javelin finishing 20th out of 44 athletes. Jacobsen also competed for McClintock in the javelin.

Anje Hamilton competed in the long jump for the Chargers.


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