Volleyball championships: Tribute to 10 seniors at team’s final home game

volleyball team gathered for group photo
–Photo courtesy Dion Deguzeman

By Alex Zener

Corona’s 10 seniors—who played in 65 percent of the 966 sets, recorded 76 percent of the 1,068 kills and served 74% of the 238 aces during the Aztecs’ 2019 boys volleyball season—were honored at Corona’s last regular season home game before playing in the 6A Arizona State Boys Volleyball Championship playoffs the following week.

Honored were Yuki Yamada, defensive specialist; Uday Mohanty, opposite hitter; Santiago Connolly, outside hitter; Finn Boyle, middle blocker; Niko Zeiner, setter, James Watson, middle blocker; Zach Lobeck, outside hitter, Goran Swansiger, opposite hitter; Milt Hatzidakis, middle blocker; and Carson Bryan, middle blocker.

Watson, who played in 106 of the 113 sets, led the team in kills with 331 or 3.1 kills a game and was third on the team in blocks with 12 solo and 34 assisted blocks for a total of 46 blocks.

Lobeck, who played in 111 sets, was the leading blocker on the team with 26 solo and 33 assisted blocks for a total of 59 blocks. He also served 29 aces, slammed 194 kills and dug 130 balls.

Zeiner, Corona’s setter, not only was credited with 85% of the assists playing in 109 sets, he led the team in service aces. He served 68 aces and was also credited with 72 kills and 33 blocks.

Swansiger, playing in 101 of the possible 113 sets, was credited with a variety of stats including 111 digs, 116 kills, 27 aces and 22 blocks.

Connolly dug the ball up 105 times in 71 sets and put in 20 service aces while Hatzidakis played in 46 sets recording 31 blocks and 10 digs.

Yamada put in nine service aces while Bryan attacked the ball 29 times recording 11 kills and Yamada, behind the service line, served up nine aces.

Mohanty and Boyle played in 24 sets recording 10 blocks and 17 kills while Mohanty was involved in 17 sets contributing to Corona’s wins on and off the court.

The Aztecs defeated Mt. Pointe 3-0 in their last regular season match giving them the momentum they needed before the 6A Conference PlayIn Tournament on May 2 as the No. 13 seed against No. 20 Basha.

Corona defeated the Bears in the 6A state playoff match 3-0 winning the first two sets easily 25-20 and 25-11 before struggling in the third set. Either the momentum switched or the Bears decided to play more competitively, but it was touch and go until the Aztecs were finally able to put together two points in a row to win the third set, 30-28, and the overall match.

It was obvious that Zeiner was not ready to have his senior season end in the Aztec’s match against Basha. He came out focused and never let up. In addition to 28 assists in the three sets or 9.3 assists a set, Zeiner had four aces, five block assists and seven digs.

Lobeck must have caught the same sense of urgency because he also played outstanding against Basha. He led the team in kills with 12 kills for an average of 4.0 kills a set, much higher than his season average of 1.7 kills a set. He also played superb defense against the Bears tying freshman Connor O’Brien, the libero, in digs, at 13 each.

O’Brien was the overall season leader in digs where he dug 364 balls while playing in all 113 sets for an average of 9.3 digs per match or 3.2 digs a set.

Junior Sebastian Burgos, third on the team in kills over the season with a total of 132 kills in 106 sets, had seven kills against Basha while sophomore Tyler Lai had four kills playing in just one set. Hatzidakis also scored three kills in one set.

Corona moved on to play No. 4 seeded Mesa Mountain View on May 4 at the higher seed where they won the first set 25-20, were close in the second set before losing 22-25 but could not get the momentum back and lost the last two sets, 11-25 and 20-25 and the match 1-3.

The match against Mountain View was Lai’s turn in shine on offense when both Watson and Lobeck had a hard time getting the ball to go down against the Toro’s blocking and digging schemes.

Watson and Lobeck ended up with nine kills each on 22 and 40 attempts respectively but Lai, who played in all four sets, led the team with 11 kills hitting .280.

Mountain View did a good job keeping the ball away from O’Brien, who only had nine digs in four sets but Swansiger picked up the slack by getting a team high 12 digs against the Toros. He also led the team in service aces against Mountain View with three aces.

Corona finished the season ranked No. 14 out of 29 teams in the 6A division with a 16-22-1 record.

Members of the team who contributed to the Aztec’s 2019 season success on and off the court also included back-up setter junior Micah Lloyd who played in 60 sets during the 2019 season, defensive specialist sophomore Owen Vullo and middle blocker junior Ahmet Wali.

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