After capturing the 6A state championship in five sets over the Hamilton Huskies in 2022, coach Ben Maxfield and the Aztecs’ volleyball team are not looking to rebuild, they’re simply reloading.
The Aztecs are now one step closer after sweeping rival Desert Vista and improving to 24-6 (6-0 6A Central) on the season. The Aztecs are in prime position for the playoffs with only a handful of games remaining. While the model of this years’ team is a little bit different, the goal is still the same.
Maxfield said the goal is always to finish top four in PowerPoint Rankings, which would grant Corona home court advantage for the first two round, and then top two, which would allow Corona to host the semi-finals.
Last season, the Aztecs were able to accomplish this feat at 39-5 (10-0 6A Central) and the No. 1 team. Part of the reason Corona has had so much success in 2023 is the experience and leadership brought from returning players, says Max field.
“I would say in general, our ball control was actually better this year,” he said. “We pass a lot better than we did last year. With the experience of Avalon (Legg), this is her second year and Alyssa – and Maggie’s really improves in her passing, so we actually pass a lot better.”
Despite losing seniors outside hitter Kierstyn Barton and middle blocker Ella Lomigora, who were major contributors last season, the Aztecs have been able to keep the same high-powered attack, although it comes in a different fashion.
“It’s kinda a little bit more by committee,” Maxfield said. “So we kind of spread it out a little bit more. Alyssa (Aguayo) scores a ton of points for us, she and she makes hardly any errors, which is nice. And then Maggie scores a ton of points for us as well. And as you saw tonight, I don’t know how many kills Hayden had, but she puts up a good number. I think we are scoring the same amount (as last years team) but with just more players doing it.”
Part of that committee comes from players who this is their first year playing varsity level volleyball. Getting those new additions up to gear took extra practice, Maxfield added, but they have molded quite well.
Half of Corona’s varsity roster are sophomores, with only three seniors leading the team. Middle Hayden Conner and Avery Linn are of that sophomore group that have stepped up in a major way along the Aztecs’ path for a consecutive state championship appearance.
Conner, who transferred from Desert Vista, has helped fill the void at the middle position. She played and got the win over her former program on Thursday. The addition of Conner paired with the experienced Alyssa Aguayo is exactly the one-two punch the Aztecs needed.
If the Aztecs can win out the remainder of the regular season, they should be able to lock in the two seed. This year it is as important as ever to secure the desired seed as the conference is wide open, Maxfield said, adding that there are as many as eight teams that he could see making the championship. Nonetheless, he likes his chances.