Mindset of no expectations leads to quarter-final appearance

Corona del Sol women’s softball had a less-than-desirable regular season, finishing on a seven-game skid and a 14-22 record. But all the Aztecs needed was a chance, something to spark the flame that Coach Sean Thornton knew they had.

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And that came against Perry in the play-in game. To the girls’ surprise, they came out on top, and the girls bought into each other from that point on. Thornton, affectionately given the nickname ‘Thor” by the Aztec community, knew his team had the juice to contend with the top teams in state, but they could only do so by playing as a team. 

It wasn’t until the team had reached the do-or-die stretch of the season to meld. Tethered by senior pitcher Alyssia Munoz and senior catcher Abby Ritchhart, the leadership and selflessness of the team propelled them to upsetting the top-seeded team in the tournament and making a quarter finals appearance. 

“I think we surprised ourselves by beating Perry,” Ritchhart said. “Like, ‘Oh, okay, we can do it.’” 

A foot in the door was all the Aztecs needed. 

Corona went on to upset No. 1 Red Mountain, 4-1, before suffering the first loss of the double elimination tournament to No. 8 Hamilton. The Aztecs responded with a 13-10 win over No. 13 Desert Ridge. 

“I think all of us came together after the Desert Ridge game – that was our first losers-bracket game,” Munoz added. “We’re all a family; might as well just go with it and see how far we can go.’” 

That’s when the team truly brought into playing as a team, Ritchhart says. “Earlier in the season, it almost felt like we were going through the motions and weren’t together – like we were playing for individual success. But when playoffs hit, we knew it would be a team effort and everyone bought into that without evening saying it, which was really cool.” 

Corona, entering the tournament as the 16-seed, was largely counted out by the rest of the teams, but the Aztecs fully embraced the underdog mentality. 

“I told the team there’s no reason to be scared or have pressure on yourself, we’re literally the 16th seed,” Munoz said. “Nobody expected us to go out there and make a quarter-final run. I told them to play for one another and that’s what brought us to the Hamilton game (in the quarter finals).” 

After advancing past Desert Ridge and Red Mountain again, Corona ran into Hamilton once more, suffering a 5-4 loss in the quarter finals. While the revenge tour ended short, it may not have happened at all if it weren’t for one change: pitching. 

Thor began the season calling pitches, but after an early ejection against Desert Vista late in the season, Munoz and Ritchhart got the opportunity to run the defense. Munoz says that Ritchhart virtually lives at her house and the two share their thoughts after each game. Together, they established great chemistry and communication—an intangible asset to the Aztecs’ run. 

“I think it literally got us to the point where we were at,” Ritchhart said of the pitching calling change. “He (Thornton) believed in us the entire time,” Munoz added. “I think he really trusted me and Abby. We started calling our pitches and he let us go and play our own game.” 

The display of leadership and fighting from the 2024 Aztecs softball team no-doubtedly set an example for those returning in 2025 and helped move the pin for the years to follow.



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