Early-season invitationals signal start of prep fall sports

<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons above -->
                <div>
                    <a class="addthis_button" href="//addthis.com/bookmark.php?v=300" addthis:url='http://phxfan.com/2013/09/tourney-play-signals-start-of-prep-fall-sports-2/' addthis:title='Early-season invitationals signal start of prep fall sports'>
                        <img src="//cache.addthis.com/cachefly/static/btn/v2/lg-share-en.gif" width="125" height="16" alt="Bookmark and Share" style="border:0"/>
                    </a>
                </div>High school volleyball and cross country took the stage over the weekend, as some of the early-season invitational meets and tournaments got underway. Cross country… Corona del Sol High School […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
                <div>
                    <a class="addthis_button" href="//addthis.com/bookmark.php?v=300" addthis:url='http://phxfan.com/2013/09/tourney-play-signals-start-of-prep-fall-sports-2/' addthis:title='Early-season invitationals signal start of prep fall sports'>
                        <img src="//cache.addthis.com/cachefly/static/btn/v2/lg-share-en.gif" width="125" height="16" alt="Bookmark and Share" style="border:0"/>
                    </a>
                </div>

High school volleyball and cross country took the stage over the weekend, as some of the early-season invitational meets and tournaments got underway.

Cross country…

Corona del Sol High School confirmed early predictions that the Aztecs will be the team to beat this season in Division I cross country with big wins at the Chandler Invitational on Saturday and the Sole Sports Running Zone Festival the week before.

And Nate Rodriguez also established his position going forward in 2013 – at the head of the pack.

The senior, one of two runners who return on the boys’ team this year, made it four years in a row that he has won his division at the Chandler XC Invite, completing the senior race on the 5K course at Tumbleweed Park in 15:28. And the other returner, senior Ryan Normand, showed why Corona will have a strong 1-2 punch this season. Normand finished a couple of steps behind Rodriguez with a time of 15:30.

Rather than follow the traditional format for cross country races, the Chandler Invitational is unique in that it lets the runners compete against only those in their class at school.  Freshmen against freshmen, sophomore against sophomores, etc.

Rodriquez won the freshman race while still at Williams Field High School in Gilbert and then won the last three years after transferring to Corona del Sol in Tempe.

The Aztecs are loaded with senior leadership this season as well; the next three top runners are seniors.  But junior Marcus Wheeler was the one that put up the third-best time of the day, posting a time of 15:59 in his class race.

Corona’s boys team won with 11 total points, followed by Mountain View High with 32 and Highland High taking third with 33 points.

Despite not winning any of the four division races, the Aztecs also brought home a first place for the girls’ team. Their 29 points topped runner-up Highland (35) and Perry High (47).

But the girls’ senior race belonged to Mountain View, which placed five runners in the top seven spots, led by Huston Jones, who finished in a time of 19:20.

Girls volleyball…

Corona enjoyed a good weekend on the volleyball court as well, but it was Gilbert High School that owned the House of Payne Tournament.  The Tigers rolled through the Gold Division of the invitational girls’ tourney at Chandler High School undefeated, beating Corona in the finals 25-21, 25-19.

Gilbert came into this season ranked No. 3 in Division I, the exact same spot they were given to open the 2012 season.  And in order to move any higher, they would have to climb over both Horizon High and No. 2 Xavier Prep – a formidable task, even for a team that returns five starters from last year’s squad.

Scottsdale’s Horizon, which is loaded with Division I-bound players, will be favored this season to repeat as state champions in Division I.  Xavier, despite teeing it up with a new head coach, has its two top players back this season and will be the usual competitive force it is every year.

But the House of Payne tourney gave Gilbert a chance to give its young team some valuable court time against good competition.  The Lady Tigers include a pair of freshmen and a pair of sophomores in the starting line-up, but they stepped up to the net and got the job done in this early-season test.

Kameryn Hill, a sophomore who plays libero, shared game-high honors of 13 digs with junior Danielle Carloni. And freshman outside hitter Kaitlyn Lines led the offense with nine kills.