It has been a down-to-the-wire horse race all season long in 6A volleyball as a handful of teams have been juggling positions among the top five rankings in the conference, without a clear state title favorite emerging.
Corona del Sol High School held that No. 5 spot in the rankings as late as mid-October. But today the Aztecs, who went into the state tournament as the third seed, are the 6A state champions after sweeping fifth-seeded Mountain Pointe High with relative ease, 25-13, 25-21, 25-15.
While Corona might not have been the favorite going into the playoffs, it certainly wasn’t under the radar. The Aztecs made a statement early in the season by winning the Westwood Tournament of Champions and then took part in the early October Nike TOC, where they advanced to the championship game of the Platinum bracket, which included some of the top teams in the country.
The Aztecs, ranked No. 2 in the 6A Conference at the time, beat nationally-ranked Archbishop Mitty HS to get the right to play for the tournament’s top prize among a field of 80 schools, 38 of which were Arizona entrants. They won five of seven games before losing in the title game to Sacred Heart Academy from Kentucky.
Corona entered the playoffs with momentum from a nine-game winning streak, the last victory coming against Mountain Pointe in the final game of the regular season. That was the fifth time the two teams played during the regular season, with Corona winning all but one of those matches.
The sixth meeting, in the state title game, went pretty much the same way, as the Aztecs rolled to their 39th win of the year with scores of 25-13, 25-21, and 25-15. Corona’s senior outside hitter, Erica Ronda, led the Aztec attack with a double-double, 15 kills and 16 digs. Senior middle hitter Lauren Forte added 11 kills and junior opposite hitter Emma West chipped in 10. Junior setter Abby Meyer led with 23 assists and senior libero Camryn Tucker had 14 digs.
Sophomore Avery Luoma and senior Nura Muhammad led the Pride effort with seven kills apiece, and junior libero Anna Morse had 11 digs to go with 10 apiece from Chapin Gray and Gabby Leo.
Mountain Pointe beat top-seeded Hamilton High in the semifinals and Corona took down No. 2 Xavier College Prep to punch the Aztecs’ ticket to the title game.
This state championship had special reason for celebration for the Aztec program because it ends a long drought. The last time Corona won a state girls’ volleyball title was before the turn of the century – 1991 to be exact.
IN DIVISION II…Centennial High School and Sunnyslope High played a four-set match to determine this year’s state champion. The last set lasted nearly half an hour and didn’t end until a block by middle blocker Kara Spicer ended the set at 32-30 to claim Centennial’s third volleyball state title, the first since 2008.
Centennial won the first set 25-22, but Sunnyslope came back to take the second set, 25-15. A very tight third set ended with a 25-23 Centennial win before the prolonged drama of the fourth set began.
Cari Bauer hit the jackpot in her first year as head coach, directing a Centennial team with just four seniors – Spicer, Reagan Leonard, Dani Wiley, and Taytum Yinger. But she was very familiar with all four after having served as a JV and assistant varsity coach at Centennial for the past two decades.