When the Corona del Sol High School girls’ volleyball team won last year’s 6A state championship it ended a long title drought that began back in 1991 when the Aztecs won their last state championship.
And now that they’re on top, they are apparently making the most of it. The Aztecs have won 31 consecutive matches, going back to Oct. 14 of last year when they lost to the state’s winningest volleyball program, Xavier Prep.
A title repeat this year appears to be in the making.
Their team victory over the weekend at the Westwood Tournament of Champions Invitational, which included many of the state’s top-ranked big-school teams in the field of 34 entrants, is the first step toward a pattern that evolved last year and culminated in the state title win.
After winning the 2016 Westwood TOC, the Tempe school followed that performance by advancing to the championship game of the Nike TOC, which featured a field of 80 schools from around the country and included seven Top-25 nationally-ranked teams as well as 38 local entries.
The Aztecs rolled through that prestigious tourney, winning five of its seven matches and beating nationally-ranked Archbishop Mitty High School (Calif.) in the semi-finals of the Platinum Division, the event’s top bracket. They lost to Kentucky’s Sacred Heart Academy in the title game, but made a statement as one of only two Arizona high schools to advance out of pool play to earn the right to play at the Platinum level; the other was Gilbert High School, which lost to Notre Dame Belmont in the first round.
The biggest difference this year is that Corona appears to be standing above the rest of the crowd in 6A, ranked No. 1 in the power rankings, while last year it was a down-to-the-wire horse race all season long in 6A. The Aztecs went in to the state playoffs as the No. 3 seed.
This year, Corona is 18-0 and has barely been tested so far, on course for a top seed in this year’s state tourney.
Hamilton High, which Corona had to beat in last year’s championship game at the Westwood TOC, has provided the only significant resistance to the Aztec’s march toward a title repeat. The Huskies had Corona on the ropes in a Sept. 5 meeting before the Aztecs pulled out a come-from-behind 3-2 win, and then gave the Aztecs all they could handle in the Westwood semi-finals, going toe-to-toe with Corona in two high-scoring sets before losing, 32-30, 28-26.
However, Corona had much less trouble with Chandler’s Basha High School in the Westwood finals, beating the Bears 25-20, 25-12. That capped off a run through the tournament, which the Aztecs navigated without a single set loss for nine straight wins.
Both teams placed three players on the Westwood All-Tournament Team. Seniors Brooke Nuneviller and Abby Meyer and sophomore Madelyn Noble were selected from the Corona squad, while Basha selectees included seniors Kiana Gonsalves and Tatum Rohme and junior Chayse Daughtery.
Nuneviller, the 5’11” ouitside hitter who also plays libero, led the offensive attack that enabled the Aztecs to win last year’s Westwood, recording 12 kills, and then went on to be the driving force behind Corona’s run through the Nike TOC. She’s leading the team again this year, with 220 kills for an average of five per set.
Meyer was instrumental in helping the Aztecs to last year’s state championship, leading the way with 23 assists as Corona notched its 39th victory of the season to secure the title. The 5’10” setter is on track for another big year, with 511 assists and 104 digs, spread out over 47 sets.
The Nike TOC will be held Friday and Saturday at three sites in Tempe, including two venues at Arizona State, and another in Phoenix. As usual, the teams arriving from all around the country will make this the most competitive high school volleyball event in the nation.
This year, it looks like Corona may get a second shot at that tournament’s Platinum title.
And once again, winning the Westwood TOC could be a sign of good things to come.