Corona del Sol High School didn’t come back from the Nike Tournament of Champions volleyball tournament last week with a championship trophy. But the Aztecs can say they beat the tournament champion.
The Tempe school defeated eventual champion Marymount High School from California in three sets during pool play, but did not qualify to play in the top bracket, the Platinum, that included those eight teams that worked through pool play to earn a spot. A team has to be among the top two in each pool bracket to advance to the Platinum, which was played at the Salvation Army Kroc Center in Phoenix.
This year, the 11th edition of the event featured just two local teams that made it into the Platinum: Hamilton High School, which took fourth place, and Horizon High, which finished in eighth place. Last year, Arizona put three teams in the Platinum: Horizon, Millennium High, and Xavier Prep. Millennium was the top local finisher, with third place.
The last, and only, Arizona team to be crowned Platinum champion in the prestigious national event was Xavier Prep, which posted back-to-back titles in 2013 and 2014. Corona del Sol came close in 2016, when the Aztecs won five of their seven matches and made it all the way to a meeting in the Platinum championship with Sacred Heart Academy from Louisville, KY. Sacred Heart won the title in three straight sets. Xavier took third the next year.
This year’s field included some of the best teams in the country, including California’s Cathedral Catholic, which is the nation’s No. t team according to the latest MaxPreps Xcellent 25 rankings. Mater Dei, also from California, was ranked No. 3 coming into the TOC; Marymount was No. 13; and No. 14 came all the way from Hawaii, Kamehameha Kapalama HS.
Xavier was No. 15 in the MaxPreps rankings, but this year the Gators had to settle for sixth place in the Gold bracket, the bracket just below the Platinum. Corona was included in the Gold bracket, losing to Desert Vista HS, which was the best local finisher in that bracket, with a third-place win.
Four Arizona teams were bracket winners: Highland HS (Titanium), Verrado HS (Diamond), Queen Creek HS (Ruby), and Mountain Ridge HS (Opal).
Arizona’s participation in the TOC fluctuates each year. The field of 96 teams, which is the same as last year, included 27 local teams, down from last year’s total of 32.
But, win-lose-or-draw, the TOC gives in-state teams a chance to be tested against many of the best teams in the country, while being able to avoid travel costs by staying home and hosting the event.
However, it would be nice to pick up where Xavier left off five years ago and keep that Platinum trophy in Arizona.