Corona girls volleyball completes dream season
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It’s every team’s goal to come up with a win in the last game of the season, on the biggest stage. Corona del Sol girls volleyball team accomplished just that with its defeat of Mountain Pointe to become 6A state champions for the first time since 1991.
With eight seniors and six juniors on this year’s team, the Aztecs knew they were capable of winning it all with star seniors Erica Ronda, Lauren Forte, Camryn Tucker and Jessica Murphy along with powerhouse juniors Brooke Nuneviller, Emma West and Abby Meyer.
“It’s been a long time coming for these girls,” Head Coach Ben Maxfield said. “(The seniors) have worked hard for four years. Every year we got better and set our goals and we checked off every single one of them.”
The Aztecs’ only regular season loss happened when Nuneviller was in Puerto Rico playing for Team USA Under-18 in the North, Central, and Caribbean Volleyball Confederation (NORSECA) Championships. Nuneviller was the starting libero on that team and received coaching from the best coaches in the country. She brought the lessons she learned from the coaches back to the Aztecs. When she returned, the Aztecs never lost a five-set match.
“In Puerto Rico we had to fight hard,” Nuneviller said. “It’s kind of funny. We lost in the finals to the Dominican Republic, so we have been saying during the state playoffs that we are the Dominicans so that we would win.”
The Aztecs started the season 2-0 but fell to Hamilton in the third match of the season, getting swept while the team was without Nuneviller. The Aztecs got back to their winning ways by winning the next 18 matches, including beating state-runner up Mountain Pointe two times. Though their win streak came to an eventual end, Corona still went on to get revenge on Hamilton by beating them to win the Westwood Tournament of Champions. They then went on to knock off national powerhouses Archbishop Mitty (CA) and Mater Dei (CA) in the Nike Tournament of Champions.
“Winning the Westwood Tournament (gave us momentum),” Maxfield said. “That is a big tournament to win here in Arizona. That gave us the confidence that we can do it. From there on out we just rolled and had a good time.”
Tucker agrees with her coach that the Westwood tournament proved that they could beat anyone on any given night.
“Winning the Westwood tournament gave us confidence,” Tucker said. “We beat Hamilton, so we told ourselves ‘OK, we can do this,’ and every other tournament after that we did so well. I feel like every tournament brought us so much closer together throughout the season.”
With the Aztecs failing to win a championship last season in any sport, girls volleyball is the first team champion for the school since boy’s basketball won in 2015.
Maxfield, in his 11th year of coaching the team, won his first championship this season after losing in the finals in his first year of coaching in 2006 and then again in 2009.
“We are so excited,” Nuneviller said. “(Coach Maxfield) has made the finals two other times and never won so we wanted to do it for Coach.”
Ronda agrees with Nuneviller that winning the championship for Maxfield is something to be proud of.
“It feels really special,” Ronda said. “I am very thankful that we were able to do that for him.”
With eight seniors on this year’s team, their leadership was consequential to this year’s success. It was unsung heros like Murphy, Logan Wallerstedt, Brooke O’Meara, Keelan Nelson and Madi Reum that helped the Aztecs to get the skill level they were at all year.
“Jessica Murphy is probably the hardest working player I have ever coached,” Maxfield said. “She didn’t let her smaller size deter her. She’s probably our best blocker on the team. She’s always going for the ball.”
Maxfield credits Wallerstedt for leading the Aztecs to a come-from-behind victory over Gilbert.
“I cannot say enough about that girl,” Maxfield said. “She has the heart of a champion and she’s been on varsity for four years. She is the reason why we beat Gilbert. We were down two sets to zero. She came in and she changed the tone of the match.”
O’Meara also helped out the Aztecs in a time of need. She stepped in at the Nike Tournament of Champions when Tucker got hurt and helped win a big match for the Aztecs. She came in like nothing had happened and passed like she’d been there the whole time.
Nelson made her biggest impact on the practice court because she suffered a concussion early in the season.
“She really helped us in practices,” Maxfield said. “She really made our passes better because she would just drill serves at them. She does a great job setting the ball and she’s going to college and set.”
Reum is an example Aztec both on and off the court.
“She’s won the Joe Selleh award,” Maxfield said, “which is given to player who displays the most character and honor, the last two years and I wouldn’t be surprised if she wins it again.”
Mady Noble knows that as a freshman, the seniors played a vital role in her growing as a high school athlete.
“The seniors had an impact on me,” Noble said. “They taught me a lot. I was very nervous at my first game. They comforted me and told me everything would be OK and I did well.”
Maxfield himself feels like this team was the right one to win it all.
“We’ve been working at it for four years,” Maxfield said. “I’m very proud of this team.”