Monthly Archives: May 2012

high schools

Williams Field coaches see volleyball potential

by Jason Stone

Gilbert Williams Field volleyball coach Rich Lanzone says the school is knocking on the door for becoming a name brand in Division III boys and girls volleyball across Arizona.
Now the question is will the rest of the state answer it?
Lanzone may know what he’s talking about because he’s done this before. Two years ago, a team of seven seniors led Williams Field’s boys to its first state tournament match win and a 17-2 season.
Now, only one player has graduated from last season, and Lanzone thinks it’s his team’s turn to make another move next spring.
“They know they have the components to do this,” Lanzone said.
The coach said he believes so much in his boys, in fact, he has given up half of his day job. Lanzone resigned as coach of the girls team after the season and handed the reins over to his junior varsity coach Ashley Phelps, who is ready to put her stamp on the girls program.
Could the golden era of Williams Field volleyball be upon us? The two coaches seem to think so.
“I just get goose bumps thinking about it,” said Phelps, a 22-year-old former state championship player at Glendale Cactus.
Lanzone built both teams from scratch when the school opened in the fall of 2007. At the time it shared boundaries with students who went to Higley, and the schools were so close at the time, Lanzone had trouble getting his teams to buy into the fact that a natural rivalry existed between the two.
“I got a lot of resistance initially,” Lanzone said. “There was a lot of allegiance and loyalty to Higley. The way the two schools are set up they didn’t see Higley as a rival. I knew it would take some time for that to develop.”
And time was needed for the programs to develop as a whole. Entering next spring, the boys will welcome back eleven players who were juniors a year ago, including all three returning captains.
The team showed some of what it could do last year when it didn’t lose a regular season match for nearly a month in midseason.
“So many things were thrown at us this year that we handled very well,” Lanzone said. “It’s a mature group of guys. I’m very proud of the fact we had faced a lot of adversary and handled it.”
For the girls team, Phelps is hoping to recreate the magic she saw firsthand as a player.
At just 22, it has been a big month for Phelps. First she graduated from Arizona State, then on the same day she was told she got the head coaching job and a full-time P.E. teacher post.
Coincidentally, Phelps played at Cactus under coach Lindsay Walls, who was then Lindsay Patterson, a fresh-faced 22-year-old coach who played prep volleyball in the Valley before a college career. In Walls’ second year as coach, Cactus won the state championship with Phelps as a junior middle blocker on the team.
“She was 22 just like myself and she developed such a well-rounded, untouchable program,” Phelps said. “I know that my program here at Williams Field has the same capabilities. I even mentioned that in my interview. Dreams can come true.”

Published at azcentral.com • May 31, 2012

high schools

VanHofwegen takes Division IV boys 400 meters

by Jason Stone

Sometimes second place is good enough.
The Division IV boys track and field state championship meet at Mesa Community College came down to the final event Saturday night.
Chandler Valley Christian’s 4×400 meter relay team finished second, giving it enough points to win the team championship over Phoenix Arizona Lutheran and St. Johns.
But while the team result was in doubt late Saturday, Tucson St. Augustine senior Nico Montanez was clearly the individual star.
Montanez pulled off a championship trifecta by winning the 800- and 1,600-meters Saturday to go along with the 3,200-meter metal he earned Friday.
“I feel fulfilled,” said Montanez, the reigning Division IV cross country champion, who will run at Paradise Valley Community College in the fall. “Just to win three is a blessing.”
That great feeling was spread around as numerous school earned individual state titles.
Valley Christian held the team lead most of Saturday despite having no individual champions on the final day. In fact the team’s only first-place finish over the three days of competition came Friday in the team 4×800-meter relay.
Likewise, Arizona Lutheran had no champions Saturday — or the entire three days for that matter.
But while the depth of Arizona Lutheran and Valley Christian was evident in their team scores, a host of individuals made noise on their own.
Phoenix Christian senior sprinter Preston VanHofwegen, who is going to Azusa Pacific to play football in the fall, won the 400-meters with a personal best time of 49.45 seconds.
“I’ve been training so hard for this,” VanHofwegen said. “It’s a great feeling.”
VanHofwegen’s win was a repeat performance from his state win in the event his sophomore year. To do it this time, he upset Phoenix Northwest Christian’s Hunter McShanag, who came into the race seeded first but finished a surprising forth.
San Manuel’s Wayne Newman was a double winner in the 110- and 300-meter hurdles races. The junior finished in the top five in both last year and said he was focused on winning them this time.
“I saw all the guys who finished ahead of me last year were seniors,” Newman said. “So I knew I had a chance.”
St. Johns junior became a double winner when he claimed the triple jump title, a day after winning the long jump.
Simon Whitfield of Phoenix Veritas Prep claimed the 100-meter championship with a time of 11.28 seconds. He upset top-seeded Bryant James of Tombstone in the finals despite running 14-hundredths of a second slower in the finals than in his heat.
James came back later to win the 200 meters.
Other champions early Saturday included Benson’s Jacob Manuel (pole vault), Mogollon’s Lane Bentley (high jump) and Scottsdale Prep’s Aiden Wright (discus).
Glendale Joy Christian won the 4×100-meter relay.

Published at azcentral.com • May. 12, 2012

high schools

Ironwood Ridge boys, girls take Division II titles

by Jason Stone

It’s a day Oro Valley Ironwood Ridge tennis players won’t soon forget.
Just minutes apart, the boys and girls teams won Division II team championships at Glendale’s Paseo Racquet Center on adjacent courts. And they did it dramatically by winning it at the end of doubles play.
The boys won a doubles match to pull out a 5-3 win over Cave Creek Cactus Shadows, while the girls defeated Tucson Catalina Foothills, one of the state’s most decorated teams, 5-4.
But they didn’t hang around long to celebrate. There was more important business to attend to.
“I’m so overjoyed right now,” girls singles player Sara Brown said. “We got prom tonight.”
Brown had many reasons to be overjoyed. Not only did she upset state singles champion Zaina Sufi earlier in the day in singles, she was part of the doubles team with Alex Prassas that clinched the team win.
Ironwood Ridge’s girls snapped Catalina Foothills’ streak of three straight state titles and sent it home without a title for only the second time since 2000.
“It was nice to get the individual (singles and doubles) championship (last week), but it would have been great to get the team win too,” said Catalina Foothills coach Kristie Stevens, the team’s coach since the school opened in the early 1990s.
In singles, Brown beat Sufi, her training partner, in three sets to set up the dramatic doubles play to settle it.
Brown has played Sufi tough in the past — including two losses earlier this season — but never had Brown won or even taken it to a third set.
But Brown shocked Sufi by winning the first set. With the girls tied at 3 in the second set, however, Sufi hit a crosscourt winner to break Brown’s serve to take momentum in the set to win 6-3.
When Sufi took a 2-1 lead in the third set, it appeared she was finally wearing Brown down. But Brown found a second wind in the afternoon heat and proceeded to reel off the next five games, breaking Sufi’s serve three times, to win the set, 6-2, and the match.
“Sara Brown played great today,” Stevens said. “You have to give her credit. Zaina fought hard. She just came up short.”
The teams split the first two doubles matches, setting up Brown and Prassas’ dramatic win over Kirtana Bhat and Noel Karp.
Tensions ran high midway through when Brown and Prassas called for an official to judge calls after some disputed ones.
“It was good we had each other to calm each other down,” Prassas said about the short tension-filled delay while waiting for an official to arrive. “That’s the great thing about doubles.”
The win came minutes after Ironwood Ridge’s boys team won its third state championship on an adjacent court.
Ironwood Ridge’s Nos.5 and 6 singles players Michael Izzard and Ryan Knox, the third doubles team, learned the hard way that every point counts when it comes to the state championship.
Needing to win its doubles match against Cactus Shadows with their two other doubles pairs losing or have lost, Izzard and Knox held off Joey Anderson and Jack Peterson, 10-8, to set off the championship celebration.
Cactus Shadows’ first two single players — brothers Jacob and Joshua Hedderig — won their matches, but Ironwood Ridge didn’t lose the other four singles matches. That made the road uphill for Cactus Shadows, which was forced to win all three doubles matches if it were to claim the title.
Ironwood Ridge returned to the top after a two-year hiatus. It won back-to-back titles in the old 5A-II Division in 2008 and 2009.
It was able to keep Cactus Shadows from its first state championship in five years.

Published at azcentral.com • May. 5, 2012

high schools

Thatcher, Phoenix Country Day capture titles

by Jason Stone

All Ethan Bryce wanted in his high school sports career was to win a state championship — in anything.
The tennis, basketball and football player for Thatcher was 0-4 in state tournament championship games or matches in basketball and tennis and never got the chance to play for a state title in football.
But that all changed for the senior Saturday. Thatcher needed doubles play but pulled out a 5-3 win over Tucson Pusch Ridge Christian in the Division III championship at Glendale’s Paseo Racquet Center.
“This is just phenomenal,” Bryce said. “What a great way to end my high school career.”
In the girls Division III championship, Phoenix Country Day School won its third state title in four years with a 5-3 win over Miami.
Thatcher won its third boys title and first under coach Chris Cook thanks to solid wins at the bottom of the lineup.
Reed Goodman and Rex Dodge won singles at the Nos. 5 and 6 spots, respectively, to force doubles play. The doubles team of Goodman and Nathan McMaster then held back Evan Gazic and Connor Ottaway, 10-5, to clinch the title.
Thatcher needed that win because it was losing the other doubles match in progress, 8-5, at the time it ended.
Thatcher avenged a 5-4 loss to Pusch Ridge in last year’s team finals.
“We pretty much had the same result as them as last year except our No. 3 doubles team got better and Pusch Ridge might be a little younger,” Cook said.
Thatcher’s championship is the school’s first for its boys since it won back-to-back titles in 2006 and 2007.
Phoenix Country Day’s senior girls, meanwhile, were able to earn a third championship. Had it not been for a one-point loss in the finals in 2010 they would have ended their careers 4 for 4.
“We never get tense or nervous,” senior Leah Stofko said. “The one time we did we didn’t play too good.”
PCDS denied Miami to extend its state record number championships to 22. It last won it all in 2004.
Phoenix Country Day players say it was the team’s depth that paid off in the end.
“It’s not just the top two players for us,” senior Nicole Bassoff said. “We rely on the whole team.”

Published at azcentral • May 5, 2012