CORONA – The first time these teams met this season, it took four games to decide.
The next time, it was five.
On Thursday, in the District 3-1A tournament championship, Corona needed just three games to dispatch Hondo and claim the title.
“Those five seniors, they decided they wanted to leave it all out on the floor,” said Corona coach Amanda Dunlap. “They weren’t going to settle for anything less than winning in three.”
“Knowing this was our last match on our home floor, we wanted that sweep. We wanted something memorable,” said senior Aubrey Brandenberger. “We’ve been putting in a lot of work for more than six years. We all started playing together when we were in third grade. We wanted to end on a really good note.”
While it may have been a sweep, things weren’t all Corona in the beginning. Game one was a narrow contest to start, with the Lady Eagles (13-8) tying things up at 8-all in the midst of a 4-0 serving run by Joyce Ann Cooper.
The tie came on a kill from Monique Blackmon and followed a set kill from Carolina Salcido.
But a hitting error gave the serve back to Corona (13-6), and the Lady Cardinals held on to the lead the rest of the way, ending with a huge kill from Brandenberger.
Brandenberger started games two and three in style, helping her team open a 9-0 lead to start game two and a 5-0 lead in game three. In each case, the Lady Eagles couldn’t recover.
“I was very driven. I wanted to do this for the seniors, but also for the younger girls,” Brandenberger said. “I want them to have a goal and keep getting better next year when we’re not here.”
While Brandenberger was starting things off right, fellow Corona senior Peyton Dunsworth was getting kills on the front row.
“I was trying to place the hits. If you can’t hit them hard, you try to be smart,” Dunsworth said. “We switched to this rotation for this game and it seemed to really work.”
With the district title in hand, Corona now looks confidently toward the Class 1A State tournament, with seedings announced this Sunday.
“We should be between three and five, and I think we can make it back to the Santa Ana Star Center,” Dunlap said. “That always seems where we face our downfall, but I think the seniors really want to push it and get to that championship match.”
At 13-8, the Lady Eagles should earn a berth at state as well.