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Under normal circumstances, Arizona high school athletes would be prepping for state competition right now, trying to earn a spot in tournament play or qualify for the championships.

Geared up with a full coaching staff and hard-working athletes, Maricopa High School track and field had to put on the brakes. With only one major meet under their belts, the Rams, like every other team in the state, were knocked out of competition by the coronavirus outbreak.

It shuttered schools and training facilities and then the entire season. For seniors hoping not only for a last hurrah but also a chance at athletic scholarships, it was a huge monkey wrench.

“Zanaa Ramirez has a good shot to make it to the NCAA level,” head track coach Corey Nelson said. “Katherine Gores has a good shot to make it to the collegiate level.”

Before the season collapsed, both had personal bests in the big Aztec Invitational at Corona del Sol High School in Tempe. Gores, a javelin specialist, placed second with a throw of 99-7. Ramirez, who is also on Nelson’s club team, placed eighth in the 400-meter dash in 1:03.57.

“I’m a little frustrated,” Ramirez said. “We were doing really well so far, and my teammates worked really hard.”

Also not knowing she was wrapping up her senior season, Daijah Scott had personal records in the 100-meter dash, finishing 13th in 13.35, and in the 100-meter hurdles, eighth in 17.63.

While Ramirez was finishing ninth in the 800-meter run, fellow senior Coreyuna Mitchell-Shephard was running a personal record 2:56.43 in 42nd place. She also PR’d in the 400 at 1:08.64 to finish 31st. Meanwhile, senior RyAnn Liermann was Maricopa’s top finisher in the discus in 14th place with a throw of 76-7 and in shot put in 21st place with 25-5.5.

Gores was 12th in the triple jump in 29-1.75. Senior Chloe Luiz was 19th in the girls’ pole vault at six feet. Amoni James was 37th in the long jump in 11-3.

The boys’ track and field team had fewer seniors competing, but they were getting workouts. Steel Lewis was 12th in the pole vault with a vault of 11-0. Quinton Stapleton was 44th in the 3200-meter run and 49th in the 1600. Kian Carroll was 46th in the 3200.

Friday would have been their final warmup before the state championships, the major Hohokam Invitational at Westwood High.

“That’s when we start putting down fast times, qualifying for state and we’re at our best potential,” Nelson said.

He came into the season with a full staff of two throw coaches, a miler coach and a team manager. Now they are turning their minds toward the 2020-21 school year, and Nelson, by expertise a sprint coach, is picking up cross-country coaching.

Over in MHS softball, coach Jason Crawford has submitted his resignation at the end of this school year. The girls were off to a strong start with a 7-3 record. They had outscored their opponents 68-32.

The seniors were doing their part on a team that was strong across all grades.

Keilee Keys-Carrillo was batting .452 with five runs batted in through 10 games. Kayla Occhiline had her average at .364 in seven games played. Kiana Miller-Gomez had five RBIs.

The MHS baseball team had a 4-5 record for the abbreviated season. Senior Austin Rapp was batting .368 with seven hits. His classmate Parker Hunsaker batted .304, scored 11 runs, had seven hits and four stolen bases. Jackson Lindseth scored eight runs for his final season.

While girls’ tennis boasted no seniors, the boys’ team leaned on three in its short, 1-3 season. Noah Panter had a singles record of 2-2 and 1-3 in doubles. Ethan Atkinson and Angel Urbina Noriega were 0-4 and 1-3.

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Blesha Romo was the team leader for MHS tennis this season. Photo by Victor Moreno

Maricopa High School girls’ tennis posted a winning record this season, and senior leader Blesha Romo played her way to the second round of the state championships.

Romo had a 12-1 singles record this season. She was 22-5 overall, playing 14 doubles matches. In Round 1 of the state singles bracket Friday, she defeated Samantha Mendoza of Sunnyside, 7-6 6-3. She lost to the No. 3 seed, Savanna Kollock of Desert Mountain, who went on to today’s title match.

The Rams were 9-5 in team play this season, finishing second in Division I Yuma. They were ranked 34th in Division I.

Junior Breanna Fitch had a 21-7 overall record, including 11-3 in singles. Freshman Molly Auer was 10-10, sophomore Layla Barker was 11-11, and sophomore Kaitlyn Crean was 12-14.

Meanwhile the boys’ team was 3-11 overall. Sophomore Filippo Giacometti was 7-21, and senior Ethan Strait was 9-15. Junior Noah Panter and sophomores Beer Beukers and Hunter Collins were each 6-22. Senior Elijah Baxter was 6-18.


Photos by Victor Moreno

High school varsity spring sports are under way. Maricopa High School introduces a new sport in beach volleyball while other sports hope to get back into state contention.

Sequoia Pathway Baseball
CAA Division II Region II
March 2 v. WSST 5 p.m.
March 6 at HA-Laveen 4 p.m.
March 9 v. El Dorado 4 p.m.
March 21 v. South Pointe 4 p.m.
March 26 at ASU Prep Poly 5 p.m.
March 27 at HA-Mesa 4:15 p.m.
April 3 at EVAC 4 p.m.
April 5 at Imagine Prep Coolidge 4:30 p.m.
April 7 v. ALA-Ironwood 11 a.m.
April 9 v. Imagine Prep Coolidge 4:30 p.m.
April 11 v. Canyon State 4 p.m.

Sequoia Pathway Softball
CAA Division II Region I
March 1 v. ALA-Gilbert 4 p.m.
March 7 at Imagine Prep Surprise 4 p.m.
March 9 v. Imagine Prep Coolidge 4 p.m.
April 2 at Tri-City College Prep 4 p.m.
April 4 v. ALA-Ironwood 4 p.m.
April 5 at ALA-Gilbert 4 p.m.
April 10 v. Mission Heights 4 p.m.
April 12 at HA-Laveen 4 p.m.
April 17 v. South Ridge 4 p.m.
April 19 at Paradise Valley Christian 4 p.m.

Maricopa High School Baseball
AIA Division 5A Section Metro (remaining schedule)
March 1 v. Sierra Linda 3:45 p.m.
March 2 v. Desert Edge 3:45 p.m.
March 5 v. Glendale 3:45 p.m.
March 7 v. Ironwood 4 p.m.
March 10-13 Bob Everett Spring Break Classic at Highland HS
March 21 at Vista Grande 6 p.m.
March 22 at Mesquite 4 p.m.
March 26 at Kellis 3:45 p.m.
March 27 v. Kellis 3:45 p.m.
March 29 at Casa Grande 4 p.m.
April 3 at Sunnyslope 4 p.m.
April 5 v. Verrado 3:45 p.m.
April 6 v. Sunnyslope 3:45 p.m.
April 10 v. Apollo 3:45 p.m.
April 11 v. Ironwood 6:30 p.m.
April 12 at Apollo 4 p.m.
April 17 at McClintock 4 p.m.
April 19 v. McClintock (Senior Night) 3:45 p.m.
April 20 at Williams Field 3:45 p.m.

Maricopa High School Softball
AIA Division 5A Section Metro (remaining schedule)
March 1 at Sierra Linda 4 p.m.
March 2 at Desert Edge6 p.m.
March 5 at Glendale 4 p.m.
March 6 v. Vista Grande 3:45 p.m.
March 8 v. Williams Field 3:45 p.m.
March 19 v. Mesquite 3:45 p.m.
March 27 at Kellis 4 p.m.
March 29 v. Casa Grande 3:45 p.m.
March 30 v. Kellis 3:45 p.m.
April 3 v. Sunnyslope 3:45 p.m.
April 5 at Verrado 4 p.m.
April 6 at Sunnyslope 4 p.m.
April 10 at Apollo 4 p.m.
April 11 at Ironwood 4 p.m.
April 12 v. Apollo 3:45 p.m.
April 17 v. McClintock (Senior Night) 3:45 p.m.
April 19 at McClintock 4 p.m.

Maricopa High School Track & Field
AIA Division II
March 7 at Chaparral 4 p.m.
March 10 at Desert Tune-Up (Mountain View Marana) 8 a.m.
March 21 at McClintock 3 p.m.
March 22 at Schuster Jones Under-Class Showcase 12 p.m.
March 28 at Maricopa Twilight 3:30 p.m.
April 13 at Hohokam Invitational 9:30 a.m.

Maricopa High School Boys’ Tennis
AIA Division I Section I (remaining schedule)
March 2 v. Casa Grande 3:30 p.m.
March 8 at Higley 3:30 p.m.
March 22 at Williams Field 3:30 p.m.
March 27 v. Cibola 3:30 p.m.
March 28 v. Tolleson Union 3:30 p.m.
March 29 at San Luis 3:30 p.m.
April 3 at Millennium 3:30 p.m.
April 4 at La Joya Community 3:30 p.m.
April 10 v. Westview 3:30 p.m.
April 12 at Kofa 3:30 p.m.

Maricopa High School Girls’ Tennis
AIA Division I Section I (remaining schedule)
March 1 v. Casteel 3:30 p.m.
March 5 at Casa Grande 3:30 p.m.
March 8 v. Higley 3:30 p.m.
March 27 at Cibola 3 p.m.
March 28 at Tolleson Union 3:30 p.m.
March 29 v. San Luis 3:30 p.m.
April 3 v. Millennium 3:30 p.m.
April 4 v. La Joya Community 3:30 p.m.
April 10 at Westview 3:30 p.m.
April 12 v. Kofa 3:30 p.m.
April 16 v. Williams Field 3:30 p.m.

Maricopa High School Beach Volleyball
AIA Division I Section IV (remaining schedule)
March 5 v. Casteel at Copper Sky 4 p.m.
March 26 v. Millennium at Copper Sky 4 p.m.
March 28 at Willow Canyon at Victory Lane Complex 4 p.m.
April 2 at Shadow Ridge at Victory Lane Complex 4 p.m.
April 4 at Perry at Seville Golf & Country Club 6:30 p.m.
April 9 v. Verrado at Copper Sky 4 p.m.
April 11 v. Dysart at Copper Sky 4 p.m.
April 13 v. Hamilton at Copper Sky (Senior Night) 4 p.m.
April 16 at Mesquite High School 4 p.m.



Carlos Rivas of Maricopa (second from right) is secretary of USTA Central Arizona. Other new officers are (from left) Treasurer Nathan Brelsford, First VP Taylor Allin, southwest section delegate Bill Lucero, President Laurie Martin and Second VP David Bennett. Submitted photo

A Maricopan hopes his new position can re-invigorate a local love of tennis.

Carlos Rivas was named to the executive committee of U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) Central Arizona. He will serve as secretary.

“The goal is to grow tennis and get more people to play it,” Rivas said. “When you love something you just want to share it.”

Originally from California, Rivas picked up the sport as a youngster wanting to be like Andre Agassi “with all the hair and crazy clothes.” He found a $10 racket and started hitting balls with his brother. He played in high school and at Paradise Valley Community College.

Through tennis he met some of his best friends. He loved that sportsmanship was a vital part of the game, with players calling their own lines. After college, he was like many others who were unaware they could keep playing organized tennis. It was a decade before he discovered USTA programs.

Rivas said contrary to the stereotype that tennis is an elite, expensive sport, he has found it accessible and diverse. Bargain rackets and tennis balls are easily available, he said, and Maricopa has tennis courts in both its city parks.

He wants to see USTA’s Net Generation program utilized locally. Rivas said it offers resources to youth players and teaches coaches “how to do outreach.”

The goal is not to create professional tennis champions but to instill skills that will set up kids for a lifetime of healthy recreation. Rivas said most USTA Central Arizona members are simply leisure players.

Matt Gleason, executive director of USTA Central Arizona, said membership has grown by about 600 in the last five years in Arizona. Nationwide, the growth rate of 4 percent is outpacing other high school sports.

“Tennis is a tough skillset,” Gleason said. “There isn’t anyone who can’t kick a ball, but tennis is all athletic coordination.”

USTA wants to spread its program curriculum and get schools and youth programs outfitted in fundamentals and equipment.

“I’m interested in helping us get some of the programs going and growing,” Gleason said. “We’ve done a lot to grow recreational tennis.”

Rivas, who works at Verizon in Chandler, said he wants to have his kids involved in the sport and inspire a love for tennis in other young players.

“It’s a cool sport to play.”


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Senior Matthew Dinh is the boys' team's No. 1 player. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

The Maricopa High School tennis teams both posted wins Wednesday. The girls team bumped their record to 4-3. The boys’ team record is 3-5 with five to play.

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Maricopa tennis teams are playing to win as new season begins.

The Maricopa High School tennis teams began their seasons Thursday at home against Desert Ridge.

Both the girls’ and boys’ teams changed divisions this year, a factor that could mean a much easier season compared to last year, according to girls varsity head coach Heather Abel.

“Last season we had the toughest schedule I’ve ever had as a coach, playing some of the top teams in our section, and really some of the top teams in the state,” Abel said. “So, I’m looking forward to this season, playing some teams that we can compete with.”

All six spots on the girls’ varsity team will be filled with returning players this year. Among those returning are Abel’s daughter, senior Bailey Able, in the No. 1 spot, and sophomore Blesha Romo in the No. 2 spot.

Coach Able believes the team developed a lot last season, something she hopes will reflect in this season’s play.

“I think with all of them, their confidence has grown. But I’m not sure if playing those [harder] teams helps or hurts that.”

For boys’ tennis, the opposite is true when considering their new division, head coach Paula Pavlosky said. Despite the team finishing with a 9-6 record in 2016 and most of those players returning, she thinks this year will be more difficult than the previous not just in terms of their competitiveness, but in terms of distance and frequency as well.

“We do have a few matches that are far away,” Pavlosky said. “We have some in Cibola, which is near Yuma, and we have them back to back so we have three matches in a row in one week.”

Returning to the court this year for the Rams boys’ team in the No. 1 spot is senior Matthew Dinh. Pavlosky has tremendous confidence in Dinh, calling him “the best out there.” However, she knows the dedication of her other athletes is equally considerable.

“They are strong and I know they go out there with all their hearts and play to win,” she said.

The girls and boys schedules are the same but complementary, meaning when the girls play one school at home, the boys will play the same school on the road.


MHS Boys’ Tennis Schedule
Feb. 23      Desert Ridge        3:30      Away
Feb. 28      Casteel                 3:30      Home
March 1      Combs                 3:30       Away
March 9      Higley                  3:30      Home
March 21    Casa Grande         3:30      Away
March 23    Williams Field    3:30       Home
March 28    Cibola                  3:30       Away
March 29    Tolleson               3:30      Away
March 30    San Luis               3:30      Home
April 4        Millennium          3:30      Home
April 5        La Joya                  3:30      Home
April 11     Westview              3:30      Away
April 13     Kofa                       3:30      Home

MHS Girls’ Tennis Schedule
Feb. 23       Desert Ridge        3:30    Home
Feb. 28       Casteel                 3:30    Away
March 1      Combs                   3:30    Home
March 9       Higley                  3:30    Away
March 21    Casa Grande          3:30    Home
March 23    Williams Field      3:30     Away
March 28    Cibola                    3:30    Home
March 29    Tolleson                3:30    Home
March 30    San Luis                3:30    Away
April 4         Millennium         3:30    Away
April 5         La Joya                 3:30    Away
April 11       Westview            3:30    Home
April 13       Kofa                     3:30    Away

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Drake Dutra, Matthew Dinh and Tyler Getz will play for Maricopa High School in the state tennis tournament starting April 22. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Three Maricopa High School tennis players are heading off to compete in the state tournament next week.

Junior Matthew Dinh and seniors Drake Dutra and Tyler Getz will play in the Division III bracket on April 22 at the Paseo Racquet Center in Glendale.

Dinh was chosen as the Rams’ best singles player. He also played on the top doubles team for Maricopa, making it difficult to play both in the state bracket. Dutra and Getz will play instead as the MHS No. 2 doubles team.

Dutra is in his second year of tennis, but Dinh and Getz have played since they were freshmen. They are coached by Paula Pavlosky.