Month That Was

Month That Was: Newsworthy local developments of May 2021

As a new feature this year, is taking a look back at the top local developments monthly. With May 2021 now in the books, we recount the important events of the fifth month of the year.



Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza is greeted at home plate after hitting a two-run home run at Arkansas (Arizona Athletics photo)

In the bottom of the fifth with No. 11 Arizona trailing No 6 Arkansas 1-0 with a runner on and one out, senior center fielder Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza blasted a two-run home run May 29 on her birthday over the left-field wall to give her team the lead. Arizona used the momentum to secure a 4-1 victory at Fayetteville, Ark., to advance to the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City for the 24th time in program history. It’s the first time Arizona has won a road Super Regional since 2009, when the Wildcats won the final two games in a best-of-three series against Stanford. “For a long time, I took these moments for granted. I don’t think people understand how tough it is just to get there, so I’m enjoying this moment. Very much so,” Mike Candrea said after the victory, wearing an “OKC Bound” cap. Arizona reached he Super Regional after senior third baseman Malia Martinez gave Arizona the spark it needed in the fourth inning by hitting a two-run blast over the center-field wall ignited the Wildcats as the lineup went on to score 12 unanswered runs to secure a 12-6 victory over Ole Miss to advance to the Super Regionals for the 32nd time in program history.


Jay Johnson led Arizona to his first Pac-12 title as a coach (Arizona Athletics graphic)

No. 7 Arizona’s 6-5 win at Oregon State coupled with No. 6 Oregon’s 8-5 loss in 12 innings to No. 15 Stanford on May 23 meant the Wildcats have earned their fifth Pac-12 championship, the first since their College World Series title team of 2012. The championship is the first for Jay Johnson, who is in his sixth season with Arizona. The Wildcats were selected as the No. 5 national seed and were slated to host Grand Canyon in the Tucson Regional opener of the NCAA Tournament at Hi Corbett Field. The Wildcats finished the 2021 regular season with an overall record of 40-15 and a Pac-12 mark of 21-9. Arizona reached the 40-win mark in the regular season for the 13th time in program history with a walk-off victory over Dixie State, and concluded their second-winningest conference campaign the previous weekend with a 2-1 road series win over Oregon State. Arizona won the 2021 Pac-12 baseball championship outright, earning the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The selection sealed the Wildcats’ 40th NCAA Tournament appearance, and their third under Johnson. Arizona’s 40 postseason appearances are the sixth most in the nation.


Adia Barnes’ salary increase should help to keep the Arizona grad at her alma mater for years to come (Arizona Athletics photo)

Arizona and Adia Barnes agreed on May 4 to a new financial terms to her previously announced contract extension through the 2025-26 season, pending approval from the Arizona Board of Regents. The new terms of the five-year contract include $5.85 million in base salary compensation over the course of the agreement, and no changes were made to the incentive structure of the contract. The $5.85 million is an increase from the $3.345 million in the previous contract terms for Barnes, who coached the Wildcats to their first national championship game on April 4 against Stanford.


Amy Rocha congratulates Alyssa Aguilar after Aguilar hit the game-winning home run in the state title game (Andy Morales/

Salpointe became the seventh softball team in the state to win a championship unbeaten after the Lancers held on to defeat Vista Grande 5-4 May 17 at Hillenbrand Stadium on the Arizona campus. The victory gave the Lancers their fifth state championship as the program finished 24-0. Head coach Amy Rocha guided the program to three straight championships with a 2020 out of the equation due to COVID restrictions. Alyssa Aguilar was the winning pitcher and she it the game-winning home run.

Sabino, the 3A state champs in softball (Andy Morales/

Just three days following Sabino’s momentous 15-inning victory over Empire in the 3A state semifinals, Riley Nielson led the Sabercats to a 4-1 victory over Payson in the championship game at Hillenbrand Stadium on May 17. The victory for No. 1-seeded Sabino (20-1) over No. 3 Payson (20-4) marks the fourth state championship in the history of the program, and the second consecutive title (last season was cancelled due to COVID-19) for the Sabercats. Nielson, a Class of 2022 standout who controlled the game from the circle and struck out 10 batters, got some help on offense in crucial moments from juniors Yesenia Romero and Ashley Stewart to shut the door on a Payson team that could never really sustain any momentum.

Sabino celebrates its 3A state title in baseball (NFHS screen shot)

Sabino earned is second consecutive state championship under coach Shane Folsom and the Sabercats won their third title overall with a 12-8 win over Buckeye Odyssey Institute on May 17 at Tempe Diablo Stadium. The Sabercats (16-5) withstood a late rally by Odyssey Institute, which scored eight runs in the sixth and seventh innings after trailing 12-0 and facing a run-rule loss in the bottom of the sixth. “We’re very resilient, and yeah, I got a little nervous there, but we built a nice lead,” Folsom said. “Give Odyssey Institute credit. They battled. I’m just proud of our kids. We had a game plan and we executed it.” Senior right-hander Tyler Welsh earned the victory pitching six innings and allowing eight hits with two strikeouts and four walks. He also was one of three Sabercat batters who had multiple hits, going 2 for 5. The others with more than one hit were Nathan Ortiz (3-for-4 with a run and RBI) and Jake Wiltshire at the leadoff spot (2 for 4 with a run and two RBIs).

Catalina Foothills’ Emily Flowers won her second straight state singles title (Andy Morales/

Catalina Foothills’ dominance in tennis continued in May. The No. 3 Catalina Foothills girls defeated No. 6 Canyon View (5-0) to win the 16th championship in program history and the No. 7 Catalina Foothills boys defeated No. 5 Paradise Valley 5-0 to win the 15th title in program history on May 8. Emily Flowers won her second state singles championship on May 3 and Jared Perry won his first singles title on the same day and Annabelle Mulick and Abbigail Mulick took second in doubles competition. Daniel Root replaced longtime girls coach Kristie Stevens and he brought home a championship in his first year with the program. Jeffry Bloomberg coached his fifth straight title with the boys dating back to 2016. There were no playoffs last year.

Salpointe celebrates its first state beach volleyball championship (Brittany Bowyer/

Top-ranked Salpointe captured its first beach volleyball state title on May 13 when the Lancers defeated the No. 6 Valley Christian Trojans 4-1 at Casteel High School in Queen Creek. “I’m just blessed. Look what happens when we have a full year, we get to show what we have,” said sophomore Rylen Bourguet, who was part of state championship teams in volleyball, girls soccer and beach volleyball in the 2020-21 school year.


Sabino’s Eva Bruce earned the honor of “Arizona’s Greatest Athlete” with her four state titles (Andy Morales/

Only a junior, Sabino track and field standout Eva Bruce brought home four individual state championships at the AIA Division III State Meet held May 14-15 at Phoenix Desert Vista High School. Her championships in the 100, 200, 300 Hurdles and Long Jump helped lead the Sabercats to a runner-up finish in team competition. Her times and marks are tops in Southern Arizona regardless of level in the 100 Hurdles and 300 Hurdles and second in the 100, 200, 400 and Long Jump. She solidified her position as the best in Southern Arizona, and the state, by winning the Heptathlon Championship held at Mesa Red Mountain High School. Bruce outdistanced Beatriz Razon of Centennial 4569 to 4513 and Catherine Littlewood of Queen Creek took third with 4390 points. Bruce earned the “Arizona’s Greatest Athlete” honor after her victory. The seven events include the 100 Hurdles (8), High Jump (5), Shot Put (2), 200 (2), Long Jump (2), Javelin (5) and 800 (1).


Bob Baffert established himself as the top trainer in Kentucky Derby history (Getty Images)

Arizona graduate and Nogales native Bob Baffert has trained 17 horses that have finished in the money in the Triple Crown races — nine that have placed first. Baffert’s Medina Spirit won the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 1, almost eight months after Authentic placed first for Baffert in the Derby. Baffert now has seven Derby wins, becoming the winningest trainer in the history of the race. Baffert’s Kentucky Derby winners: Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998), War Emblem (2002), American Pharoah (2015), Justify (2018), Authentic (2020) and Medina Spirit (2021). Medina Spirit’s victory in the Kentucky Derby is in serious jeopardy because of a failed postrace drug test, one that led Churchill Downs to suspend Baffert, who denied all wrongdoing and promised to be fully transparent with the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission during its investigation.


— After not having a player selected last year in the NFL Draft, Arizona had two go back-to-back May 1 with defensive end Roy Lopez and running back Gary Brightwell going in the sixth round with picks 195 and 196. Lopez was selected by the Houston Texans and Brightwell by the New York Giants.

— The FC Tucson 19U and 17U girls soccer teams and the RSL-AZ Southern Arizona 13U and 15U girls soccer teams all won a state title on May 2. The FC Tucson 02/03 19U Girls Black team defeated CCV Stars 02/03 with a final score of 3-1. The team is coached by David Cosgrove and the manager is Meg Riley. Cosgrove is also the Pima Community College men’s soccer coach. The FC Tucson 04 17U Girls Black team won its title game 1-0 over the Utah Royals AZ 04 DPL. The coach is Roberto Garcia and the manager is Adrienne Walker-Heller. The RSL-AZ Southern Arizona 06 Girls 15U DesRosier team defeated the FC Tucson SC 06 Girls Black team 3-0 in the championship. The RSL-AZ Southern Arizona 08 Girls 13U DesRosier team topped Arizona AZSC 08G Johnson 2-1 in its title match. Paul DesRosier is the coach and Lisa DesRosier is the manager for both teams.

Arizona pitcher Chase Silseth (Arizona Athletics photo)

Chase Silseth, who has served as the Wildcats Friday night starting pitcher all season, posted one of his best outings of the year against the Utah Utes that earned him Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week honors May 3. In the series opener, he worked seven scoreless innings while allowing just two hits and striking out eight. Silseth carried a no-hit bid into the fifth inning and helped power Arizona to an 11-1 victory that kicked off the eventual series sweep.

— Arizona forward Jordan Brown entered the transfer portal on May 3 and announced his decision to transfer to Louisiana-Lafayette on May 28.

— Former Canyon del Oro standout Kiko Romero was named to the All-ACCAC/Region I Baseball First Team on May 4 playing for Central Arizona as an infielder.

— Former Desert Christian standout Taylor Radtke was named to the Golden State Athletic Conference (GSAC) Softball All-Conference Team on May 4. The Vanguard senior catcher led the Lions in batting average (.406) and RBI (24) while recording a .491 on-base percentage and a .531 slugging percentage.

— It was announced May 5 that Aari McDonald’s No. 2 Arizona jersey is in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in its Underdogs Display, noting those who have experienced an achievement against great odds. McDonald led the Wildcats to their first national championship appearance April 4 against Stanford after upsetting top seed UConn in the Final Four. The Hall of Fame also noted in a tweet McDonald’s remarkable feat of scoring in double-digits in 93 consecutive games, which spanned her Arizona career of three years after transferring from Washington.

— Former Ironwood Ridge lineman Tristan Shehorn was named to the NAIA Coaches’ All-America Team as an Honorable Mention selection on May 5. Shehorn was a senior with Ottawa in Surprise.

— Pima sophomores Sierra Mich’l and Fama Thiam were selected NJCAA Division II All-Americans on May 5. They became the 16th and 17th women’s basketball players to be named All-Americans in program history. Mich’l, a forward bound for NAU, was named first-team NJCAA All-American. She started in all 10 games of the season, averaging 13.3 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.9 blocks. She shot 38.1 percent from the field and 80.3 percent from the free throw line. Thiam, a guard who has signed with New Mexico State, was selected second team NJCAA All-American. She played and started all 10 games this season averaging 13.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.4 steals per game.

— A banner season for Arizona men’s golf that included its sweep of the team and individual titles at the Pac-12 Championships gave the program the lion’s share of the conference awards May 6. Brad Reeves was named Pac-12 Player of the Year, and head coach Jim Anderson was Coach of the Year to highlight a bevy of all-conference awards earned by Wildcats.

Audrey Jimenez (Sunnyside wrestling photo)

— Sunnyside freshman Audrey Jimenez, who won the first girls state high school wrestling title in Tucson history in March, succeeded at a grander scale May 8 earning the 2021 United World Wrestling (UWW) U.S. cadet women’s freestyle national championship at 49 kilograms (108 pounds) at Irving, Texas. Jimenez beat Faith Cole of St. Louis in a best-of-three series by winning the first two matches with scores of 5-0 and 6-0. She also earned the Outstanding Wrestler award for the entire cadet women’s freestyle competition. None of the wrestlers scored a point against her in the competition. In the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds, she won by technical fall scores of 10-0.

— Sabino senior thrower Jade Kwinn set a personal record in the javelin throw held May 8 at Seton Catholic in Chandler to win her first Division III state championship. Her throw of 151-06 set a personal and state record at the same time. “I felt like I was going to PR when I got here,” Kwinn said. “I stayed calm for the most part and treated it like any other meet.” Kwinn came to the sport a couple of years ago, about the time the AIA sanctioned the javelin throw for state competition. “I was doing the hep (heptathlon) and I went to my throwing coach and I discovered how much I really liked it,” Kwinn added. “It felt natural and I realized I was good at it and I had the drive to get better and here I am, a state champion.”

— Cienega sophomore Ais Martinez-Pompa won the Division II state title with a javelin throw of 130-6 on May 8.

— After seeing its roster dwindling to eight scholarship players with the transfers of Ira LeeJemarl Baker Jr., James AkinjoTerrell Brown Jr., and Jordan Brown, Arizona was in desperate need of players to fill out its roster to add depth. On May 9, the Wildcats landed 6-foot-5, 216-pound Utah transfer Pelle Larsson of Sweden. He is Arizona’s ninth scholarship player. Larsson picked Arizona over Kansas, Stanford, and Creighton, among others. Last season as a freshman at Utah, Larsson averaged 8.2 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 2.8 assists while shooting an impressive 46 percent from beyond the arc.

— Former Buena pitcher Brianna Hardy (Phoenix College) earned an ACCAC First Team selection, and she was named ACCAC Pitcher of the Year and All-Region on May 10.

— Three Arizona softball players were drafted by Athletes Unlimited on May 10 — catcher Dejah Mulipola (fourth pick), followed by shortstop Jessie Harper (sixth pick) and Alyssa Denham (11th pick) out of a total of 12 slots available. With Mulipola, Harper, and Denham joining the league, there are now six former Wildcats in Athletes Unlimited after Danielle O’TooleKatiyana Mauga, and Mandie Perez were a part of the inaugural 2020 season.

— Tucson High School graduate (Class of 2017) Julian Barcelo, a standout lineman with the Badgers who went on to play at Mesa Community College and Snow (Utah) College, passed away May 10. A Go Fund Me page was set up by Liam Cueva, a friend of the family, to help Julian’s parents with funeral costs and other expenses. Cueva writes that Barcelo passed away in his sleep at 1 a.m. the morning of May 10.

— On May 11, Arizona and head coach Tommy Lloyd landed guard Adama Bal for the 2021 recruiting class. Bal is the second player in the class, along with guard Shane Nowell who signed during the Sean Miller era but has kept his commitment to this point in time. Bal is a 6-foot-6, 180-pound combo guard from Paris playing for INSEP Paris, an institute with a strong focus on sports.

— Arizona added transfer Vanderbilt linebacker Kenny Hebert on on May 12 giving defensive coordinator Don Brown, aka “Doctor Blitz,” much needed depth at the linebacker position as he tries to revamp the defense.

— Former Empire standout John Michael Gonzalez Jr. (Rainy River) was named Minnesota College Athletic Conference (MCAC) North Division Player of the Year on May 12. Gonzalez hit .468 on the season in his 128 at-bats and scored 38 runs while crushing 10 homers, 12 doubles and two triples. The freshman outfielder drove in 63 runs and stole eight bases. He led the conference in hits, home runs, RBI, and total bases and he did not commit an error defensively. Former Tucson High standout Mateo Sierras (also of Rainy River) was named to the MCAC All-North Division Team and former Catalina standout Jonathan Lerma (Central Lakes) was named to the MCAC All-Central Division Team.

— Former Sabino and Wisconsin standout Kelsey Jenkins Harshman was named to Team Canada on May 12. The softball team returns to the Olympics for the first time since Beijing in 2008. “It’s an amazing feeling to know these last couple years of hard work and dedication are finally paying off,” Harshman said. “There have been so many amazing people that have helped this happen and each and every one of them I am so grateful for!”

(UNLV graphic)

— The Mountain West Conference named former Arizona softball standout Kristie Fox Coach of the Year on May 12. She earned this honor for the first time in her career and she became the first UNLV coach to receive the award since 2007. Fox, in her fourth year, led the Rebels to a fourth consecutive winning season, finishing with a 25-15 mark overall and a 17-7 record in conference play. The 17 league wins matched a program record for the most in conference play since UNLV joined the Mountain West in 2000. 

— Former Canyon del Oro catcher Bailey Thompson of Seattle University earned All-WAC First Team honors on May 12. She also led her team to the Seattle Regional of the NCAA softball playoffs. 

— Five Pima soccer standouts earned All-ACCAC and All-Region honors on May 12. Valentina Franco (Tucson) was named first team All-ACCAC and first team All-Region I, Division II, Alyssa Kopach (Ironwood Ridge) was named second team All-ACCAC and second team All-Region I, Division II, Emma Franzone (Sahuarita) was named All-ACCAC Honorable Mention and second team All-Region I, Division II, Litycia Espinoza (Sahuarita) was named All-ACCAC Honorable Mention and second team All-Region I, Division II and Saydee Guzman (Cienega) was named All-ACCAC Honorable Mention and second team All-Region I, Division II.

— Pima sophomore midfielder Seungeon Kim was named ACCAC Player of the Year, first team All-ACCAC and first team All-Region I, Division II on May 13. Pima men’s soccer coach Dave Cosgrove was also named ACCAC Coach of the Year for the seventh time in his career with the Aztecs. Kim scored nine goals and had four assists with 22 points as he played and started in all nine games during the regular season. Cosgrove led Pima to an 8-1 record and their fourth straight ACCAC Conference Championship. Sophomore defender Sam Lossou (Rincon/University) was named first team All-ACCAC and first team All-Region I, Division II. He played and started in all nine games and scored one goal.

Pima celebrates its regional title (Pima photo)

— Salpointe sophomore Kylie Wild won the 3,200 (11:02.61) at the Division III state championships held at Phoenix Desert Vista on May 14. Wild won the state cross country title in the fall and Salpointe swept both cross country team championships.

— Taylor McCue of Catalina Foothills won the Division II state title in the 1600 (5:01.16) on May 13.

Sam Halaufia of Mountain View won the Division II state championship in the discus (160-2) on May 13.

— Class of 2022 pitcher Riley Nielson struck out a career-high 26, allowing only three hits in a complete-game performance in which she also hit the game-winning RBI double in the bottom of the 15th inning to propel Sabino to a 1-0 victory against Empire in an epic 3A state semifinals game on May 15 at Amphitheater High School. Empire’s Vanessa Candito, and Vanessa Brink struck out a combined 23 in the pitcher’s duel marathon.

— The Pima men’s soccer team earned a spot in the NJCAA Division II National Tournament as the No. 1 seed by winning its fifth region title in seven years with a 2-0 win over No. 2 Phoenix College on May 16 at Pima. The Aztecs are the NJCAA Region I, Division II and NJCAA West District championships. They avenged their 1-0 loss to the Bears from April 24. It was also the fifth shutout victory for the Aztecs (10-1) this season. Former Sunnyside soccer standout Manuel Quiroz was named the Most Valuable Player of the NJCAA Region I, Division II and NJCAA West District championship after No. 1 Pima shut out No. 2 Phoenix College 2-0.

— St. David’s baseball team captured the 1A state baseball championship on May 16 with a 9-8 win over Ray at Tempe Diablo Stadium. The Tigers have now won 18 state championships in baseball.

— Benson shocked defending champion Scottsdale Christian 6-3 in the 2A state baseball championship game on May 16 at Tempe Diablo Stadium.

— Freshman Johnnie Blockburger of Tucson won the Pac-12 men’s 400m race after crossing the finish line in 45.57. His PR time of 44.71 remains the Arizona school record as well as an Olympic Trials qualifying time. Blockburger was named Pac-12 Track and Field Freshman of the Year on May 24. Blockburger also anchored Arizona’s second-place 4×400-meter relay at the Pac-12 Championships, which crossed in 3:08.75. Jordan Geist and Samantha Noennig pulled off the Wildcat sweep in the men’s and women’s shot put at the Pac-12 meet. Geist claimed his third consecutive conference shot put title with a mark of 20.35m (66-9.25), adding to his 2019 and 2018 accolades. Noennig threw for 17.32m (56-10) to win her second Pac-12 title, but her first for Arizona. Justice Summerset claimed his own conference title in the men’s high jump on Friday, getting over the bar at 2.20m (7-2.5). “I’m super excited for the individual champions,” said head coach Fred Harvey. “To win a title at this level–that’s a big time achievement. For you to be a champion in one of the best, if not the best overall conference in the country, says a lot about you. These are all individuals who should be in the finals at the NCAA Championships and potentially have a shot at a national title.”

Greg McKinstry, whose football coaching background includes being an assistant at Sioux Falls (S.D.) O’Gorman High School since 2016, was hired as Catalina High School’s new football coach in May. Former Douglas coach James Fitzgerald is returning to Southern Arizona as coach at Eloy Santa Cruz, taking over the 2A state championship program left by Rishard Davis. Fitzgerald was hired May 20. Catalina and Santa Cruz will be part of the newly aligned 2A Rillito region that includes Tanque Verde, Santa Rita and Sequoia Pathway.

— The Tucson Sugar Skulls returned to action May 21 after last season was canceled because of COVID-19. The Sugar Skulls had a chance to take the lead late in the game at the Green Bay Blizzard but turned the ball over on downs with 16 seconds left at the Green Bay 23-yard line in a 42-36 loss in their season opener. The game was the first of the Dixie Wooten era for the Sugar Skulls, who notched their first win (55-35 score) with him as coach the following week, on May 29 at the Duke City Gladiators in Albuquerque. Demry Croft accounted for six touchdowns through the air and on the ground, Mike Jones‘ rushing and receiving attack was virtually unstoppable, the defense recorded three interceptions, and the miscues and penalties that plagued Tucson and ultimately doomed the Sugar Skulls in their season-opening loss against Green Bay on the road last Friday seemed to be just what they were: a thing of the past.

— Former Canyon del Oro standout Derrick Calvillo was named to the North Star Athletic Association (NSAA) Baseball All-Conference First Team as a catcher. Calvillo finished the year batting .367 with six home runs and 24 RBIs on 40 hits for Dickinson State.

— Former Cienega standout Blaise Biringer was named to the SEC All-Freshman Team playing for Ole Miss. Biringer batted .327 and started 50 of 53 games during the regular season. The second baseman was also tied for the second-most hits on the team, with 20, in SEC action. Biringer made her first return to Tucson as a player with Ole Miss when the Rebels played at Hillenbrand Stadium in the Tucson Regional. Biringer was one of the Rebels’ top performers in their four games in Tucson.

— For the second season in a row, Clancy Shields was named Pac-12 Coach of the Year on May 20 after a record breaking season. In his fifth season as head coach, Shields became the only coach in program history to be a two-time Pac-12 Coach of the Year. Shields is also the first coach since Billy Martin of UCLA to win Coach of the Year two seasons in a row (2013 & 2014). Leading the Wildcats to the Round of 16 in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history with a 21-8 record, Shields continues to take his team to higher levels of competition. Freshman star Gustaf Strom was named the 2021 Freshman/Newcomer of the Year for the Pac-12, as well as being named First Team All-Pac-12. Strom is the first Wildcat ever to win the Freshman/Newcomer of the Year in program history and is the first since Roger Matalonga in 2006 to be named to the All-Conference First Team. Strom is also set to compete in the NCAA Singles Championship starting on Sunday. Strom put up a team-high 18 singles wins throughout the season along with five ranked victories.

Stacy Iveson (Arizona)

— Former Pima and Yavapai coach Stacy Iveson was inducted into the NJCAA Softball Coaches Association Hall of Fame on May 22. A multi-sport athlete at Catalina, Iveson went on to play softball at Arizona before coaching Salpointe to a state championship. She then coached to the college level. “I will always cherish my years coaching junior college at both Pima College and Yavapai Roughriders,” Iveson wrote in a social media post. “I am so blessed to have been able to work with so many gifted athletes and amazing people!” With Pima from 2002-07, she helped the Aztecs to their first and second NJCAA championship titles in 2004 and 2006, earning NJCAA National Coach of the Year both times. Iveson led Yavapai to two national championship victories in 2009 and 2011 during four seasons at the helm, earning NJCAA National Coach of the Year honors twice more and taking the team to the tournament every year. Currently, Iveson is the Softball Director of Recruiting Operations at Arizona, where she re-joined the staff in 2011.

— Former Tucson High standout Carlie Scupin of Arizona was named to the Pac-12 All-Freshman Team on May 22.

Jay Johnson notched his 200th victory at Arizona in his sixth season with a 12-4 win at Oregon State on May 22. Johnson improved his record to 200-109 at Arizona and 272-151 overall in his Division I coaching career that includes three seasons at Nevada. The victory also gaveThis marks just the third time in program history that Arizona has won at least 20 games in conference play.

— Arizona soccer suffered a massive blow May 24 with the loss of head coach Tony Amato who is leaving the program to become the next Florida Gators head coach. Amato leaving brings an end to an eight-year tenure that was the most successful stretch in program history. During his time at Arizona, Amato is the all-time winningest coach in program history with a record of (88-53-17) and made five NCAA tournament appearances in his eight seasons. The pinnacle of his tenure came in 2015 when the Wildcats made it to the program’s second Sweet Sixteen, where they would eventually lose to Stanford to end that season.

— Former Sahuaro standout Lauren Wedman (Colorado Mesa) was named to the NCAA Division II First Team by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) on May 24 . Wedman hit .514 to set a new school-record. She also drove in 67 runs, second most in the country. Wedman, who started all 44 of the Mavs’ games in right field, also scored 65 runs to stand second in the country for runs scored per game (1.48) behind only teammate Brooke Doumer, who scored 67 runs. Wedman also banged out 75 hits, third most in Division II, and led the RMAC with her .570 on-base percentage, the tenth best mark in the country this season and the second best in CMU history. She is also tied for third in the country with seven triples and ranks ninth nationally in total bases (125), helping fuel her .856 slugging percentage, the tenth best in program history.

— For the third consecutive NCAA Championship, Arizona Women’s Golf’s season ended as one of the last four teams standing in the semifinals of match play on May 25. The Wildcats dropped their second match of the day to Ole Miss, 3 to 2, after a thrilling quarterfinal win in extra holes over top-seeded Stanford in the morning. “I am incredibly proud of these young women,” said head coach Laura Ianello. “I felt like once we made it to championships, we had a lot of the pressure lifted off of us. I knew with how we finished stroke play that we were going to be ready for match play and we were. To beat No. 1 seed Stanford with a great round of golf is really all you can ask of this team. The ladies competed and overcame everything in a COVID-19 season to be one of the last four teams standing.”

— New Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd continued to add to his Arizona basketball roster with transfer May 26 of Justin Kier, a 6-foot-4 guard and transfer from Georgia. Before playing for Georgia, he played at George Mason. Kier averaged 9.5 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.4 assists last season for Georgia. He started in 25 games.

Sam Thomas continued to bring in the academic awards as she was named a First Team CoSIDA Academic All-American on May 28. She is Arizona’s first Academic All-American since 1986 and joins Aliyah Boston, Kailey CoffeyVivian Gray, and Lexie Hull on the first team. Thomas has been a superstar in the classroom in her four years at Arizona. Just this year, she became Arizona’s first Pac-12 Scholar-Athlete of the Year and also won the Elite90 Award, which goes to the student-athlete with the highest cumulative GPA participating in the Final Four. The incoming fifth-year is a two-time Pac-12 Winter Academic Honor Roll selection and was also on the 2019 Pac-12 All-Academic First Team. Along with this year, Thomas was on the 2019 CoSIDA Academic All-District First Team. On the court, Thomas was a pivotal piece to Arizona’s first Final Four team this past year. She was named All-Pac-12 and made her second-straight appearance on the Pac-12 All-Defense team. She enters next season as the Pac-12’s active leader in both steals and blocks.

— The Arizona men’s 4×400 relay team of Umajesty Williams, Calvin Wilson, Isaac Davis and Blockburger qualified with a fourth place overall finish in the 2021 NCAA West Prelims at College Station, Texas, on May 29. The team clocked a time of 3:04.10, which not only guaranteed them a spot in Eugene, Ore., for the nationals, but also broke the Arizona all-time school record. The record previously belonged to the 2015 team of Blake Eichler, Pete Lauderdale II, Bryce Houston and Miles Parish with a time of 3:04.51. Blockburger and Williams are both headed to Hayward Field to compete in both the 4×400 relay as well as the open 400m. Blockburger finished 10th overall with a time of 45.72 and Williams followed in 12th, clocking a PR 45.76. Williams’ time moves him up to fifth on Arizona’s career list while Blockburger remains the school record holder with his historic time of 44.71.

Dennis Bene talks to his team during preparation for the Southern Arizona High School Football Showcase (Andy Morales/

— The first day of practice for the Southern Arizona High School Football Showcase at Tucson High School on May 31 “felt like things were normal again,” according to former Salpointe tight end Fernando Torres. Normal, in terms of playing football again with less restrictions because of COVID-19 and having the chance to be around other local seniors hungry for one last game at the high school level. The pandemic robbed many of them a chance to play a full season last fall, with some not playing more than two or three games following those Phase I and II protocol restrictions. Nothing was normal about the array talent on the field — players and coaches — preparing for the game, which will kick off at 7 p.m. on Friday at Tucson High. Spectators will be allowed in to a limit of 2,200 with free tickets available at the gate.

Mike Hayhurst, who coached high school football for 52 years in his state, with stops in Benson, Marana, Casa Grande, Buena and Tombstone, passed away at age 79 from cancer on May 31. Hayhurst, a native Tucsonan, coached Buena coach Joe Thomas when Thomas was a football and track and field standout at Tombstone from 1998 to 2002. “I am a product of Coach Hayhurst, as are countless other former players that he influenced in his coaching career,” said Thomas to the San Pedro Valley News-Sun. “He was far more than a coach. He was a mentor, teacher, father-figure and leader. “When I came in as a freshman in 1998, it was also Mike’s first year coaching for THS. During his years there, he became the face of Tombstone’s football program. He was not only a highly respected coach, but instilled life skills in his players. He wanted all of us to be good people, and demonstrated that through his coaching style. I owe my coaching career to Mike Hayhurst.”


— CDO infielder Isaiah Pintor to Pima College on May 2.

— Salpointe guard Mireya Hernandez to Pima College on May 3.

— Flowing Wells WR/DB Jonathan Borquez to Ottawa on May 13.

— Sunnyside forward Vitoria Perez to Scottsdale Community College on May 22.

— Santa Cruz RB/LB Hunter Ogle to Simpson College on May 27.



Click on the photos to access the top local developments in January 2021


Click on the photos to access the top local developments in February 2021

MARCH 2021

Click on the photos to access the top local developments in March 2021

APRIL 2021

Click on the photos to access the top local developments of April 2021

FOLLOW @JAVIERJMORALES ON TWITTER! publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports,, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
To Top