Tuesday, May 11, 2021

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Corona Classic brings healing through sportsmanship

Athletic teams from rival schools – Colusa and Pierce – went head to head many times, yet Saturday was a different match up — 

Women who had been on the volleyball teams got together for a fundraiser that will go towards a scholarship for a graduate from each school.

The memorial volleyball game was held at Pierce High School to honor alumni Officer Natalie Corona, slain in Davis on Jan. 10 of this year while she was on duty with the Davis Police Department. Corona was well known as an athlete. According to her mother, Natalie was particularly passionate about basketball and volleyball, playing for her high school and for Dynamix Volleyball Club. Both of Corona’s parents encouraged a balance of sports, academics, and employment for all of their daughters. 

“We wanted them to be humble, balanced, and have a level head on their shoulders,” said Lupe Corona.

The gym was full with the friends and family of the players from both schools. Corona’s extended family, many wearing T-shirts showing their support for police officers, sat in front. Among them, Corona’s uncle, Abel Gomez, who said that each member of their large family has their own grieving process but that they all have gratitude for what the community is doing.

The evening opened with a “Just For Fun” match, which was won by the women from Colusa High School. Kelli Garcia, class of 1996, said that she played all four years when she was a student at Colusa and loved it. 

“It felt good because we know what we were out here for,” Garcia said. “It was great to get out to play, seeing everyone laugh. The event was totally her, lots of smiles.”

Garcia, who coached for 16 years at Pierce, knew Corona personally.

“It’s for a purpose close to my heart,” she said.

Playing for Pierce in the “Just for Fun,” Candace Delepierre said that she chose to participate in the event to show her support to the Corona family. 

“Our town was jumbled up by this tragedy and I believe everything that has served as a memorial for her has not only made people closer but helped the healing process,” Delepierre said. 

During intermission, small children ran around the court, relieving excess energy. The Sauced food truck and Rise & Grind coffee staff were on their best game to serve refreshments to the throng. 

Serena Denny Carlsen served a favorite drink that Officer Corona would frequently order which was a Redbull blended drink with blue raspberry, coconut, and passion fruit. Susie McCullough said that she didn’t want to run out of food and that it was a little nerve wracking to plan for enough. McCullough said that they prepared around 100 burgers and hot dogs, along with bacon wrapped dogs and onion rings.

Before resuming the second game, Merced Corona took a moment to express his gratitude to the community.

“Lupe and I, our family, all appreciate everything you’ve done,” he said. “It means a lot to us to come together like this to honor Natalie.”

Next came the competitive match. Alumni who had just graduated were ready to get right back into the game. Both teams played fiercely. The ball occasionally went rogue, touching the gym’s high ceiling a number of times. Unafraid, many players fell hard to the floor to dig under the ball to keep it in play. The first two games went to Colusa; Pierce took the next two, then at the tiebreaker, Pierce was the victor.

Coaching for Pierce’s teams, Kim Travis said that it is human nature to want to win but no one wanted to dominate but play for fun. 

“On both sides, they’re great athletes,” she said. “We’ve had some great volleyball players come through here the past 10 years since we’ve been here.”

Colusa coach Tina Lyons said, “It was fitting though that Pierce won tonight. Not that I ever want to loose because that’s not my personality, but I’m not broken-hearted over it.” 

Lyons had originated the idea of the tournament, and reached out to her Travis to coordinate the event. 

“When you loose a teammate it’s tough, no matter what, and this was a good opportunity for us to bring everybody together,” said Lyons. ■

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