DON KETCHUM is a native of Phoenix. He was a sportswriter for The Arizona Republic/The Phoenix Gazette for more than three decades. He covered high school sports on several occasions as well as the Arizona Diamondbacks, Arizona Cardinals and Arizona State sports. From 2008-14, he was a staff writer for, the web site of the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Three Gators finish off year with AIA honors

Friday (May 17) was another great day for a couple of recent Xavier Prep graduates and one who will follow in their footsteps next year.

Seniors Shannon Shields and Renee Pierson and junior Abby Converse were honored by the Arizona Interscholastic Association at its annual Champions Luncheon at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, home of the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals.
Xavier Prep had three outstanding student-athletes honored at the recent Arizona Interscholastic Association's Champions Luncheon. They are, from left, Shannon Shields, Abby Converse and Renee Pierson. (Photo courtesy of Sr. Lynn Winsor).
Shields, who helped XCP win state championships in indoor and beach volleyball during the last school year, was recognized as a Scholar-Athlete Award Finalist. She will begin attending and playing indoor this fall at the University of Louisville.

Pierson, a member of the Gators’ highly regarded Spiritline, was a Scholar-Activity Award Finalist. She will be moving on to the University of Notre Dame.

Converse, who also played indoor and beach volleyball, was presented with the Student Leadership Award. She was Xavier’s representative on the AIA’s Student Leadership Committee, and has committed to attend and play for Virginia Commonwealth University in the fall of 2020.

Congratulations to these honorees. You have made Xavier proud!!

Friday, May 17, 2019

Two Xavier tennis players honored by

A pair of Xavier Prep tennis aces have been recognized by the media outlet on its top list of postseason players in 2019.

Senior Tristanne Dechoux is listed as an All-Arizona Player and one of eight Player of the Year candidates. Junior Erica Stutz was chosen as an Honorable Mention selection.

Both players were instrumental in Xavier claiming the Division I state title for the first time since 2015.

Players of the Year in all sports and the All-Arizona teams will be honored at the fourth annual azcentral Sports Awards Show on June 9 at Arizona State’s Grady Gammage Memorial Auditorium. The event will begin at 7 p.m.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Fun No. 1 goal at XCP summer sports camps

Xavier Prep’s athletic facilities will be plenty busy through most of June with the school’s annual summer camps.

Instruction and competition will be held in the following sports:

Tennis (tentative, June 3-7), volleyball (June 3-6 and June 17-20), badminton (June 10-14), softball (June 10-13), basketball (June 17-21) and beach volleyball (June 17-20). Tennis and beach volleyball are tentative at this point, and the number of registrants will determine if the camp will be held.

Age (grade) groups for the various sports: Badminton (6th through 9th), basketball (5th through 9th), softball (5th through 8th), tennis (5th through 9th), volleyball (separate sessions for 9th, 7th and 8th and 5th and 6th), and beach volleyball (6th through 9th). Times for the sessions vary, with most in the morning.

Camp features will include one-on-one instruction with coaches, new students, current and past player participation, emphasis on fundamentals taught and reviewed, skills put into action in team competition, and emphasis on learning and understanding offensive and defensive team strategy.

Camp fees are $125 per person and are non-refundable.  A medical release section is part of the registration form that is on the Xavier Web site, Deadline is May 20. And for more information, contact Susan Contreras via e-mail in the XCP athletic office at

Let the fun begin, and good luck to all !!

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Xavier softball came a long way this spring

After struggling in 2017 and 2018, Xavier Prep brought in Brad Downes to coach the softball team, which featured a talented group of underclassmen in 2019.

Together, they brought the Gators to contending status in the 6A Conference before dropping a 3-2 decision to Mesa Red Mountain in a loser’s bracket elimination game on Wednesday night (May 8) at the Rose Mofford Sports Complex in north Phoenix.

Xavier was a combined 12-32 in 2017 and 2018. The Gators were the 23rd seed in 2018, losing a “play-in’’ state tournament game to Tucson High. Then came a huge jump in 2019, going all the way to the No. 4 seed and finishing at 17-5.

“The girls worked really hard,’’ Downes said after the loss to Red Mountain, which also defeated XCP, 13-11, on March 1.

“We came in with a new coaching staff (including assistants Deryk Sexton and Maddie Johnson). We listened to what they (players) wanted to get out of the program and they listened to what we wanted. We created a brand-new landscape.’’

The season brought a few twists and turns, but not nearly as many as one might expect from such a young team. The Gators came out hitting and hitting and hitting, providing freshman pitcher Riley Flynn with a secure cushion most of the time.

Third-seeded Red Mountain (23-6) had stolen six bases in the earlier win over Xavier, so is seemed logical for one to surmise that the Mountain Lions would use the same tactic if given the chance in this one.

Red Mountain would waste no time in that endeavor.

Center fielder Michelle Anderson led off the bottom of the first inning with an infield hit to second base, using her speed to cross the first-base in plenty of time to beat the throw from Meghan Schouten after Schouten had backhanded the ball. It certainly helped that Anderson had a few extra steps as a left-handed hitter.

In the blink of an eye, Anderson took off, stealing second and later third. Another grounder to second, this one by Makayla Donahoo, allowed Anderson to score.

Red Mountain got its other two runs in the third. A groundout to shortstop by Donahoo accounted for one and a single by Kayden Bullock the other.

Xavier began a comeback in the top of the fourth. Freshman shortstop Bridget Donahey, who this season established herself as one of the state’s top young players, ripped a leadoff home run to left. A strong wind that was blowing in from center field earlier in the contest had subsided somewhat, giving Donahey’s shot a chance to cut through the air.

It was interesting, given that Donahey popped out to shortstop to end the previous inning. But on that play, it was ruled that a Xavier baserunner had left first base too early, allowing Donahey to return to the batter’s box in the fourth.

Donahey figured again in a Gator run in the sixth that cut the deficit to 3-2. She singled to left with one out, her third hit of the game, and eventually came around on a single just inside the left-field line by catcher Macy Lee.

Lee’s hit, combined with a walk to third baseman Jazmyn Andrade, led to both advancing to third and second, respectively. An aggressive Red Mountain attempt to apprehend Andrade at third on Lee’s hit was not successful as the potential tying and go-ahead runs were oh so close with only one out.

But Red Mountain freshman pitcher Taylor Trowbridge escaped, retiring outfielder Cameron Martin on a foul to third and getting Flynn on a fly to deep center. Trowbridge had a gutty effort in the circle after a hard shot by Andrade in the first skipped off the pitcher’s lower leg.

Trowbridge breezed through the top of the seventh with a foul pop to the catcher, a strikeout and a fly to right.

“It was a tight game and we had our opportunities, but we had too many pop-ups,’’ Downes said. “It was a credit to their pitcher. She was good.

“We were close. We are a good young team that had some success and we are expecting to build on it.’’

Red Mountain moves on to play No. 7 Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor on Friday night (May 10) in a semifinal game. A victory by Sandra Day O’Connor had sent Red Mountain to the loser’s bracket with a win on Tuesday night (May 7).

The other semifinal will match top-seeded, defending champion Phoenix Pinnacle against No. 12 Tucson, which defeated No. 6 Yuma Cibola in the other loser’s bracket elimination game on Wednesday night.

The state championship game will be played on Monday (May 13) at 7:45 p.m. at Arizona State’s Farrington Stadium.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Beach pairs event not so kind to Xavier players

The two Xavier Prep entries in the beach volleyball 6A Conference pairs state tournament did not find their attempts to be as profitable as they were in last week’s 6A team tournament.

Shannon Shields and Trinity Cavanaugh and Abby Converse and Serena Turner, who helped the Gators win the state championship against Gilbert Perry, were out in the first day of pairs competition on Tuesday (May 7) at Casteel High in Queen Creek.

In the first round, Shields and Cavanaugh, seeded fourth, won by default over Phoenix Sunnyslope’s  Jazmyn Wheeler and Maddie Shepston. Shortly therafter in the quarterfinal, Shields and Cavanaugh fell to fifth-seeded Taryn Ames and Brooke Blutreich of Phoenix Desert Vista, 2-0.

Converse and Turner stumbled out of the gate, dropping their first-round match 2-0 to Chandler Basha’s Haley Carrington and Sam Drewry.

Action continues Thursday (May 9) with semifinals and finals at Casteel.

Monday, May 6, 2019

XCP seniors to begin journey at U.S. Naval Academy

On Aug. 8, 1975, the U.S. Congress authorized women to be able to attend military service academies.

From that point, it was full steam ahead for candidates hoping to receive an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. In 1980, the USNA had 81 women graduates for the first time, and Elizabeth Anne Belzer was the first.

Flash forward to 2023, when the list of female graduates is expected to be between 300 and 400 out of a total of about 1,200. And two 2019 graduates from Xavier College Preparatory are planning to be a part of that group that will toss its hats into the air.

Alyssa Largay and Eve Worden received appointments from Arizona’s Congressional delegation that led to a presentation from a Naval officer at the recent XCP Awards Assembly.
Xavier seniors Alyssa Largay, left, and Eve Worden, right, flank U.S. Navy Lt. Commander Michael Lanin after receiving their appointments to the U.S. Naval Academy (Photo by Don Ketchum).
It is quite an accomplishment for one graduate to head to Annapolis, but to have two from the same school in the same year earn such an honor is all the more impressive.

“I have been doing this (interacting with appointees) for about four years now, and it is very rare to have two in one cycle (graduation),’’ said Lt. Commander Michael Lanin, looking sharp in his dress whites. “We know these young women have worked hard to get to this point, but there is a lot of work ahead.’’

Largay and Worden will be participating in intercollegiate athletics at the USNA, Largay as a diver and Worden as a golfer.

They will report to Annapolis, near Washington D.C. and Baltimore, Md., on the shore of Chesapeake Bay, on June 27. That’s when their lives will change forever, beginning with the annual Plebe (freshman) Summer, consisting of seven weeks of initiation and training.

The USNA Web site tells these newbies to be ready.

“By the time you throw your hat into the air at graduation, you are fully prepared to be a leader of competence, character, compassion and ready to take on the world.’’

In return for their commitment, the Midshipmen receive room and board, a modest monthly stipend, and medical and dental care. At graduation, they must begin five years of active duty in the U.S. Navy or U.S. Marine Corps.

“It is a big level of commitment for us. I have always wanted to be able to serve my country,’’ said Largay.

Said Worden: “I am extremely excited but there is a lot of nervousness. I think it is going to be a great journey.’’

Largay’s appointment came from the office of Arizona Congressman David Schweikert and Worden’s came from former Arizona Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema, before she became a U.S. Senator.

Largay’s patriotism stems in part from her time as an intern in the office of late Arizona Senator John McCain.

“He told me a lot about the U.S. Naval Academy (McCain was a graduate) and that always stuck in my mind as something I would like to try,’’ she said.

Worden has a family history of graduates from military academies. Her maternal grandfather graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y.

The girls had sisters who were athletes at Xavier and went on to prestigious collegiate institutions.

Kristen Largay (volleyball) went to American University in Washington, D.C., and Lily Worden (golf) went to Amherst College in Amherst, Mass.

Family support in general, particularly from parents, has been crucial through the process.

Alyssa Largay and Eve Worden said many of the things they learned at Xavier will be a part of the success they will achieve at the USNA.

“I learned a lot about time management, communication and good leadership skills,’’ Largay said.

“Being associated with clubs and organizations, just interacting with all of the students will be very helpful,’’ Worden said.

And don’t forget Xavier sports.

“It helps your resume all the way around,’’ Largay said.

“It is going to be pretty crazy, but it will be really exciting,’’ Worden said.

Soon, the young women’s music playlists will feature Anchors Aweigh.

U.S. Naval Academy facts and figures

Source: USNA Web site

What is needed for a candidate to be appointed . . .

1 – Confirm eligibility. 2 – Preliminary application. 3 – Apply for nomination. 4 – College entrance exams. 5 – Grade transcript. 6 – Medical exam. 7 – Fitness Assessment. 8 – Interview with Blue/Gold officer. 8 – Keep track of all deadlines.

Make sure to prepare for the tough weekday schedule . . .

5:30 a.m. – Arise for personal fitness workout (optional). 6:30 a.m. – Reveille (all hands out of bed). 6:30-7 a.m. – Special introduction period for Plebes (freshmen). 7:15 a.m. – Morning meal. 7:55-11:45 a.m. – Four class periods, 50 minutes each. 12:10 p.m. – Noon meal. 12:50-1:20 p.m. – Company training time. 1:20-3:30 p.m. – Fifth and sixth class periods. 3:45-6 p.m. – Varsity and intramural athletics. Personal activities, drills and parades twice weekly in the fall and spring. 6:30-7:15 p.m. – Evening meal. 8-11 p.m. – Study period. Midnight – Taps for all Midshipmen.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Gator track & field finishes 8th in D-I meet

Xavier Prep’s track and field team scored points in eight events on the way to an eighth-place finish in the 2019 Division I state meet on March 1 and Saturday (March 4) at Mesa Community College.

The Gators finished with 30 points, and perennial power Chandler High won again with 189.

Senior Jada Sims and junior Mia Olsen each scored points in two events.

Sims was second in the long jump (18-6 ¼) and fifth in the 100-meter hurdles (15.10).

Olsen was fifth in the 3,200-meter run (11:11.55) and sixth in the 1,600-meter run (5:13.88).

Other point-producers for XCP were junior Sophie Brohard in the 400-meter run (57.55), sophomore Jamie Stelnik in the 3,200 (11:22.29) and a pair of relay teams. Xavier was third in the 4x400 (3:56.76) and sixth in the 4x800 (9:51.72).

Congratulations to these athletes and their Gator teammates for a job well done this season !! Also to head coach Dave Van Sickle and his staff of assistants – Alex Bishop, Claire Dalman, Shaun Fitzgerald, Eden Higgins, Vito Perrone and Ryan Regula.