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.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Xavier lacrosse enjoys playing at home

It must have seemed like a lifetime to coach Rachel D’Angelo and her Xavier Prep club lacrosse team before the Gators played their first home game of the season at Petznick Field.

After six road games, the time finally arrived on Thursday night (March 15) against Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep and it proved to be worth the wait.

Xavier built a four-goal lead by halftime and withstood a second-half rally by Notre Dame for a 9-7 victory. Xavier (3-4) had lost to the Saints 13-7 on March 12 at Notre Dame.

“We had our share of away games, so it was good to be home,’’ D’Angelo said.

Asked about the difference between the win and the contest earlier in the week, she said, “We played more as a team and had a ton more patience on offense.

“We have improved a lot since our first game of the season. We played well tonight and it shows that our basic skills have improved a lot.’’

Senior Caylie Wagner led the Gators with a hat trick, while sophomore Nina Mackey and junior Sarah Minton had two goals apiece. The other two goals were scored by junior Emma Tawney and sophomore Tara Kobierowski.

Sophomore Tanya Barakat had a decent game in goal and junior Grace Martinez showed a great deal of aggressiveness throughout at both ends of the field.

It was Wagner’s final goal of the night, with 3:17 left in the game, that turned a precarious one-goal advantage into the more comfortable two-goal margin that proved to be the difference in the final score.

Wagner took the ball to the right of the goal and as a defender rushed her, spun away and was in the clear for what nearly was a point-blank shot. It looked almost like some sort of basketball move. The opponent appeared stunned.

D’Angelo smiled at the thought of the last goal.

“She has tried a lot of those. She likes them and probably will try it again,’’ the coach said.

Next up for the Gators is perhaps their biggest challenge yet. They are at home again on Monday night (March 19) against league-leading Scottsdale Chaparral. The Firebirds (5-0) have given up just 17 goals in their five games.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Equestrian journey a success for XCP freshman

Xavier Prep freshman Ava Todd is doing whatever she can to become a consummate equestrian rider, and the results speak volumes.

She has been riding competitively for nearly a year after two previous years of introduction to the sport, primarily through lessons, and recently was awarded with a letter (similar to letters in other sports) for those accomplishments.

The letter was bestowed by the U.S. Hunter Jumper Association, which is affiliated with the U.S. Equestrian Federation. Since many high schools/middle schools do not have official equestrian clubs/groups, these letters/awards can help fill the void for the participants.

The evaluation comes in the “Hunters and Equitation’’ category. In the “hunters’’ part of the equation, judges evaluate the horses, including how the animal reacts to what the rider is asking it to do. The equitation portion is the evaluation of the rider and how easy they make the action look and getting the horse to do what they want it to do.

To be eligible for a letter, riders must have 100 hours of approved saddle time and participated in at least three competitive events.

Todd rides four days a week, on Saturdays and Sundays and on two weekdays after school.
XCP freshman Ava Todd with her newly minted equestrian letter (photo courtesy of Kathleen Gannon).
“You learn something new every time,’’ she said.

It’s been a life of learning new things for Todd. The Phoenix area is her family’s sixth different home as the result of her father’s employment, and No. 7 will follow later this year when they move to St. Louis.

Todd admits that it can be difficult to develop friendships in such a short time and adjust to different school curriculums, but she continues to proceed with a positive outlook. She also has lived in Canada and Kentucky.

She has gained a few friends who ride out of the same facility in Scottsdale, and they will be riding in an annual spring show toward the end of March.

The riders are required to do several tasks associated with such an endeavor, such as brushing and feeding their horses, putting the saddles on. They do get occasional assistance from people working at the “barn,’’ helping to keep the stalls clean.

A friendship/working relationship also must be developed with the horses themselves.

“It’s a trust thing,’’ Todd said. “It’s not just you. It’s a partnership.’’

She has ridden a horse named River for quite some time, but about three weeks ago switched to another horse named Quinley and said she is feeling more comfortable with it.

In order to succeed, a rider must have family support and Todd has that.

“I am very grateful for everything they do for me,’’ she said.

She also is thankful for her teachers and guidance she has received from Xavier school counselor Kathleen Gannon.

“I love riding, but I know I must keep school a priority,’’ Todd said. “I need to focus on that. It is challenging sometimes going from (riding) competition one day to a quiz in school the next.’’

And although it might be a bit early to think about what might transpire for her beyond high school, the thought has drifted through Todd’s mind.

“I haven’t decided if I will continue riding at the end of high school, but I know there are some good programs in college and some barns in those areas where I could bring my horse and ride,’’ she said.

She wants to finish this school year as strong as she can and move on with good memories of her time at Xavier.

Perhaps that could be explained by the message hanging on the wall of Gannon’s office:

It’s the friends we meet along the way that help us appreciate the journey.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Walls crumble, Xavier softball tumbles

It was fun while it lasted.

Xavier Prep’s softball team had a 1-0 lead through the first four innings against host Glendale Mountain Ridge on Monday (March 12), but could not make it last.

The walls crumbled as Mountain Ridge scored five times in the fifth inning and six times in the sixth for an 11-2 victory.

Xavier, which had won two in a row prior to this one, dropped to 2-7-2.

The Gators scored their first run in the first inning.

Lizzie Marino led off with a single, advanced to second on an infield hit by Sydney Johnson, went to third on a groundout by Melissa Fedorka and scored on a sacrifice fly by Jordan Bassett.

XCP played good defense and even turned a defensive miscue into a big out in the fourth. One Mountain Ridge runner was aboard by way of a single. She advanced to third on a pair of steals. A fly ball was hit to right for an out.

The runner thought about tagging up but went back to third as the throw came back in. The throw was wide into a side fence near the Xavier dugout and then the runner tried to score. Xavier retrieved the ball and got it to pitcher Mercedes Silva covering the plate, and the runner was out.

The Mountain Ridge fifth began with a groundout and then a hit batter. The Mountain Lions brought 10 players to the plate and had three hits to take a 5-1 lead.

Bassett drove in her second run of the game with one out in the sixth on a home run to right center field.

Mountain Ridge sent 11 hitters to the plate in the sixth, scoring six runs on five hits to fortify its lead.

Xavier now takes a one-week break before returning to action on March 20 with a game at Phoenix Horizon.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Track and field has solid day in AMDG meet

Friday (March 9) offered the first big-meet test for Xavier Prep’s track and field team, and the Gators posted a respectable finish in the AMDG Invitational for girls and boys at the Brophy Sports Campus.

Xavier was fourth with 5930 points in team scoring, which was tabulated in the decathlon format. The top three teams were Chandler High (7635), Chandler Hamilton (6774) and Peoria Liberty (5998).

Running races featured anywhere from three up to seven heats in the picture-perfect weather for athletes and fans alike. In addition to medals for the top three finishers, Nike presented gifts of athletic bags, bags for spikes and socks.

Top individual finisher was junior Jada Sims in the high hump, who was second with a height of 5-4. That helped the Gators tie for first in the team category with Glendale Mountain Ridge.

IMDG Invitational

Xavier results

Shot put – Joyce Karekezi, Sr., 20th (27-1 ½), Gisselle Bojorquez, Jr., 33rd (24-11), Kendall Swanson, So., 36th (13-6).

Long jump – Kolbe Pierce, Jr., 16th (15-8 ½), Mariah Morales, Jr., 36th (13-8), Ciara Quiambao, Fr., 38th (13-6).

Pole vault – Molly Cahill, Jr., 15th (7-0).

High jump – Jada Sims, Jr., 2nd (5-4), Izzy Estes, Sr., 27th (4-6).

Discus – Bojorquez, 25th (71-2), Swanson, 34th (66-8), Janna Hynds, 35th (66-7).

Triple jump – Eliza Mulkern, So., 20th (30-2 ½), Cahill, 26th (28-1 ½), Bethany Barnwell, Fr., 29th (27-0 ¾).

4x800 relay – Xavier “A’’, 2nd (9:56.35). Karina Hawkins, Jr., Sammy Braun, Fr., Caroline McClelland, Sr., Karina Smith, Jr. Xavier “B”, 5th (10:35.70). Karli Baker, Jr., Annika Nielson, Sr., Kristen Keeble, So., Grace Valandra, So. Xavier “C”, 10th (11:02.24). Sophia Healy, Fr., Natalia Hiler, Jr., Ryleigh Corona, Fr., Mia Alejos, Fr.

100-meter hurdles – Sims, 5th (15.35), Mulkern, 18th (18.131), Estes, 23rd (18.43).                                                                                                                                      

4x100 relay – Xavier “A’’, 8th (51.43). Bisola Ojeniyi, Sr., Ololade Adebayo, Fr., Johnnie Mitchell, Jr., Sophie Brohard, So.

400 – Megan Zacher, So., 5th (59.25), Kinsey Ehmann, Sr., 10th (1:01.53), Leila Grant, Jr., 12th (1:02.78).

800 – Hawkins, 7th (2:26.33), Braun, 8th (2:27.76), Smith, 13th (2:32.06).

100 – Mitchell, 18th (13.36), Ojeniyi, 19th (13.46), Adebayo, 20th (13.50).

1,600 – Mia Olsen, So., 5th (5:17.78), Helen Innes, Jr., 6th (5:18.31), Jamie Stelnik, Fr., 8th (5:21.19).

XCP softball wins second game in a row

Two wins in a row for Xavier softball!!

The latest triumph came on Friday (March 9), when the Gators recorded a 9-5 victory on the road over Goodyear Millennium.

Xavier (2-6-1) pounded out 19 hits. Four players each had three hits – Melissa Fedorka, Lizzie Marino, Sydney Johnson and Mercedes Silva.

Silva also was the winning pitcher, striking out 10.

Xavier will be back in action on Monday (March 12), when the Gators travel to face Glendale Mountain Ridge. First pitch is 3:45 p.m.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Softball gets first victory with a flourish

Who let the Gators out?

Xavier Prep put on quite a hitting display on Thursday (March 8), earning their first victory of the season in a 16-2 victory over visiting Phoenix Desert Vista in a contested shortened to five innings by the 10-run rule.

Xavier is now 1-6-2.

The Gators scored 12 runs in the second inning and four more in the fourth.

Xavier collected 17 hits, including four by Lizzie Marino, three by Katie Donahey (including a home run) and two each by Macy Lee, Sydney Johnson and Jordan Bassett.

Pitcher Mercedes Silva picked up the win, giving up just two hits.

Xavier will play a road game on Friday (March 9) against Goodyear Millennium.

More accolades for Xavier basketball

These Gators just keep on going!

The latest Xavier Prep basketball news has three members of the program receiving recognition by the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

XCP coach Jennifer Gillom was selected as the 6A Conference (all schools) Coach of the Year.

Senior forward Montana Oltrogge was named to the 6A First Team and junior point guard Leilani McIntosh was listed on the 6A Second Team.