Bio

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 AIA365.com, the web site of the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Young volleyball players build foundation



Every corner of Xavier Prep’s Activity Center is full of young volleyball players with dreams of becoming part of the school’s great program.
The 40 or so freshmen-to-be are participating in the annual summer camp that also features players from lower levels in separate sessions.
The camp began Monday (June 5) and runs through Friday (June 9).
Most of the girls also are attending summer school. Xavier coach Lamar-Renee Bryant says it is good for the players to be prepared for the type of schedule they will face when the 2017-18 school year begins in August. Official tryouts for the freshman team also will be held that first week.
“The girls are excited to be here and we want to make sure they are comfortable and know what to expect,’’ Bryant said.
There are 10 to 15 players who were unable to attend.
Bryant is assisted by some of the varsity players who will return this fall. The older players are involved with helping move the younger ones along through various drills and to pass along encouragement.
“It’s good for them (varsity players), working with the kids who want to be them,’’ Bryant said.
All of the players have volleyball experience, be it through their elementary school or with club teams.
“The days of having a player come in with no experience at all are long gone,’’ Bryant said. “All of these girls have a lot of experience.’’
While it is true that their skill-set is somewhat diverse, Bryant said there is another important element when she watches them in drills.
“You look at them based on consistency,’’ she said. “You see there are certain things that they can do one time. But the question is, can they be consistent and do it over and over?’’
Bryant, who coached the Gators to a 34-7 record and a state semifinal spot opposite eventual winner Tempe Corona del Sol, said some of these players will have a legitimate chance to make the freshman, junior-varsity and yes, even the varsity roster.
She said that last season, 15 of the camp participants made the freshman team seven made the JV and one reached the varsity.
“So it is definitely possible,’’ Bryant said.
There are some who might not make the volleyball team, but they still are good enough athletes to participate in other fall sports.
“You just never know what is going to happen,’’ she said. “Last year, I think we had a couple of girls who went on to play badminton and tennis. And a few years ago, there was one girl who was cut from the JV team one year who came back to make the varsity the next.’’
It is a good experience for the players and for Bryant herself.
“I love for them to learn,’’ she said. “Sometimes it is as much as what they know that can help a team win. They learn they can be a little bigger and a little smarter. I love to watch that light bulb finally come on.’’





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