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.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Volleyball dominates opener vs. Mtn. View

The 2017 volleyball season began for Xavier Prep on Tuesday night (Aug. 29) and there was no net letdown on the part of the Gators.

The team was near the top of its game in the season opener against Mesa Mountain View, recording a 25-8, 25-16, 25-8 sweep at the Activity Center.

“It was a great start for us,’’ said Xavier coach Lamar-Renee Bryant. “We had a lot of energy, a lot of discipline and we were focused.

“Once we settled in, we became more comfortable. We were able to execute our offense, and when we do that, we are tough to stop.’’
On the way to a sweep: winning a match 3-0 can make you smile a lot. (Photos by Sr. Lynn Winsor).
Junior Trinity Cavanaugh gave the Gators a boost in the first game with four service aces. They helped build an 8-2 lead, and the team never looked back from there.

Mountain View was a bit more competitive in the second game, creating four ties about midway through the contest.

Sophomore Bri McKnight stepped up in this one with several big kills and good service skills.

It was an encouraging sign, Bryant said, because McKnight had been nursing a sore shoulder.

In the third game, Xavier broke an early tie and went on a 7-0 run to get control.

That enabled Bryant to use most of her bench and get everyone some valuable playing time.

“Everybody played at a high level,’’ Bryant said.

Senior outside hitter Lanie Wagner (18) sends a powerful shot over Mountain View defenders.
The coach praised the play of senior outside hitter Lanie Wagner, senior libero Alyna Draper and was pleased with the ball distribution of junior setter Shannon Shields. Another player to watch closely is freshman outside hitter Serena Turner, who appears to be gaining strength and confidence at the net each time out.

Next up for the Gators is a match at Goodyear Millennium on Thursday (Aug. 31). Start time is 6 p.m.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Freshman swimmers playing key roles

Tadpoles rule !!

Translated, that means Xavier Prep has an extremely talented group of freshman swimmers who could help push the Gators toward a possible state championship later this fall.

“We have 12 freshman swimmers this year, and I believe that some of them will score points for us at the state meet,’’ said coach Maureen “Mo’’ Rankin. “Some might not expect that to happen, but that’s what makes it even more fun.’’

Four girls on which the spotlight is expected to shine are Paola Guerra, Jordan Herrera, Mia Rankin and Sydney Millane. They will get their first test on Thursday (Aug. 31) against Anthem Boulder Creek at the Anthem Community Center.

Of the young swimmers, Mo Rankin said, “Are a good group. They’re all club swimmers.’’

The coach said Guerra is a member of the Puerto Rican national team who should only continue to get better. Guerra’s primary events are the 100-yard breaststroke, the 50-yard freestyle or the 100-yard freestyle.

Mia Rankin is Mo Rankin’s daughter and specializes in the 500-yard freestyle and the 200-yard individual medley.

Herrera is more of a distance performer, in the 500- and 200-yard freestyles.

And Millane is focused on the 100-yard backstroke and the 200 IM.

Most of the girls also will be involved in relays.

“They really have a lot of enthusiasm,’’ coach Rankin said.

The freshmen will derive benefits from a strong group of senior co-captains – Katie McCoy, Kate Hubbard, Thea Cartier and Mary Roediger. The team will be made up of 38 girls.

“The captains are always positive. They say, “You can do this,’ ’’ Mia Rankin said.
“Everything is exciting and upbeat,’’ Guerra said. “To make a contribution to this team would be an honor.’’

Said Millane: “I think we are capable of being in the top three (in each event) at state.’’

Herrera said most of the freshmen swam in club against each other but did not know each other that well.

“That has changed already,’’ said Mia Rankin. “We haven’t been out here together for too long, but we already are bonding.’’

The freshmen participated in an intrasquad meet on Aug. 25 at the Brophy Pool. Afterward, they gathered for some fun relay events and were due to have a belly-flop contest, a part of the team tradition, according to coach Rankin.

The world of high school athletics and academics takes some getting used to, Herrera said.

“We knew it would be tough at first, but I think we are adjusting,’’ she said.

Studying, Millane said, “is not horrible. You’ve just got to be able to make sure you manage your time so you can get your work done.’’

The swimmers, young and old alike, all have the same goal.

“We want to win state,’’ Herrera said.

Xavier Prep 2017 swimming and diving roster              

Bethany Barnwell, Megan Brown, Morgan Brown, Molly Cahill, Clare Carlson.

Thea Cartier, Citlali Chimal, Talle Donley, Vica Dow, Alexandra Figueroa.       

Izzy Gomez, Paola Guerra, Kyle Gunzy, Regan Gunzy, Taylor Guthrie.

Ruby Halperin, Jordan Herrera, Carlie Herrmann, Haley Hubbard, Kate Hubbard.

Maggie Hull, Rachael Jasinski, Hannah Jemsek, Nicole Johnson, Mia Joslin.

Audrey Lamp, Aly Largay, Anna Leone, Katie McCoy, Sydney Millane.

Olivia Paliscak, Emili Palmisano, Alex Perez, Sophia Plumb, Mia Rankin.

Kylie Rodgers, Mary Roediger, Gracie Schumacher, Kelly Scott, Maddy Sewell.

Emma Sharp, Veronica Tanner, Maddie Weiland, Meghan Whitlow, Cat Worth, Maddie Wright.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Wagner is big hitter for Xavier volleyball

After weeks of practicing and scrimmaging, the hour arrives for Xavier Prep’s volleyball team to officially begin its 2017 season. The Gators will face Mesa Mountain View on Tuesday (Aug. 29) at 6 p.m. in the Activity Center.

Xavier appears to have a good balance of experience and youth, power and blocking up front, setting and defensive strength along the back line.

One of the biggest focal points will be the power swing of 6-foot-1 senior outside hitter Lanie Wagner.

She is a co-captain in her third year as a starter, and after she completes her tour of duty with Xavier, she will move on to play at the University of Georgia.

The start of the season is coming at just the right time, Wagner said.

“I’m really excited for my senior season,’’ she said. “We are going to have a good team. All the girls are selfless, we work well together and hold each other accountable.’’

For Xavier coach Lamar-Renee Bryant, having Wagner on the floor is almost like having another coach in terms of strategy.

“She has a very good volleyball IQ,’’ Bryant said. “She is a three-year starter and is battle-tested. She is the hardest hitter in the gym. She is a quiet person, and she leads by example.’’

After enduring the recruiting process for many months, Wagner decided on the University of Georgia, but the school changed head coaches a short time later. Wagner decided to wait and see who the new coach would be before deciding whether to remain.

Georgia decided on Tom Black, a former coach at UC-San Diego and Loyola Marymount (Calif.) and assistant coach for Karch Kiraly on the U.S. National Team.

With those kinds of coaching credentials, it is not surprising that Wagner will stay put.

Before then, Wagner believes she has what it takes to help Xavier reach great heights.

“I think I have improved a lot this year between club and getting ready for the Xavier season,’’ she said. “My club coach helped me learn to coach myself. That way, she won’t have to ask me all the time and I can adjust to things on the court. That’s what I’m hoping to do for Xavier.’’

Anticipating what an opponent might do in an attempt to block her shot will be a benefit.

“You can see the block coming and hopefully go around it,’’ she said.

And the thunder will roll.

“It’s a great feeling to get a big shot,’’ she said. “I know my teammates all helped put me in that situation. I get so excited when I see those passes coming (from setter Shannon Shields and libero Alyna Draper) and follow through for the point. I think it “amps up’ the whole team.’’

Golfers show resolve, take tournament

The Division I state golf tournament will be held at the Omni Tucson National golf courses on Oct. 30 and 31. Xavier Prep entered the Nighthawk Invitational over the weekend with the intention of getting an idea of what the two layouts were all about.

If the Gators return for the state tournament and play like they did in the Nighthawk, they would have a very good chance to capture the school’s seventh title in a row and 35th overall.

Xavier scored a 38-shot victory over Chandler Hamilton (582-620) by surviving the elements (rain and lightning) at 3 p.m. on both Friday (Aug. 25) and Saturday (Aug. 26) that halted play for about 90 minutes each day. And don’t forget the triple-digit temperatures.

“Both courses (the Sonoran and the Catalina) are beautiful,’’ said Xavier co-coach Sr. Lynn Winsor.

“Some of our girls had played the Catalina before in junior golf tournaments, and that is kind of flat. But the Sonoran (which was used the first day) is up and down, up and down. One of the holes, the 15th, seems like it’s almost vertical and you wonder how anybody can make it up there.

“But our girls did a great job both days. Tui (Selvaratnam, co-coach) and I are so proud of them.’’

Sophomore Ashley Menne was the medalist with an 8-under-par 135 (67-68), nine shots ahead of second-place finisher Maddie Loux of Goodyear Millennium (144).

Sophomore Millburn Ho had a great two days, shooting a 73 in both rounds for a third-place finish. Junior Eve Worden was tied for sixth at 150, freshman Lauren Garcia was tied for 15th at 156. Sophomore Breyana Matthews was tied for 18th at 157. Freshman Mary Beth Doss, who played as an extra, shot a 72 the first day and 81 the second for a 153.

Xavier’s next match is on Wednesday (Aug. 30) against Glendale Mountain Ridge at the Arrowhead Legend course in Glendale.

The Gators will be in another high-quality tournament next weekend, this time the Antigua Invitational, on Friday (Sept. 1) and Saturday (Sept. 2). The event had been played in the recent past at the McCormick Ranch Golf Club in Scottsdale but this year has been moved to the Whirlwind Golf Club at the Wild Horse Pass resort in Chandler, to the west of Interstate 10. Tee times are 7:30 a.m. both days.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Badminton Gators are road warriors

Playing on the road doesn’t appear to be affecting Xavier Prep’s badminton team much in the early stages of the 2017 season.

The Gators came away with their second road triumph in as many days on Thursday (Aug. 24), 6-3 over Tempe Corona del Sol. Xavier had defeated Mesa Red Mountain by the same score on Wednesday (Aug. 23).

Four of the team’s next five matches also are away from home.

“Yesterday (Wednesday), there were a lot of nerves, but we managed to survive,’’ said Xavier coach Susan Contreras. “Today (Thursday), we walked into the gym knowing we were going to have a tougher match on our hands.

“It definitely helped to have that first match on Wednesday. We seemed to come in here more prepared. We didn’t let some of the little things bother us.’’

The Gators won five of six singles matches and one of the three doubles contests.

Two of the three singles matches were stretched to three games.

Senior Maddie Reinhart dropped the first game to her Corona del Sol opponent, 11-7, but came back for a pair of 11-9 wins. Junior Misaal Irfan won her first game 11-2. She fell in the second game 11-7 and returned in the third for a decisive 11-1 win.

“What Maddie did was a key for us after she lost that first one,’’ Contreras said. “She was able to regain her focus and then maintained it.’’

Senior Alexa Wolfson also had a productive afternoon with an 11-5, 11-1 singles win and then teamed with Reinhart for a 15-13, 15-4 win in doubles.

Xavier’s next match is Tuesday (Aug. 29) at Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor in the north Valley.

Xavier Prep 6, Tempe Corona del Sol 3

Maddie Reinhart, X, def. Corona del Sol 3-11, 11-9, 11-9
Alexa Wolfson, X, def. Corona del Sol 11-5, 11-1
Mimi Zurbriggen, X, lost to Corona del Sol 5-11, 10-13
Misaal Irfan, X, def. Corona del Sol 11-2, 7-11, 11-1
Maeve Lee, X, def. Corona del Sol 11-6, 11-2
Anai Hernandez, X, def. Corona del Sol 11-7, 11-4

Reinhart-Wolfson, X, def. Corona del Sol 15-13, 15-4
Zurbriggen-Irfaan, X. lost to Corona del Sol, 3-15, 2-15
Lee-Hernandez, X, lost to Corona del Sol 12-15, 12-15

Thursday, August 24, 2017

XCP solid in 4-way volleyball scrimmage

Playing against each other in practice every day is one thing – finally getting the chance to face a different school is another.

Xavier Prep’s volleyball team got that opportunity on Wednesday (Aug. 23) when it participated in a four-way scrimmage with host Chandler Hamilton, Chandler Basha and Phoenix Sunnyslope.

No scores were kept, but the Gators won five of their six “games.’’ Teams were on a time limit of 25 minutes against each of the other schools.

Xavier was impressive most of the night, prompting coach Lamar-Renee Bryant to say, “It was a good starting point, but there are still some things we need to work on.’’

XCP played Basha first, and had “unofficial’’ scores of 19-14 and 23-10. Next came Sunnyslope, and Xavier had 17-11 and 19-8 wins. Last was Hamilton, and the two teams finished with a split, 19-13 for Xavier and 16-14 for Hamilton.

The Gators played good defense for the most part, getting some key blocks from sophomore Jasmine Knight, senior Alexis Diaz-Infante and even a few from promising freshman Serena Turner.

Against Sunnyslope, junior setter Shannon Shields’ serves were on target early, helping the Gators build a lead. The back line played well, handling many of the Vikings’ power shots.

Xavier looked strong again in the first game against Hamilton, but in the second contest, a bit of fatigue appeared to settle in.

Bryant was impressed with the way that Shields distributed the ball. The coach also had praise for senior libero Alyna Draper and some of the big hits by senior outside hitter Lanie Wagner. Junior Ashley Yeung also stood out with her defense on the back line.

Xavier opens the regular season at home on Tuesday (Aug. 29) with a 6 p.m. contest against Mesa Mountain View. On Thursday (Aug. 31), the team travels to face Goodyear Millennium.

Badminton, golf pick up road victories

Xavier Prep’s badminton team, the defending state champion, opened its 2017 season on Wednesday (Aug. 23) with a 6-3 road victory over Mesa Red Mountain.

The Gators will be back in action on Thursday (Aug. 24) with a road contest against Tempe Corona del Sol. Start time is 3:30 p.m.

Golf – Senior Eve Worden captured medalist honors with a 2-under-par round and sophomore Ashley Menne was close behind at 1-under as XCP defeated Anthem Boulder Creek at the Anthem Country Club.

Xavier will be in Tucson on Friday (Aug. 25) and Saturday (Aug. 26) for the Nighthawk Invitational at the Omni Tucson National course. Rounds both days will begin at 1 p.m. Approximately 12 teams will be competing.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Golf win: "Strong effort by everybody'

Xavier Prep’s golfers are back in business.

The Gators produced a decisive victory in their opening match for 2017, outdistancing Scottsdale Desert Mountain by 43 strokes on Tuesday (Aug. 22) at their Phoenix Country Club home.

Sophomore Ashley Menne, the co-medalist at last year’s state tournament won by XCP, also was medalist in this one with a three-under-par 33 on the warm afternoon. Xavier’s team score was 138, with 181 for Desert Mountain.

Other Xavier first-group scores: Eve Worden 34, Bre Matthews 34, Bailey Tayles 37, Mary Beth Doss 40.

“The first match of the season, there’s always a lot going on,’’ said Xavier co-head coach Tui Selvaratnam. “The girls did a good job focusing on what they needed to do. It was a strong effort by everybody.’’

The Gators are back on the course on Wednesday (Aug. 23), traveling to face Anthem Boulder Creek at the Anthem Country Club. Xavier’s first tournament of the season comes on Friday (Aug. 25) and Saturday (Aug. 26), the Nighthawk Invite at the Omni Tucson National course. It also will be the site of this year’s state tournament.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Shields stands above on volleyball court

Shannon Shields is excited.

Excited for the Xavier Prep volleyball season to start, but maybe even more excited about an element that should help her on the court.

“I grew an inch since last season, and now I’m 5(feet) 10 (inches)!’’ she said, smiling.

She is in tall timber both on the floor for Xavier and as one of the state’s top players.

Shields, a junior setter, is one of the Gators’ leaders and already has a college scholarship locked up (Louisville). It is quite an achievement.

She and her Gator teammates will participate in an annual four-team scrimmage at Chandler Hamilton on Wednesday (Aug. 23), along with Hamilton, Chandler Basha and Phoenix Sunnyslope. Xavier’s first match of the season is Aug. 29 against Mesa Mountain View in the Activity Center at 6 p.m.

Xavier volleyball's Shannon Shields (Paradise Valley Independent/Duke Photography photo).

In her younger days, Shields played all sorts of sports in middle school. But it was when she was introduced to volleyball that she sensed she had something on which to build a future.

“I knew this was the one. I just loved it!’’ Shields said.

“I just love the competition and the family-type atmosphere. We have had that at Xavier before and we have it again this year. It’s a great feeling.’’

She would like to earn an indoor state championship to go with the ones she helped the Gators win in beach volleyball.

Shields has come close a few times. She was on the team with the great Khalia Lanier that fell short two years ago and suffered a disappointing setback in the semifinals last season.

“We have big motivation this year. We think we can do it,’’ she said.

Xavier coach Lamar-Renee Bryant is looking forward to another productive year for Shields.

“Since her college decision is done, she can now play stress-free,’’ Bryant said. “She can be calmer on the court and be a student of the game again.

“She has a great personality, very outgoing, and her teammates really respect her. She always has good distribution for the hitters.’’

She has also studied and talked to the Xavier outside hitters to learn what types of passes they think will give them the best chance for success.

“Lanie (Wagner) likes the ball fast and Bri (McKnight) likes the ball higher,’’ Shields said.

There has been a lot of learning for Shields by playing in the summer with the Arizona Storm club team. She has played against some of her Xavier teammates in that competition.

And playing beach volleyball has helped her have a better overall court sense and being more anticipatory in what her opponents are going to do.

Every now and then, Shields also will get in a power kill of her own with a big left-handed swing. She also is one of the team’s top servers.

She can see it all because she is taller -- by an inch. It is an exciting prospect for her and the Gators.

Xavier Prep volleyball roster – 2017

Seniors – Alyna Draper, Ericka Snopko, Alexis Diaz-Infante, Lanie Wagner.

Juniors – Ashley Yeung, Jennelle Yarwood, Trinity Cavanaugh, Shannon Shields, Hayley Nash, Kate Spellman.

Sophomores – Jasmine Knight, Briana McKnight.

Freshmen – Serena Turner, Christianna Griedl.

Experienced players benefit XCP badminton

Badminton is one of the sports where experience might be considered more important than in others.

And Xavier Prep has three key players who are ready to help lead the team when it begins its 2017 season Wednesday (Aug. 23) with a road match at Mesa Red Mountain. The Gators also play at Tempe Corona del Sol on Thursday (Aug. 24).

The three players with state-tournament experience are seniors Maddie Reinhart and Alexa Wolfson and junior Misaal Irfan. All play singles and doubles.

“We have won four state titles in a row and we want to make it a fifth,’’ Reinhart said.

Reinhart and Wolfson likely will play doubles together in most matches, while Irfaan likely will be paired with junior Maeve Lee.

“We are all good friends and make each other better,’’ Wolfson said.

“There is good competition out there and that will help our team,’’ Irfaan said.

There will be an infusion of new blood on the team this year – 10 first-year players will bring added enthusiasm.

“We want to support everyone, as seniors, and do whatever we can to help,’’ Reinhart said.

Wolfson said the goal is to let the players know what to expect.

“As seniors, we want to make it a great last year,’’ she said.

“Making everyone comfortable on and off the court is very important,’’ Irfaan said.

Xavier faces a big early season challenge due to the fact that six of its first seven matches are on the road. The Gators’ first home match is Aug. 31 against Mesa Mountain View.

“You may have a little extra stress, trying to get your (school) work done and knowing that you will have to leave around the seventh period (of classes),’’ Reinhart said.

Once the team arrives at an opponent’s gym, “You have to get used to the surroundings quickly because it’s different than what you’re used to,’’ Irfaan said.

The team had its annual photo session with a long-time Valley photographer in the XCP courtyard on Monday (Aug. 21) and that was followed by a pizza and parent meeting in which coach Sue Contreras went over various rules and what she expects from the players.

“We have been working hard and we are ready to get the season started,’’ she said.

Xavier Prep badminton roster – 2017

Seniors – Maddie Reinhart, Rebecca Ryan, Alexa Wolfson, Mimi Zurbriggen.

Juniors – Maddie Dines, Taylor Dines, Anai Hernandez, Misaal Irfan, Maeve Lee, Jane Tiffany.

Sophomores – Mia Byrd, Mayse Dunn, Paige Gehriger, Kate Greene, Alexandra Kocuinis, Phoebe Ranscon, Katie Yuh.

Freshmen – Zoe Barton, Maggie Kamps, Sophie Riviere, Lina Vanderwey.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Seniors guide golfers through another season

It’s time to tee the ball up and let it fly.

The high school golf season is ready to start, and Xavier Prep’s Gators are poised to claim the 35th state championship in the school’s history and seventh in a row.

Those impressive numbers have not been as easy to achieve as some might think. XCP’s run might be considered even more noteworthy because the cast of characters changes every year. Some graduate, some arrive and the process begins again.

Athletic director and co-head coach Sr. Lynn Winsor likes to rely on the leadership of her seniors, and two filling that role in 2017 are Lauren Faulkner and Madeline Brown.

“We have great team enthusiasm, and these girls are a big part of that,’’ Winsor said. “Tui (Selvaratnam, co-head coach) and I could not ask for two better people. They are kind, they are friendly, and they are “peppy.’ '’

We will see how “peppy’’ when the team has its brief dance (30 seconds to a minute) at the fall sports pep rally on Sept. 6 in the Activity Center.

“It should be a “classic,’ ‘’ Winsor said. “This team will have a lot of fun this year.’’

Part of the fun is the tradition of bringing cookies each match to share with the purveyors in the various pro shops of the courses on which they play, as well as opposing teams. Brown appears to be one of the top Xavier distributors.

“We will have a lot of talent out on the course this year,’’ Brown said.

“It’s fun to go out and meet the new players,’’ Faulkner said. “It’s always different from the last year. Every year, it seems like we have a different personality. It will be interesting to see where that takes us.’’

Both players have continued to improve their game by practicing and playing dozens of rounds since last season.

Faulkner said her scores “have come down a lot. I think I am much more confident. Playing a lot has kind of forced me to be confident. Skill-wise, one of the biggest things for me is that my chipping is better and that has improved my accuracy.’’

The mental aspect of the game also has created more maturity for Brown.

“I have always put a lot of pressure on myself, but now I am relaxing more and playing more,’’ she said. “I still put pressure on myself, but it’s not the same as before. I am able to push those (uncertain) thoughts aside. And my drives have helped my game. I think I have more strength and I’m hitting longer drives. That is important.’’

The girls are enjoying their responsibility as leaders.

“As team captains, we want to be able to help the younger girls,’’ Faulkner said. “That’s the way it was when we were younger, and we want to keep that going.’’

The Gators will be on the course quite a bit this week. They feature one of the state’s top players in sophomore Ashley Menne, the state co-medalist from 2016.

They open the new season on Tuesday (Aug. 22) with a home match at Phoenix Country Club against Scottsdale Desert Mountain. They will follow that up with a road match against Anthem Boulder Creek at the Anthem Country Club.

Friday (Aug. 25) and Saturday (Aug. 26) will be big days. The team will participate in the Nighthawk Invite hosted by Oro Valley Ironwood Ridge. The event will be played at the Omni Tucson National course, which will be the site of the Division I state tournament Oct. 30-31.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Sunlight shines bright on freshman tennis

The upcoming solar eclipse on Monday (Aug. 21) will do nothing to overshadow the enthusiasm of more than 60 incoming freshmen at Xavier Prep who will participate in the first day of freshman tennis.

The girls will be a part of coach Laurie Martin’s no-cut program that will play matches for six or seven weeks, until the end of September/early October.

There are about 15 players who have had some experience who started workouts on Aug. 14, but the rest are due to begin next week.

“It takes some getting used to, but having all these girls out here is a good thing,’’ Martin said. “The biggest thing is the socialization. They are at a new school and are working to be part of a team. It can help them learn a lifetime sport. It is like we are giving them a gift.’’

To help the girls get used to the game, they will be hitting tennis balls with low pressure, Martin said.

“The good news is, there always will be things for them to work on to help them get better,’’ Martin said.

Three of the freshmen players from last year, Emily Even, Lorelei Glidden and Erica Stutz, wound up joining the varsity team in the spring and made key contributions. Martin is not certain if there will be any young players this year who can follow a similar path, but she and her assistant coaches, Ann Coover, Amy Gallo and Joy Rodey, look forward to helping the girls make progress.

More tennis news

*Stutz and Even were winners in the recent U.S. Tennis Association Junior Sectionals and are ticketed to play in the national tournament in September in Orlando, Fla. Stutz also received an award for sportsmanship in the Central Arizona section.

*Junior Tristanne Dechoux has been involved in hard-court competition over the summer in San Diego, Martin said.

*Martin is a vice-chair of the USTA National High School Coaching Committee and will attend a conference soon.  One of her projects is to help develop resources for the sport and help it gain more notice.

*Martin also helped start and is the first president of the Arizona Tennis Coaches Association. The organization was begun after consultation with the Arizona Interscholastic Association. The association developed a Web site over the summer. Martin said the group selected an All-State team for Division I last season and would like to add divisions II and III this year.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Badminton aims to continue excellence

If the sheer numbers on the first day of tryouts is any indication, Xavier Prep badminton coaches have a lot to choose from when deciding who will be on the varsity and junior-varsity rosters for the fall of 2017. Teams should be announced by the middle of the coming week.

Head coach Susan Contreras and volunteer assistants Francis Hartojo and Sherry Yuan (new to the program this year) welcomed 42 athletes on Friday’s (Aug. 11) first day, with players shuttling between courts in the Activity Center and Vestar Hall.

The mid-afternoon workout had players “challenging’’ each other in matches. Players were encouraged to use as many types of shots and footwork as they felt comfortable using. Some of those shots were learned at open gym sessions a week ago.

The tryouts will continue on Monday (Aug. 14) and Tuesday (Aug. 15), with the final rosters announced on Tuesday night or Wednesday (Aug. 16).

“We have seen a few girls trying to use the proper footwork and working on those shots,’’ said Conteraras, who in her first season a year ago led the Gators to a 17-0 record and the seventh state championship in the school’s history.

It is difficult for players to stay sharp in the offseason because there is very little organized clubs and competitions. There is one club in Mesa, but that is about the extent of it.

“For many of the girls, this is their first experience (nine freshmen are trying out), but we also have some players coming back who were on the varsity and JV,’’ Contreras said.

“For some of the girls, their only experience is in PE (physical education class), but this is not just hitting back and forth like that. There is a lot more to it. It is quicker and there is a lot more movement involved.’’

The day will come when the players have to do a little more in terms of shots and strategy. And although some might not think so, conditioning also comes into play.

“There will be times later in the season when a (individual) match goes to a third set and they need all the energy they can get, particularly late in the season,’’ Contreras said.

The final list will have about two dozen names on it. Six will be the primary varsity players (both singles and doubles), with six more playing JV. There also will be 12 more players who will be involved in “exhibition’’ matches. Though there is not much turnover at the varsity level, there can be more movement in the JV and exhibition groups.

“It is important that all of the girls stay sharp because you never know what might happen,’’ Contreras said.

It is imperative that the girls keep playing, “because the more they play, the more fun they will have,’’ she said.

Xavier had a lot of home matches last season, but this will be reversed, with the schedule being top-heavy with road matches. Six of the team’s first seven matches are away, the first being Mesa Red Mountain on Aug. 23 at 4:30 p.m.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Picture this: another great Xavier golf team

Sr. Lynn Winsor has had many roles during her years at Xavier Prep, including athletic director and golf coach. In recent years, she also has assumed the role of paparazzi.

She takes photos at many of the school’s sports events, some of which are posted on the XCP Web site, and she is back at it as the golf season comes into view for the fall of 2017.

Winsor snapped a few photos prior to Wednesday’s (Aug. 9) first day of team tryouts at Phoenix Country Club. A list will be compiled and shown at a social gathering at the end of the season.

The Gators are hoping that will include memories of another state championship run, but they realize that nothing will be handed to them despite having won 34 titles overall.

It all starts now.

As the girls teed off for the first of three consecutive 9-hole rounds on back-to-back-to-back days, Winsor said she and co-coach Tui Selvaratnam are confident the group will produce success.

 “We have so many good golfers trying out that we do not know how many we will take,’’ Winsor said.

Candidates include a few freshmen, a few transfers and a strong group of returnees led by sophomore Ashley Menne, last year’s state co-medalist.

The final list will be announced on Monday (Aug. 14). Before then, the girls will be required to play an 18-hole round over the weekend and present their scorecards to the coaches.

The team will have three qualifying rounds next week as they get closer to the season-opening match on Aug. 22 against Scottsdale Desert Mountain at Phoenix Country Club. Xavier will play many of its home matches there and a few more at Camelback Golf Club late in the season.

All of the players, even the newcomers, have been playing in various junior golf events earlier this year.

Although the group that comprises the team that will contribute to the scoring with each match, that can change, meaning it’s good to have depth.

“Some schools don’t have big teams, but we don’t mind at all,’’ Winsor said. “The girls are out here to enjoy this activity, represent their school and in many cases will make friends for life and that is what we like to see.’’

Winsor and Selvaratnam will be evaluating the players “and watching them all play,’’ Winsor said. “We want to see how they react to each other, react to the situations that occur out on the course. Our first match will be coming up soon.

“The time we have now is important. The kids might be putting a little pressure on themselves, even the older ones, because they want to do well.

“We are all excited and enthusiastic and we want to see how low our scores are.’’

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

XCP swimmers churn, make the turns

One moment, the surface of the water at the Brophy Prep pool hardly moved, calm and serene.

The next moment, the water thrashed and churned as girls from Xavier Prep made their way down the lanes, divided by plastic barriers strung the length of the pool.

Tuesday (Aug. 8) was the first day for tryouts for the Gators’ swim team, as 42 athletes concentrated on the freestyle and some cardiovascular work under the watchful eye of second-year head coach Maureen “Mo’’ Rankin and assistant coach Jennifer James.

Coach Frank Pipitone and assistant Laura Forbes guided aspiring divers through their workouts later in the afternoon. Swimmers and divers will continue their auditions on Wednesday (Aug. 9) and Thursday (Aug. 10), with the team’s first official workout on Friday (Aug. 11) at 5:30 a.m.

How many girls that will make the team and the number that will not is still “up in the air’’ at this point, Rankin said. She said that the coaches had a certain number in mind, but that was before seeing many of them in the pool, how they looked and the shape they were in.

The other strokes will be the focus over the final two days, as will the sprint events and aerobic drills.

“We know we will be a lot better team than last season (when the team finished fourth at state),’’ Rankin said.

Xavier’s chances will be bolstered by about 15 incoming freshmen “who are quality swimmers,’’ Rankin said. “They will push for the No. 1 spot in certain events.’’

There are a handful of swimmers who will participate in more than one event (individually), but some will specialize in one particular event, an indication of the team’s depth. But the coach wants the girls to continue to work on all of their strokes, which will be key elements of relay events.

“I looked forward to this first day for a lot of reasons,’’ Rankin said. “And I’m looking forward to watching the girls grow and improve as we continue.’’

The girls’ team spirit and unity was evident when they gathered in a big circle at the close of the workout and went through some boisterous cheers.

Rankin said the biggest challengers to Xavier come state meet time will be Chandler High and Phoenix Desert Vista.

The team will participate in an intrasquad meet at Brophy on Aug. 25, and the first meet of the regular season will be on the road, on Aug. 31 against Anthem Boulder Creek at the Anthem Community Center. 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Volleyball players working hard to make teams

The invasion came Monday (Aug.  7) as dozens of volleyball players swarmed the courts in the Activity Center and Vestar Hall for annual tryouts.

Tryouts will continue on Tuesday (Aug. 8) and Wednesday (Aug. 9) with the final rosters posted on Wednesday evening. Early official practices will run Thursday (Aug. 10), Friday (Aug. 11) and Saturday (Aug. 12).

Monday was an important day for the freshmen. It was the girls’ first day of school, followed by the tryouts. Approximately 36 prospects showed up at Vestar, wearing white T-shirts with numbers on the back in black magic marker.

Near the conclusion of the first session, eight players whose skill levels were a bit more diverse than others were asked to stay around and participate in the varsity and junior-varsity workouts that came after.

Freshman coach Jamie Itule said about 80 percent of the girls trying out had some sort of club experience.

“We have a good, solid number of girls out here,’’ Itule said. “Some are here for the very first time, others have more experience. If I could say one word about this first practice, I would say “competitive.’ ‘’

Passing the ball is the players’ biggest asset at this point, Itule said.

Varsity coach Lamar-Renee Bryant oversaw the proceedings and was pleased with the players’ mindset.

“There is a lot of excitement for them,’’ Bryant said. “The girls are working very hard because they want to be a part of this great Gator program.’’

The session for the older girls was divided into two groups – those who likely will play on the varsity and the others on the JV.

“It was a good first day,’’ Bryant said afterward. “Some of the main things you have to learn are to give your maximum effort at all times, have a positive attitude and support your teammates.’’

There were times when the Activity Center was a bit too quiet for Bryant’s liking. She wants to hear more noise.

“You have to be able to communicate,’’ she told the players. “You have to say what you see, let your teammates know what is going on when you see what your opponent is trying to do.’’

Xavier will have its annual four-way scrimmage with Chandler Hamilton, Chandler Basha and Phoenix Sunnyslope at Hamilton on Aug. 23.

The first varsity match will be at Xavier on Aug. 29, against Mesa Mountain View. The Gators will play in three tournaments this fall, the Durango Classic in Las Vegas, the Nike Tournament of Champions in Phoenix and the Gilbert Invitational at Gilbert High. 

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Now's your chance with fall sports tryouts

Hello, Gators . . .
We’re sure you know by now that the 2017-18 school year is beginning, and that means the fall sports seasons are right around the corner.
Teams are or will be having open gyms and tryouts, so get your gear together and head out to your favorite venue. All XCP students must have their annual physicals on file.
Badminton – Open gym for new players on Monday, Aug. 7 (1-3 p.m.) and Tuesday, Aug. 8 (3:30-5:30 p.m.) in the Activity Center. Open gym for all players on Wednesday, Aug. 9 and Thursday, Aug. 10, from 3:30-5:30 both days in the Activity Center.
Cross country – Tryouts for all athletes Aug. 8-10 beginning at 5:15 a.m. (yes, that is 5:15 a.m., no typo) at the Brophy College Prep track.
Frosh tennis – Another year for coach Laurie Martin and her award-winning no-cut program. That means a cast of thousands (OK, dozens, but that’s still a lot).
Position rounds for all immediate and advanced players who have played at least some tennis are Monday, Aug. 14 through Thursday, Aug. 17 from 3-5 p.m. at the Stark Tennis Center. New and beginning players will gather on the courts on Monday, Aug. 21 after school.
Crew/rowing (club) – All interested athletes should attend a lunch meeting at Lutfy Hall on Aug. 15. There should be additional information under the team heading on the XCP Web site.
Golf – The chart-topping XCP group is ready for a new season. A mandatory meeting for all will be held Aug. 8 at 2:45 p.m. at Lutfy Hall. Co-head coaches Sr. Lynn Winsor and Tui Selvaratnam will go over rules and what they will expect from their players.
Tryouts will be held at nearby Phoenix Country Club (7th St. and Thomas Rd.) Aug. 9-11. Sessions will be held from 2:30-5 p.m. on the first two days and from 2-4:45 p.m. on the third day.
Swim-dive – Xavier girls will make a splash in the neighboring Brophy Prep Aquatic Complex on Aug. 8-10 from 3-4:30 p.m. The team will hold its first official practice on Aug. 11 at 5:30 a.m.
Second-year head coach Maureen “Mo’’ Rankin says that “Gators were meant to swim.’’
But Gators also are meant to dive, and coach Frank Pipitone will guide his group on Aug. 8-10 from 5-7 p.m., with the girls joining the swimmers for the first official practice on Aug. 11 at 5:30 a.m.
Volleyball – Players will begin to refine their skills at open gym sessions at the Activity Center on Aug. 1 (3-5 p.m.), Aug. 2 (3-5 p.m.) and Aug. 3 (4-6 p.m.).
Freshman tryouts will be held Aug. 7-9 at Vestar Hall, 1-3 p.m. the first day and from 3:30-5:30 p.m. the other two days.
Tryouts for sophomores, juniors and seniors will be held those same dates. Times are 3-5 p.m. the first day and 5-7:30 p.m. the other two days.
Let’s make it another great year!!