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.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Xavier finds best way to win -- right here, right now

Right here, right now.

That was the motivational slogan on the back of the green T-shirts worn by members of Xavier Prep’s cross-country team at the Division I state championship meet on Saturday (Nov. 10) at the Cave Creek Golf Course in north Phoenix.

The Gators took care of business by placing five of its runners in the top 22 finishers and unseated defending champion Chandler High to win XCP’s 10th title in the sport and first since 2012.

Xavier scored 71 points, with Chandler getting 93 points for the runner-up spot and Gilbert Highland taking third at 105.

Junior Mia Olsen and sophomore Jamie Stelnik led the way, finishing fifth and seventh, respectively, among 145 runners over the 5K course on the warm and breezy day.

The other three point-scorers for Xavier were junior Grace Valandra at No. 18, senior Karina Hawkins at No. 19 and senior Karina Smith at No. 22. Sophomore Sammy Braun and senior Helen Innes were 23rd and 36th, respectively.

Xavier's 2018 cross-country champions, with coach Dave Van Sickle, top left, and Athletic Director Sr. Lynn Winsor, center, in blue vest. (Photo by Don Ketchum).
“We figured that Chandler would be the team to beat, but we were focused,’’ said long-time Xavier coach Dave Van Sickle.

Asked about the team’s mindset entering the event after winning the D-I, Section I meet about a week before, Van Sickle said, “We were just in the right place. We were not too nervious and we were not too confident. We were in a good spot. We were definitely motivated.’’

The Gators’ order of finish was a bit of a surprise. In his head, he had some runners finishing higher and some lower.

“But it all worked out. It’s great,’’ he said.

Olsen and Stelnik did what they have been doing all year, running in close tandem.

“They ran the full distance every week. They run as hard as they can,’’ Van Sickle said.

Olsen said she had been working toward this moment since she was a freshman.

“It’s an amazing feeling,’’ she said. “Going into the meet, we talked about how much into it we were going to need to be mentally, and we did that.’’

Said Stelnik: “Last year, we might have been a little too confident, but we weren’t this year. We still had confidence. We knew we could do it. For me, I just wanted to stay calm and tried not to let anybody pass me.’’

The runners enjoyed the trophy presentation, and medals went to the top 21 individuals. One fan (probably a parent) passed out flowers to the girls, and the team posed for more pictures afterward, including some with Xavier Athletic Director Sr. Lynn Winsor.

It’s always good to get another title. Xavier made another strong finish for the fall sports. Golf and volleyball also won championships and swimming/diving was state runner-up.

“Let me tell you that winning does not get old,’’ Van Sickle said.

Division I championship team scores

Xavier Prep 71, Chandler High 93, Gilbert Highland 105, Phoenix Desert Vista 120, Mesa Red Mountain 156, Scottsdale Chaparral 181, Mesa Skyline 188, Glendale Mountain Ridge 199, Gilbert Perry 205, Mesa Mountain View 310, Phoenix Maryvale 329, Anthem Boulder Creek 341, Chandler Hamilton 346, Mesa Desert Ridge 358, Yuma Cibola 370, Tempe Corona del Sol 409, Phoenix Mountain Pointe 467, Queen Creek 507, Surprise Shadow Ridge 511, Chandler Basha 535.

Xavier Prep results

Mia Olsen, Jr., fifth, 19:09.15; Jamie Stelnik, So., seventh, 19:17.06; Grace Valandra, Jr., 18th, 20:00.45; Karina Hawkins, Sr., 19th, 20:12.96; Karina Smith, Sr., 22nd, 22:20.18; Sammy Braun, So., 23rd, 20:23.76; Helen Innes, Sr., 36th, 20:48.87.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

GATORS VOLLEYBALL CHAMPS AGAIN !!


Xavier's 2018 volleyball state champions (Photos by Don Ketchum).
It didn’t take too long for Tempe Corona del Sol’s Aztecs to figure out what was happening.

They could feel it in the air and in the vibration beneath their feet. It was something they would not be able to stop.

The Blue and White Wave.

Xavier Prep’s Gators won their second straight 6A Conference volleyball championship at Arizona State’s Wells Fargo Arena on Wednesday night (Nov. 7), scoring their second straight 3-0 sweep after defeating Chandler Hamilton in the semifinals.

Junior Bri McKnight unloaded a shot deep into Corona del Sol territory and it bounced off an Aztec’s hands and over the back line for the final point, putting the stamp on the victory – 25-21, 25-20 and 25-18.

Xavier finished with a 33-9 record, Corona del Sol 29-14. The Gators also had swept the Aztecs 3-0 in a match earlier in the year at Corona.

When McKnight saw what she and her teammates had done, she cupped her hands over her face as if she couldn’t believe it. Tears began to flow and not long after, the Blue and White Wave of boisterous Xavier faithful spilled onto the floor.

McKnight, an outside hitter, saved her best match of the season for last. She had 20 kills and 13 digs. Senior setter Shannon Shields had the perfect touch on most of her passes with 40 assists, as well as 12 digs. Senior libero Ashley Yeung was key on the back row with 17 digs and sprawling on the floor to reach the ball on several occasions. Junior middle blocker Jasmine Knight had 12 kills.

McKnight and Knight are expected to return as seniors next year, and sophomore outside hitter Serena Turner will be back. The Gators got a bonus from Turner in the title match – she had been out of action for several weeks with an ankle sprain, but worked feverishly to get back in time for the playoffs and contributed a pair of kills along with one dig.




Gators raise another title trophy.
Asked about her reaction to the win, McKnight said, “I realized that we just did it. I kind of dropped to the floor. I am beyond happy.’’

She was ecstatic that she could help send Shields and Yeung, two of her best friends on the team, out with a flourish.

Shields exuded the confidence that carried her for most of her four years on the varsity. She never seemed to get too high or too low, but all the while had fun. She said she and the Gators were well aware that Corona was capable of coming back from an 0-2 deficit as it did in a five-set semifinal shocker over top-seeded Gilbert Perry.

“We said, “We are not going to be Perry,’ ‘’ she said. “We did not want to let up.

“When we beat (Phoenix) Pinnacle (in the quarterfinals), we knew we would make it to the finals.’’

As McKnight was happy for her, Shields was happy for McKnight.

“The way she played was crucial for us,’’ Shields said.

During timeouts and in between games, the Gators raised what looked like a shoebox over their heads and touched it. Coach Lamar-Renee Bryant would not divulge its contents, only to say it carried a number of things “special to us. It’s a tradition.’’

After Xavier closed out the first game with a 3-1 run in the final moments, Corona was in control for much of Game 2. But Xavier hung tough, getting a kill from senior Jennelle Yarwood to the back corner and a kill from McKnight from the middle of the back row to win it.

In Game 3, it was as if the big win over Perry and the 0-2 deficit had taken its toll on the Aztecs, energy-wise. The closest they got was within 14-13 and the Gators marched toward victory.

During timeouts, Bryant said she would tell her players to play in five-point increments, “and that made the game more manageable for us.’’

It was a satisfying conclusion for Bryant and her players.

Playing in a couple of high-profile mid-season tournaments (Durango in Las Vegas and the Nike in the Phoenix area) took a lot of energy out of the Gators, and she said it “took about a month’’ for them to return to normal.

Late in the season, the team encountered “a few bumps,’’ according to Shields, namely losses (two each) to Perry and Hamilton.

Bryant admitted that her team had been struggling.

“Except for the last two (Hamilton and Corona del Sol),’’ she said, smiling.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

XCP swimmers in new Meet of Champions

The swimming season isn’t over yet for Xavier Prep’s Gators.

As part of a new idea, the Division I state runner-up will have several athletes compete in the Meet of Champions on Wednesday (Nov. 7) at Phoenix Country Day School. Action begins at 5:30 p.m.

The event is similar to those held after track and field seasons have been completed, where the best performers from every classification compete against each other.

Xavier is expected to feature all three of its relay teams, including the state-champion 200-yard medley.

The school also will be represented in six individual categories.

The swimmers are Maddie Wright (200- and 500-yard freestyles), Mia Rankin (200-yard individual medley and 500 free), Gracie Munk (100-yard butterfly and 100-yard backstroke), and Paola Guerra (100-yard breaststroke).

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Gators, Corona in volleyball title rematch

Every night, when the lights are shut off at Xavier Prep and darkness starts to creep in, the 2017 6A Conference volleyball championship trophy sits in its rightful place of honor and begins to weep. It is lonely, and yearns for companionship.

It needs a new sibling.

The 2018 volleyball team is going to do its best to make that happen.

The second-seeded Gators (32-9) are set to meet No. 4 Tempe Corona del Sol (29-13) in a rematch of last year’s title match on Wednesday (Nov. 7) at Arizona State’s Wells Fargo Arena. Firsts serve is 8 p.m. The contest will be preceded by the 5A championship match.

Both teams reached this point in surprising fashion in Monday’s (Nov. 5) semifinals.

Xavier had lost to No. 3 Chandler Hamilton three times, once in an invitational and twice during the regular season, including a shutout in the last one on Oct. 23. But the Gators, with one of their best all-around efforts of the season, controlled the semi pretty much throughout and recorded a 3-0 sweep, 25-21, 26-24 and 25-16.

Corona del Sol staged a big-time rally to stun top-seeded Gilbert Perry. The Aztecs dropped the first two games, 25-18 and 25-15 before roaring back for a 25-21, 25-21, 15-7 victory.

How did Xavier do it against Hamilton?

Senior setter and Under Armour All-American Shannon Shields described the Gators’ mindset.

“We were all talking about this the other day, and there was just a good feeling,’’ said Shields, who had 28 assists and provided several key serves. “We wanted to play this with a lot of energy and teamwork, and as seniors, we wanted to help push the team through. Basically, we had lost to Hamilton too many times and we went “all in’ to stop that.’’

Said coach Lamar-Renee Bryant: “We managed ourselves better. We talked about how golf (champion) and swimming (runner-up) had been competitive and we wanted to do that, too. This is the time where we feel we can start to shine.

“All of the girls contributed, and it sure makes the coaches smile.’’

In the first game, Xavier had a five-point run to overcome an early Hamilton lead, but the Huskies came back. They held an 18-14 lead when Bryant called timeout after a long Xavier serve. The Gators went on to lead briefly before Hamilton pulled even. It was 21-all when Xavier took over. Hamilton blocked a Xavier shot out of bounds, Gator senior Jennelle Yarwood had a service ace, junior Juli Westfall had a kill and junior Bri McKnight had the finishing kill.

A long serve by Xavier enabled Hamilton to pull even at 23 in Game 2. McKnight had another kill and Hamilton returned a shot out of bounds go give Xavier the win.

In Game 3, Hamilton had three service aces in a row for an early lead, and it looked as if the Huskies were on the way to forcing a Game 4. Xavier came back to tie it at 9, and an ace by Shields put the Gators ahead for good. They pulled away and never were seriously challenged after that.

Xavier was strong defensively all night. Bryant called the blocking effort one of the team’s best of the season. Senior Hayley Nash led the way with four. Senior libero Ashley Yeung had 12 digs and three aces. Junior Jasmine Knight led the team with 13 kills, Westfall had nine and McKnight seven.

Now Xavier must find a way to hold off Corona del Sol. Xavier swept the Aztecs at Corona, 3-0, on Sept. 11, but the Aztecs have four transfers, senior Mary Shroll from Tempe Prep (former 2A Player of the Year), setter Ashley Hayden and middle blocker Jenna Bolena from Phoenix Desert Vista, and setter McKenna Olsen from Gilbert Mesquite.

Note

It would be a good idea for fans planning to attend the final match to visit the Arizona Interscholastic Association Web site, azpreps365.com, for parking information (including fees), as well as entry and bag policies.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Gators swim well, but Chaparral much better

Xavier Prep swimming coach Mark Rankin cringed when he saw that 2017 Division II state champion Scottsdale Chaparral would be moving up to Division I in 2018.

Chaparral is considered by many to be among the top teams in the nation, and Rankin, whose Gators won the Division I title a year ago, knew that his team would have a big challenge.

It came to pass on Saturday (Nov. 3), when Chaparral left Xavier and everybody else in its wake to stake its claim as the new D-I champ at the Skyline Aquatic Center in east Mesa.

On an afternoon of spectacular weather, Chaparral defeated second-place Xavier by a whopping 176 ½ points (477 ½-301). To get an idea of the Firebirds’ dominance, Xavier’s point total was just 20 off of what it scored last year on the way to its title.

“I was very pleased with the way we swam,’’ said Rankin, who led the team with Jenny James. “We had some great swimming and there was great swimming all the way around.’’

Xavier won the first event of the day, the 200-yard medley relay, and had a number of other top-level finishers.

It started with sophomore Mia Rankin, who was third in the 200-yard individual medley and second in the 500-yard freestyle. She became an automatic All-American with her effort in the 500 free and is under consideration for All-American status in the 200 IM.

In the 500, she got a measure of revenge against Chandler High’s Destiny Kling, who won last year’s race by touching the wall only .18 of a second ahead of Rankin. This time, Rankin was second with a healthy six-second advantage over third-place Kling.

Xavier, always strong in the relays, finished third in the 200-yard freestyle relay and second in the 400-yard freestyle relay.

Freshman Gracie Munk finished second in the 100-yard backstroke. She and Rankin also contributed to some of the relay events.

And Xavier’s divers also looked good in the 1-meter competition on Saturday at Phoenix Country Day School. Senior Alyssa Largay and junior Maddie Sewell switched spots from their back-to-back finishes in 2017. Largay went from 11th to 10th and Sewell from 10th to 11th.

Freshman diver Samantha Klein gave the Gators a big boost with a No. 14 finish. Diving coach Frank Pipitone said Klein had been working on a few dives with greater difficulty with hopes that she would score more points, and she did just that.

“That was probably our highlight,’’ said Pipitone, who also coaches the divers at Brophy Prep. They helped the Broncos win the boys’ D-I title.

“It was a tough meet, but I am very proud of our girls,’’ Pipitone added.

Coach Rankin can take comfort in the fact that most of his swimmers are underclassmen and will return next season. Unfortunately, so will Chaparral’s.

“We will stay as close to them as we can. You never know what might happen,’’ he said.

Note

A meet official did a classy thing afterward as the champion and runner-up trophies were about to be presented.

He led the Gator girls in a cheer, “Mo! Mo! Mo!’’ in honor of Rankin’s late wife and Mia's mother, Maureen “Mo’’ Rankin, well known in Valley and state swimming circles. She was the Gators’ coach last year before cancer she had eradicated earlier returned and took her life in late September after a courageous battle with the disease. Mark Rankin joined James and the two led XCP to an emotional title triumph.

Girls’ Division I team scores

Scottsdale Chaparral 477 ½, Xavier Prep 301, Mesa Mountain View 268, Mesa Red Mountain 170, Gilbert Highland 138 ½, Chandler High 117, Mesa Desert Ridge 110, Chandler Hamilton 99 ½, Tucson High 96 ½, Phoenix Desert Vista 91, Phoenix Pinnacle 69, Gilbert Perry 65, Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor 46, Peoria Liberty 44, Mesa Westwood 35, Mesa Skyline 35, Tempe Corona del Sol 30, Queen Creek 26, Chandler Basha 16, Anthem Boulder Creek 16, Surprise Valley Vista 14, Mesa High 11, Yuma Cibola 1.

Xavier Prep results

200-yard medley relay – Championship race: First, 1:46.18 (Gracie Munk, Paola Guerra, Olivia Paliscak, Kelly Scott).

200-yard freestyle – Championship race: Maddie Wright, fourth, 1:51.79. Consolation race: Vica Dow, First, 1:54.65.

200-yard individual medley – Championship race: Mia Rankin, third, 2:03.57 (All-American consideration). Consolation race: Sydney Millane, fifth, 2:13.44.

50-yard freestyle – Consolation race: Olivia Paliscak, second, 24.80; Kelly Scott, sixth, 25.12.

1-meter diving – Alyssa Largay, 10th, 375.60 points; Maddie Sewell, 11th, 373.20; Samantha Klein, 14th, 353.25.

100-yard butterfly – Championship race: Gracie Munk, fifth, 57.24; Jordan Herrera, eighth, 58.33. Consolation race: Olivia Paliscak, second, 57.92; Haley Hubbard, sixth, 59.42.

100-yard freestyle – Championship race: Vica Dow, eighth, 53.92. Consolation race: Kelly Scott, seventh, 54.57.

500-yard freestyle – Championship race: Mia Rankin, second, 4:51.59 (Automatic All-American); Maddie Wright, sixth, 5:05.49. Consolation race: Carlie Herrmann, sixth, 5:17.65.

200-yard freestyle relay – Championship race: Third, 1:38.07 (Kelly Scott, Olivia Paliscak, Vica Dow, Maddie Wright).

100-yard backstroke – Championship race: Gracie Munk second, 56.81. Consolation race: Sydney Millane, seventh, 1:01.36.

100-yard breaststroke – Championship race: Paola Guerra, fifth, 1:06.84.

400-yard freestyle relay – Championship race: Second, 3:31.65 (Gracie Munk, Maddie Wright, Vica Dow, Mia Rankin).

Mountain bike riders finish fourth overall

The five-race Arizona Interscholastic Cycling League season came to a conclusion on Sunday (Nov. 4), and the combined club team from Xavier Prep and Brophy Prep finished fourth overall after a fifth-place finish in the final race at the White Tank Mountain Regional Park in Waddell.

In the three-mile JV-1 girls race, XCP junior Heather Kwapiszeski finished seventh on Sunday and eighth overall.  Junior Erin Hill finished 11th and was 12th overall.

In the three-mile JV-2 girls race, junior Camdyn Rael was 31st and 26th overall. Junior Catherine Wandachowitz was 33rd and 31st overall.

Hailey Schwartz had a good season in the Freshman category with a seventh-place finish and seventh overall finish.

And in the 1-lap, 5-mile category for seventh graders, Mary Hill was second in the race and was the overall points leader.

Congratulations to all of the riders, and to coach Rich Perrott and his staff for helping XCP show great improvement.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Sr. Lynn gets the Hall and the wall



A surprise tribute to Sr. Lynn Winsor was unveiled in the Activity Center (photo by Ronna Layne).

Xavier Prep's one and only . . .
Sr. Lynn Winsor, the Xavier athletic director, golf co-head coach and vice principal for activities, got some bonus recognition on Thursday (Nov. 1). It was in addition to being one of the newest inductees into the Arizona Sports Hall of Fame later that evening in Scottsdale.

After the Thursday morning’s Mass at school, she was led to the Activity Center, where a large permanent sign had been painted on the east wall.

It read, Sister Lynn Winsor, BVM, XCP Class of 1961, Arizona Sports Hall of Fame, November 2018.

A well-deserved tribute, indeed. All of this only two days after leading Xavier’s golf team to its 36th state championship and eighth in a row.

Winsor was inducted into the Hall with late former Arizona Cardinal and Arizona State player Pat Tillman, former Diamondbacks first baseman Mark Grace, former Olympic swimming medalist Gary Hall Jr., University of Arizona softball coach Mike Candrea, and former Scottsdale Chaparral softball coach Jeff Oscarson.

Gators look fresh and strong in quarterfinals

Who was that team wearing blue and white, moving back and forth and around on the Xavier Prep’s volleyball court on Thursday night (Nov. 1)?

Xavier’s Gators!!

The team had been a bit inconsistent down the stretch of the regular season, but still managed to earn the No. 2 seed in the 6A Conference state tournament.

In the quarterfinals against No. 10 seed Phoenix Pinnacle, the Gators played like the team with which their fans had become familiar for most of the season, winning 3-1. They looked fresh, with a renewed energy.

Or, as coach Lamar-Renee Bryant put it, “Xavier 2.0.’’

Are we now seeing a team that can challenge for a second straight state title?

The answer will come soon, on Monday night (Nov. 5) when Xavier faces No. 3 seed Chandler Hamilton in a semifinal match at Gilbert Highland.  Hamilton (33-9) has defeated Xavier (31-9) three times this season, including once in the Gilbert Invitational and twice as the Premier Region rival, the most recent on Oct. 23.

The Xavier-Hamilton match begins at 5:45 p.m. and will be followed by the other semi between top-seeded Gilbert Perry (32-3) and No. 4 Tempe Corona del Sol (28-13). Semifinal winners will play for all the marbles on Wednesday night (Nov. 7) at Arizona State’s Wells Fargo Arena.

The scores in the win over Pinnacle were 25-18, 20-25, 25-21 and a dominant 25-9.

“We played with more confidence,’’ Bryant said. “Our seniors knew it was going to be “go time.’ They knew it would be their last time on this court.

“If we are to beat teams like Hamilton and Perry (another Premier rival), we are going to need to play more like this. We know what we have to do.’’

Xavier got some big games from some of its seniors. Setter Kate Spellman had a fine all-around effort with three service aces, 19 assists and 10 digs. Setter Shannon Shields had 27 assists, libero Ashley Yeung had 22 digs and outside hitter Hayley Nash had three service aces.

In addition, junior middle blocker Jasmine Knight had 12 kills and five blocks, and junior outside hitter Juli Westfall continued her late-season rise with 14 kills.

Shields honored

Shields, who will play at Louisville starting next year, had been named to the Under Armour Volleyball All-American Second Team, in connection with the American Volleyball Coaches Association.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Runners 1-2 in sectional, now ready for state

Just like in 2017, the race for the Division I cross country state championship is expected to come down to two teams – winner Chandler and runner-up Xavier Prep.

But it was Xavier that was the most impressive on Thursday (Nov. 1) in the Division I, Section I meet at Cesar Chavez Park in Laveen.

The Gators had five runners finish in the top 10 (63 runners total), including the winner, junior Mia Olsen, and runner-up, sophomore Jamie Stelnik.

Other top-10 finishers in the 5,000-meter race were sophomore Sammy Braun, seventh, senior Karina Smith, ninth, and senior Helen Innes, 10th. And two more Gators ran well – senior Karina Hawkins, 13th, and junior Grace Valandra, 16th.

Olsen finished 18th at state a year ago, Stelnik was 11th, Innes was 19th and Hawkins was 20th.

Thursday’s race was a challenge. Cesar Chavez Park is a lovely setting, but can be somewhat of a danger for those trying to run in such an important event. There are potholes seemingly every couple of feet, and one misstep could cause a runner to tumble with an ankle injury or worse, possibly a knee.

“We were lucky to get through it and stay healthy,’’ Olsen said. “You need to stay healthy, stay strong at this point of the season and I think we are.’’

Stelnik was happy to contribute to a strong effort by the team, “but we can’t get too confident. We have to continue to work like we have during the season. You never know what’s going to happen at state.’’

The course at the state tournament has covered the smallish, rolling hills at the Cave Creek municipal golf course in north Phoenix for quite some time. This year’s event will be Nov. 10 (Saturday).

“We have run all types of courses during the season and trained for hills, so it shouldn’t be anything new. We are still one of the top contenders,’’ Hawkins said.

Figuring out the hills and accounting for the weather, which could be warmer than Thursday’s race, will be part of the equation, according to Braun.

“The race will start at 12:30 (p.m.), so we might have to be a little more conservative at first, but we know we are going to have to finish strong,’’ she said. “It looks like it will be us and Chandler.’’

She added that the team would start its final week of preparation with its usual distance work, then taper down leading up to the meet.

According to Xavier coach Dave Van Sickle, Chandler was missing a runner or two on Thursday. But the Wolves did have the fourth- and fifth-place finishers, Mihajla Milovanovic and Becca Taylor, respectively. Milovanovic was third at state a year ago, Taylor eighth.

“I like the way we are matched up,’’ Van Sickle said. “It looks good for us, but you still have to go out and do it when it counts.’’

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Champ golfers are so good, it's scary

TUCSON -- Knock-knock.

“Who’s there?’’ asked the Xavier Prep golfers on Monday night (Oct. 29) at their hotel rooms after the first round of the Division I state tournament at the Omni Tucson National courses.

“It’s Tui. Time for bed check,’’ said co-head coach Tui Selvaratnam, sounding much like a pro football team official keeping an eye on players during the annual training camp.

The door opened, and from behind coach Tui came this . . . thing.

The figure was dressed all in black and had a mask pulled over the head.

“It was a skeleton, only worse,’’ said co-head coach Sr. Lynn Winsor.

She should know. She was the one wearing the get-up. She stages the fright night every so often around Halloween, but not every year. After all, you have to keep it fresh, not let them know when or if it might be coming.

“It is good for team bonding,’’ Winsor said. “We also wore our Halloween socks.’’

After catching their breath, the girls showed their scary side in the tournament’s final day on Tuesday (Oct. 30).

Scary that the Gators are so good.

They played in rarified air, particularly in the second round, as all five participants combined to finish in the top 10 and lifted XCP to an incredible 33-shot lead over second-place Phoenix Pinnacle.

Xavier finished the tournament on the Catalina and Sonoran courses with a total of 588, 12 over par. It was the school’s 36th golf crown and eighth in a row.

Leading the way was junior Ashley Menne, who took a 2-shot advantage over Scottsdale Chaparral’s Grace Summerhays to win her third straight individual title. Only two other golfers have done so – Grace Park, who played at Xavier and Phoenix Horizon, and the late Xavier great, Heather Farr.

Menne had to have a strong effort on the back nine as she dueled Summerhays and Peoria Liberty freshman Madison Frick most of the day. Menne shot a 3-under-par 70 on the Catalina on Monday and an even-par 71 on the Sonoran on Tuesday for a final tally of 3-under 141.

In the final round, Menne double-bogeyed her first hole and bogeyed two other holes on the front nine. But she also birdied two holes and added two more on the 11th and 12th holes to remain in contention.

“She did great. It is very rare for someone to do,’’ said Winsor, also XCP’s athletic director.

The other four Gators on the leaderboard were junior Breyana Matthews, tied for third at 145, sophomore Lauren Garcia, tied for eighth at 152, and freshman Ivy Song and sophomore Bailee Tayles, tied for 10th at 153.

“We looked at the golfers we had coming into this season and thought we would have a strong team,’’ Winsor said. “And that’s just how they played. I think it has been one of the strongest we have had at the school.

“Coach Tui and I could not be more proud of the girls. Playing in the state tournament is always pressurized, and they came in and played true Gator golf.’’

Those members of the team who did not play in the tournament were allowed to participate in the festivities surrounding the event, such as staying overnight and supporting those who were playing.

Winsor and Selvaratnam will have a deep roster again next year, particularly since none of this year’s state tournament players are seniors.

“We are right in line to keep this thing going,’’ Winsor said.

Volleyball energy good, but execution . . .

It depends on which lens you look through.

A second-seeded volleyball team sweeps its first-round opponent in the state tournament, as Xavier Prep did with No. 15 Mesa Skyline on Tuesday night (Oct. 30) at Xavier.

Take one look, and it would seem a bit disconcerting because Xavier escaped with 26-24 wins in the first two games before finishing off the Coyotes with a 25-17 victory in Game 3. If a No. 2 team barely gets by against a No. 15, what will happen as the competition gets tougher over the remainder of the tournament?

A second look would have an optimistic focus. If the team has enough resolve to come back and win those two games instead of the opposite, it shows the team still has the motivation and the drive to succeed.

So where does that put the Gators?

Probably somewhere in between.

Xavier (30-9) moves on to the quarterfinals on Thursday night (Nov. 1) at home against No. 10 seed Phoenix Pinnacle. First serve is at 6:30 p.m. The winner will advance to a 6A Conference semifinal match on Monday (Nov. 5) at Gilbert Highland against either No. 6 Phoenix Mountain Pointe or No. 3 Chandler Hamilton.

“I am glad that we were able to get out by winning those three,’’ said Xavier coach Lamar-Renee Bryant. They (Skyline) played lights out, but you have to find a way to win. At this point, you’re talking about ending someone’s season each time out.’’

Bryant was not pleased with the fact that her team missed nine serves.

“We will have to do better with that,’’ she said.

And there’s always other things to work on.

“Our energy was good, but our execution was suspect,’’ Bryant said.

Game 1 went back and forth. Xavier had a 24-22 lead, but Skyline battled back to tie it with a kill and a block. The Gators responded with a kill of their own and then got help from the Coyotes, who sent a return shot beyond the back line.

Game 2 was a virtual replica of the first encounter. Back and forth. Xavier held a 24-22 lead, and Skyline again tied it at 24. Junior Bri McKnight then took over for the Gators, making it 25-24 on a kill and getting the final point on a well-placed return shot.

Xavier jumped to a quick lead in Game 3, but Skyline hung in there and managed a 13-13 tie midway through. The Gators opened things up after that and got the win in a much more comfortable fashion than the first two.

Junior Jasmine Knight led the Gators with 12 kills, and McKnight had 11.

“They carried us,’’ Bryant said.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Xavier Prep divers are right on target


Xavier divers Maddy Sewell, left, and Aly Largay. (Photo courtesy of Maddy Sewell).
Xavier Prep’s divers had another strong showing on Oct. 19 in the Puma Invite at Gilbert Perry.

Senior Aly Largay was the winner, with junior Maddy Sewell right behind at No. 2.

Freshman Samantha Klein was fifth, and senior Molly Cahill was ninth.

All four divers have qualified for the Division I championship meet on Friday (Nov. 2) and Saturday (Nov. 3) at Phoenix Country Day School.

Good luck to these Gator student-athletes at state!!

Monday, October 29, 2018

Xavier golf leads D-I state field by 12 shots

Xavier Prep’s golf team has the school’s 36th state championship and eighth in a row within reach with a 12-shot lead over Phoenix Pinnacle after Monday’s (Oct. 29) first round of the Division I state tournament at the Omni Tucson National Resort.

The Gators shot 10 over par on the rugged Catalina course, with the more traditional Sonoran course left to play in Tuesday’s (Oct. 30) final round. That will begin at approximately 10:30 a.m.

Phoenix Pinnacle was in second place at 22-over, followed by Chandler Hamilton at 27-over, Gilbert Highland at 36-over and Mesa Red Mountain at 37-over.

Xavier junior Ashley Menne, the two-time defending state champion, leads the individual field. She was the only golfer to shoot under par (-3).

Other XCP finishers were junior Breyana Matthews (1-over), sophomore Bailee Tayles (5-over), freshman Ivy Song (7-over) and sophomore Lauren Garcia (8-over).

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Volleyball faces Skyline in opening round

The wait finally ended on Saturday (Oct. 27) for Xavier Prep’s volleyball team and the other schools expected to contend for the 6A Conference state championship.

They found out who will be playing who and where in the first round of the tournament on Tuesday (Oct. 30). The brackets were released Saturday by the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

The defending champion Gators (29-9) open as the No. 2 seed behind Gilbert Perry, and will meet 15th-seeded Mesa Skyline at the Activity Center. First serve is at 6:30 p.m. Skyline (23-16) qualified for the top 16 by defeating Peoria Liberty in a “play-in’’ game on Thursday night (Oct. 25).

It has been an up-and-down season for Skyline. The Coyotes won their opening game, then lost five in a row before getting back on track.

Xavier coach Lamar-Renee Bryant said she does not know much about Skyline, other than that it has defeated a few good teams such as Phoenix Pinnacle and Mesa Westwood. Pinnacle is seeded 10th in the tournament, Westwood No. 16.

“We will try to do the things we do well. That’s all we can do,’’ Bryant said. “If we play like we are capable of, there is nothing we can’t stop.’’

The danger could lie in whether the Gators stop themselves. They have had issues of late playing with confidence, especially against the tougher teams such as Perry and Chandler Hamilton. 

“The confidence has to get better,’’ Bryant said. “We have been able to handle most teams on the schedule, but against teams that are equal to us, we have taken a step backward.’’

To help in that area, the team met with a “mental health coach’’ on Saturday, taking on suggestions on how they might be able to survive if the road is full of obstacles.

One obstacle that has surfaced is the Gators’ health, not necessarily through injuries but by way of illness.

Bryant said some of the players have struggled the last week or so.

If Xavier defeats Skyline, it would play another home game in the next round, on Thursday (Nov. 1). The Gators would face the winner of Tuesday’s first-round match between Pinnacle and No. 7 host Mesa High.

Xavier Gators roster

Ashley Yeung, Sr., libero; Jennelle Yarwood, Sr., outside hitter; Abby Converse, Jr., defensive specialist/libero; Jasmine Knight, Jr., middle blocker; Tori Burton, Jr., opposite; Bri McKnight, Jr., outside hitter; Zaira Reyes, So., setter; Shannon Shields, Sr., setter; Hayley Nash, Sr., outside hitter; Juli Westfall, Jr., outside hitter; Serena Turner, So., outside hitter; Kaori Robertson, So., defensive specialist/libero; Kate Spellman, Sr., setter; Quinn Voorhees, Jr., middle blocker.

Head coach – Lamar-Renee Bryant. Assistant coaches – Chaz Arah, Kristen Preach. Team manager – Carmela Palmieri.

6A Conference first-round matches

(Seedings in parentheses)

Tuesday, Oct. 30

Mesa Westwood (16) at Gilbert Perry (1), Queen Creek (9) at Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor (8), Mesa Desert Ridge (12) at Chandler Basha (5), Phoenix Desert Vista (13) at Tempe Corona del Sol (4), Gilbert Highland (14) at Chandler Hamilton (3), Scottsdale Chaparral (11) at Phoenix Mountain Pointe/Ahwatukee (6), Phoenix Pinnacle (10) at Mesa High (7), Mesa Skyline (15) at Phoenix Xavier Prep (2).

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Shields, Yeung are All-American nominees


A pair of Xavier Prep seniors are among 14 Arizona volleyball players nominated by the American Volleyball Coaches Association for Under Armour High School All-American status.

They are setter Shannon Shields and libero Ashley Yeung. Congrats to these two great Gators!!

Two dozen players will be selected for the All-American honor on Oct. 31, and another 72 players will be chosen Honorable Mention.

XCP volleyball girls happy to help children

The Xavier Prep varsity volleyball team recently participated in a community service project, along with Dad's Club Vice President Damon Knight and Dominic Palmieri at the Ronald McDonald House in Phoenix.

The Ronald McDonald House is a welcoming "home away from home'' for families with children facing medical challenges, providing an atmosphere of comfort, hope and courage.

Way to go, Gators !!

Xavier volleyball players join Ronald McDonald at his house for a great cause. (Photos courtesy of XCP volleyball).


There was plenty of work to do as the players helped prepare stuffed animals for kids.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Volleyball: Is there light at end of the tunnel?

They gathered in a dark corner of the gymnasium, almost cowering from the light instead of embracing it.

After being swept 3-0 by host Chandler Hamilton in the regular-season volleyball finale on Tuesday night (Oct. 23), where do Xavier Prep’s Gators go from here?

The defending 6A champions are 29-9, but are not playing their best volleyball by any stretch of the imagination. The Gators have three losses in their final five matches. There are breakdowns all over the court, but the main concern for coach Lamar Renee-Bryant is the players’ mental approach.

She has seemingly done everything to get them back in their proper lanes. Sometimes it works, sometimes not.

“We have too many people who are afraid to be successful,’’ Bryant said. “We have a lot of young players on our team (nine underclassmen, five seniors), and that’s kind of where we are right now.’’

The door was left open for the Gators after Hamilton (31-9) suffered a surprising sweep at the hands of Chandler Basha on Monday night (Oct. 22).

Before playing Xavier, Hamilton had its player recognition night.

Bryant said she knew that Hamilton, which defeated her team 3-2 earlier in the season, would have the motivation and “go all-out for us. We just kind of rolled over.’’

The scores were Hamilton, 25-20, 26-24 and 25-21.

Xavier took two timeouts down the stretch in Game 1, the last with a 22-17 Hamilton lead, but the Gators could not get back into it. Game 2 was more competitive. Xavier had a 23-21 lead, but the Huskies went on a 5-1 run to close it out.

In Game 3, Xavier had a chance to make its move with the score tied at 16. Hamilton went on to score six straight points.

In all, Xavier had only eight blocks in the match.

Senior Jennelle Yarwood led the Gators with 11 kills, junior Jasmine Knight had eight kills and junior Bri McKnight had seven kills to go with her 15 digs.

Senior libero Ashley Yeung had 23 digs, sophomore Kaori Robertson had eight digs and senior setter Shannon Shields had 28 assists.

State tournament

The Arizona Interscholastic Association listed Xavier as one of its eight automatic state qualifiers on Wednesday (Oct. 24). The teams were not seeded, however, and the brackets were not released.

The brackets will be released in an AIA “show’’ on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. on its Web site. There will be eight “play-in’’ games on Thursday night (Oct. 25) and those winners will be seeded accordingly in the final bracket.

The automatic qualifiers are Xavier, Chandler Basha, Tempe Corona del Sol, Chandler Hamilton, Mesa High, Phoenix Mountain Pointe, Gilbert Perry and Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor.

Thursday’s play-in games are . . .

Phoenix North at Queen Creek, Mesa Skyline at Peoria Liberty, Mesa Westwood at Yuma Kofa, Chandler High at Mesa Desert Ridge, Surprise Valley Vista at Scottsdale Chaparral, Surprise Shadow Ridge at Phoenix Desert Vista (Ahwatukee), Glendale Mountain Ridge at Gilbert Highland and Mesa Mountain View at Phoenix Pinnacle.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Hamilton rally eliminates Gator badminton

The stakes were much higher on Monday (Oct. 22) for the badminton teams from Xavier Prep and Chandler Hamilton than when they played on Oct. 16.

The match at Xavier was a Division I quarterfinal pairing, and the winner would go on to the semifinals.

Xavier, seeded fourth, had defeated No. 5 Hamilton 5-4 in the earlier match, but this time the Huskies turned the tables to eliminate the Gators with a 5-4 win.

Hamilton, which defeated No. 12 Laveen Cesar Chaves 5-0 earlier on Monday, will play defending state champion Gilbert Perry in a semifinal contest on Wednesday (Oct. 24) at Scottsdale Chaparral. Peoria Liberty will meet Tempe Corona del Sol in the other semi for the right to play for the title on Thursday (Oct. 25) at Phoenix Sunnyslope.

Hamilton did it the hard way against Xavier.

Xavier won four out of six singles matches, meaning Hamilton would have to sweep the three doubles matches to take the match.

That rarely happens, but Hamilton pulled it out with the doubles sweep.

Xavier finished with an 11-4 record. The team came a long way from the early stages of the season when the players were being evaluated. Also, coach Susan Contreras was sidelined by an illness early in the season and remains out, so assistants Francis Hartojo and Karina Magana took over the bulk of the leadership duties.

Former head coach Nancy Meyer also assisted in many of the Gators’ matches.

“We did our best, but the other team didn’t quit and that’s a credit to them,’’ Hartojo said.

“They stepped up their intensity. I think they knew it would be a challenge for them to win in our gym, but they did it. Winning all those doubles the way they did doesn’t happen very often, but that’s the way it goes. That’s the way sports go, because you never know what is going to happen.


“We improved a lot during the season. It’s too bad we couldn’t have gone at least one step further.’’
Hamilton 5, Xavier Prep 4

Singles

Rujuta Sane, H, def. Maeve Lee, X, 11-6, 11-5; Taylor Dines, X, def. Mikenna Debruin, H, 11-5, 11-9; Jane Tiffany, X, def. Nichti Pulicheria, H, 11-1, 11-8; Samantha Diep, H, def. Mayse Dunn, X, 11-2, 4-11, 13-10; Sophie Riviere, X, def. Thealpia Liu, H, 11-1, 11-9; Lina Vanderwey, X, def. Madison Kosmatka, H, 11-9, 13-10.

Doubles

T. Liu-Abby Liu, H, def. Lee-Tiffany, X, 15-9, 15-12; Debruin-Kosmatka, H, def. T. Dines-Maddie Dines, X, 15-7, 15-10; Sane-Diep, H, def. Vanderwey-Dunn, X, 15-12, 15-10.

V-ball looks for 30th win in regular-season finale

Xavier Prep’s volleyball team will be aiming for its 30th victory of the season on Tuesday night (Oct. 23) when the Gators finish the regular season at Chandler Hamilton.

Xavier (29-8) fell to Hamilton 3-2 in a match at Xavier on Oct. 10.

The Gators swept Chandler High 3-0 in a match at Brophy Prep on Monday night (Oct. 22), 25-8, 25-15 and 25-11.

Hamilton, meanwhile, suffered a surprising 3-0 sweep against Chandler Basha. Hamilton is now 30-9.

Senior setter Shannon Shields led Xavier past Chandler with 15 assists, six kills and four blocks. Senior hitter Hayley Nash had seven kills and four service aces. Junior hitter Bri McKnight had six kills, sophomore libero Kaori Robertson had four aces and senior libero Ashley Yeung had 13 digs.

After the Hamilton match, the Gators will learn on Wednesday (Oct. 24) their final ranking. As of Tuesday morning, they were ranked No. 2. Final bracketing will be announced by the Arizona Interscholastic Association in the coming days and the state tournament begins on Oct. 30.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Big effort for Xavier-Brophy mountain bike team


Xavier-Brophy riders and coaches celebrate their outstanding effort on Sunday at McDowell Mountain Regional Park (photo courtesy of Rich Perrott).

The Xavier Prep-Brophy Prep mountain biking team was disappointed after the third race in the five-race season was canceled due to weather on Oct. 7.

But all of that was forgotten in the fourth race on Sunday (Oct. 21) at the McDowell Mountain Regional Park in Fountain Hills.

The Gators-Broncos finished third among Division I teams.

“We had a total of seven podiums for the day, and our first team podium and trophy,’’ said coach Rich Perrott. “This is an enormous accomplishment for our team, and we edged out some of the powerhouse teams in the league (Arizona Interscholastic Cycling Association) such as Flagstaff and (Sierra Vista) Buena.

“Our Xavier girls made the difference, and Hailey Schwartz was a first-ever podium award winner as a freshman. I could not be prouder of this amazing group of student-athletes.’’

In the JV-1 category, junior Heather Kwapiszeski finished seventh (1:03.23.45) over the 11.30-mile (total), two-lap course, and junior Erin Hill was 12th (1:12.18.16).

Schwartz was fourth in her freshman race at 1:03.04.93.

And XCP got an outstanding ride from Mary Hill in the seventh-grade race. She finished third (30:53.92) over the 6.2-mile (total), two-lap course.

The fifth and final race of the season will be held Nov. 4 at the White Tank Mountain Regional Park in the west Valley community of Waddell.


Saturday, October 20, 2018

Badminton hopes end after first day at state

The four Xavier Prep badminton players who participated in the Division I state singles and doubles tournament unfortunately did not make it past Friday’s (Oct. 19) first day at Glendale Independence.

Maeve Lee and Jane Tiffany played in singles and the sister tandem of Maddie and Taylor Dines played in doubles. All are seniors.

Lee was the No. 8 seed, and she reached the quarterfinals, where she fell to top-seeded Julia Mumme of Gilbert Perry, 11-3, 11-2. In the first two rounds, Lee defeated Jessica Jung of Phoenix Desert Vista, 11-5, 11-4 to open things up and defeated Tania Do of Glendale Mountain Ridge 11-3, 11-5 in the next round to advance to the quarters.

In the first round, Tiffany dropped an 11-6, 11-5 decision to Tatum Monk of Mesa Mountain View.

The Dines played fifth-seeded Nikhita Jayaraj and Ashley Rodarte of Gilbert Perry in the opening round. The Dines had a strong effort in the first game with a 17-14 win but Jayaraj and Rodarte came back for 15-8, 15-8 wins in the next two games.

The focus will shift to state team competition beginning on Monday (Oct. 22). Xavier Prep is the No. 4 seed and will play at home at the Activity Center. No. 5 Chandler Hamilton will meet No. 12 Laveen Cesar Chavez in the first round at 3:30 p.m. and the winner will advance to the quarterfinals against Xavier shortly after the completion of the first match.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Volleyball shows considerable improvement

“A lot better.’’

That was the assessment of Xavier Prep volleyball coach Lamar-Renee Bryant after her team’s three-set sweep of visiting Chandler Basha on Thursday night’s (Oct. 18) Senior Night.

Bryant had some concern after the Gators were dominated by Gilbert Perry on Tuesday night (Oct. 17), a match in which the team appeared somewhat lethargic and out of sync.

But the Gators were back to their old selves against Basha with victories of 25-13, 25-18 and 25-18 to push their record to 28-8.

Xavier has two regular-season matches remaining on the schedule – a “home’’ contest on Monday (Oct. 22) and a road match on Tuesday (Oct. 23) against Chandler Hamilton. Monday’s match will be played in the main gym at Brophy Prep because the XCP badminton team will be hosting the first two rounds of the state tournament at the Activity Center.

The early part of the first game against Basha was close, but Xavier pulled away. The Gators jumped to a comfortable lead in Game 2, scoring their final point when Basha tipped a Xavier return shot out of bounds. Junior Jasmine Knight put the finishing touches on the decisive third game with a kill.

“We were relaxed – more focused,’’ Bryant said. “We know the end (of the season) is coming and that’s when you want to be playing at a high level.’’

Xavier was much better with its service, blocking up front and overall defense.

Senior libero Ashley Yeung had numerous digs and senior setter Shannon Shields continued to spread the wealth among her teammates with accurate passing.

“All of the seniors stepped up,’’ Bryant said. “Especially Ashley. She went back to being Ashley.’’

The coach also pointed to the play of junior outside hitter Juli Westfall as a key element for the Gators.

The team’s six seniors were honored before the match.They were Yeung, outside hitter Jennelle Yarwood, Shields, outside hitter Hayley Nash, setter Kate Spellman and team manager Carmela Palmieri.

Gator crew rows the river Charles in Boston

The World Series in Boston? Sure, that’s a big event, but so is the Head of the Charles regatta.

Sunday’s (Oct. 21) Head of the Charles (River) is billed as the world’s largest two-day regatta, and Xavier Prep’s Crew team will be a part of those festivities for the third time. Xavier will be one of 84 teams competing.

Coached by Peter Figgins and Shannon Elford, here are the girls who will represent Xavier:

Junior Olivia Petrine, junior Taylor Killoren, senior Maddie Wickers, sophomore Ellie Steely-Judice and junior Zoe Wasson.

Good luck to the Gators !!

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Badminton gets home court; singles, doubles start

Thanks to a 5-4 victory over Chandler Hamilton in its regular-season finale on Tuesday (Oct. 16), the Xavier Prep badminton team earned itself a bye in the first round and a home match in the quarterfinals, both on Monday (Oct. 22).

The Gators (11-3) will be the No. 4 seed behind defending champion Gilbert Perry, Tempe Corona del Sol and Phoenix Pinnacle. All four teams will get first-round byes.

On Monday, No. 5 Hamilton will meet No. 12 Laveen Cesar Chavez at 3:30 p.m. at Xavier. The Gators would face the winner after the conclusion of the first match.

The individual singles and doubles portion of the tournament will be held on Friday (Oct. 19) and Saturday (Oct. 20) at Glendale Independence (10 a.m. both days).

Four seniors will carry the XCP banner in individual competition.

Maeve Lee is the only seeded Gator – No. 8 in singles. She will open play against Jessica Jung of Phoenix Desert Vista. The winner advances to the next round later in the day. Jane Tiffany also is entered in singles, against Tatum Monk of Mesa Mountain View.

Xavier will have one doubles team – sisters Maddie and Taylor Dines, who will face Nikhita Jayaraj and Ashley Rodarte of Gilbert Perry.

Top 12 seeded Division I teams

1 – Gilbert Perry. 2 – Tempe Corona del Sol. 3 – Phoenix Pinnacle. 4 – Xavier Prep. 5 – Chandler Hamilton. 6 – Peoria Liberty. 7 – Chandler Basha. 8 – Mesa Mountain View. 9 – Mesa Skyline. 10 – Phoenix Desert Vista. 11 – Mesa Dobson. 12 – Laveen Cesar Chavez.

Frosh tennis "A" team wins eighth match

The Xavier Prep freshman tennis “A” team won its eighth match of the season in 10 attempts on Wednesday (Oct. 17) with a 7-2 victory at home over Tempe Corona del Sol.

According to the Xavier schedule, the “A’’ team has completed its season, while the freshman “B’’ team has two more matches – on Thursday (Oct. 18) at Chandler High and on Oct. 25 at Queen Creek Casteel.

Xavier Prep 7, Corona del Sol 2

Singles

Victoria Chrostowski, X, def. CDS, 8-2; Sammy Field, X, def. CDS, 8-5; CDS def. Piper Kilb, X, 8-3; Halston Yerxa, X, def. CDS, 8-5; Diana Briguglio, X, def. CDS, 8-2; CDS def. Caroline Purtill, X, 8-5.

Doubles

Chrostowski-Kilb, X, def. CDS, 8-5; Field-Yerxa, X, def. CDS, 8-6; Briguglio-Purtill, X, def. CDS, 8-5.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Perry's power leaves Gator v-ball in a daze

Since Xavier Prep’s volleyball team took Gilbert Perry to five sets in their match won by Perry on Sept. 26 at Xavier, it seemed logical to think that a similar type of match would unfold when the two teams reconvened on Tuesday night (Oct. 16) at Perry.

But it didn’t happen.

It wasn’t even close.

From the match’s opening serve to the final point, top-ranked Perry was dominant in every phase of the game.

The Pumas pinned the first three-game sweep on the Gators since the 2015 season, when the feat was accomplished by Chandler Hamilton.

The scores were 25-14, 25-16 and 25-18.

If there was good to come out of this, it was that Xavier remained at No. 2 in the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s power-points rankings in the 6A Conference. Perry is No. 1, with Hamilton at No. 3.

Xavier, which also fell to Hamilton in five sets on Oct. 10, saw its record slip to 27-8. XCP will travel to face Hamilton in its regular-season finale on Oct. 23. In between, the Gators have home contests against Chandler Basha on Thursday (Oct. 18) and Chandler High on Monday (Oct. 22).

Monday's game will be played at Brophy Prep's main gym because XCP's Activity Center will host the first round of the Division I state badminton tournament. Badminton begins at 3:30 p.m., volleyball at 6.

The breakdowns against Perry started with the players’ mindset, and ranged from slow reaction time to blocking and other aspects, according to Xavier coach Lamar-Renee Bryant.

“It was not a good mental match for us. Too much head space,’’ Bryant said. “We couldn’t get out of our own way.’’

The slow reaction time was particularly evident along the back line. Bryant said some of that was due to the fact that the front line was slow on its block attempts, which in turn led to the back line getting to the ball late.

Xavier had just five blocks for the entire match, and Perry’s Grace Doyle and Megan Schulte had five apiece.

Junior Bri McKnight led Xavier with 10 kills. Senior setter Shannon Shields has 12 digs and 17 assists, and sophomore defensive specialist/libero Kaori Robinson had 10 digs.