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.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Gator volleyball team in "a tough situation"

In order to play championship-caliber volleyball against a championship-caliber team, your players are going to have to be on top of their game every moment.

No time off on any play. No distractions. Play with confidence.

Xavier Prep coach Lamar-Renee Bryant knows this. Her Gators followed this path to success a year ago, when they claimed the 6A Conference state championship.

She likes to think that this year’s version will reach those same heights. Will the Gators play like they did a year ago, or will their level of play not match it?

You just never know.

At times, the Gators look like world-beaters. At other times, not so much.

Fans saw a both sides on Wednesday night (Oct. 10), when XCP faced Premier Region rival Chandler Hamilton at the Activity Center.

Xavier escaped with a 25-23 win in Game 1 of the best-of-five match and had a 21-15 lead entering the stretch run of Game 2. Hamilton then scored six straight points to tie it at 21 and went on to win 29-27. Hamilton easily won Game 3, 25-16. Xavier responded with a 25-15 victory in Game 4 and Hamilton took the match with a 15-12 win in Game 5.

Despite the setback, Xavier (27-7) remained in the No. 2 spot behind Gilbert Perry in the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s power-points rankings that were updated Thursday morning (Oct. 11), while Hamilton (29-7) still was at No. 3. Xavier has 3-2 losses to both schools and plays both on the road again, on Oct. 16 at Perry and Oct. 23 at Hamilton.

“We have put ourselves in a tough situation,’’ Bryant said. “We want to get as high of a seed as we can (in the state tournament) and play a few games at home (to begin the tournament), but we’ll just have to see. There have been times when we went in as a “6’ and still won it.’’

Against Hamilton, she said, “We lost our confidence. We had the lead in Game 2 but we let it slip away. We should have been up 2-0. But give Hamilton credit. They are a very good team and they earned the win.’’

Despite being down in Game 2, Hamilton, which defeated Xavier two out of three in the recent Gilbert Invitational, didn’t seem distraught. The Huskies maintained their composure.

Xavier had junior outside hitter Bri McKnight return after nursing an injury, got strong play from junior middle blocker Jasmine Knight and good productivity out of sophomore setter Zaira Reyes and sophomore defensive specialist/libero Kaori Robertston in their increased roles.

The Gators lost a key front-line player during Tuesday night’s (Oct. 9) win at Phoenix Desert Vista. Rising sophomore talent Serena Turner suffered a sprained ankle and was on crutches for the Hamilton match. The Gators’ tallest player at 6-feet-1, it is uncertain whether Turner will be able to return.

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