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.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Gators win 6 of 7 in Gilbert v-ball tourney

It didn't carry the same intensity as the Division I state volleyball tournament, but it was pretty close.

Out of eight teams in the Gilbert Invitational over the weekend, there are some that have a chance to win it all – including Chandler Hamilton and Tempe Corona del Sol.

And Xavier Prep’s defending state champion Gators showed why they are a strong candidate to repeat.

They played four matches on Friday (Oct. 5) and three more on Saturday (Oct. 6) in the round-robin format, coming away with a 6-1 record. XCP defeated every team except for Chandler Hamilton, but Hamilton lost two other matches.

Xavier, now with a 26-6 overall record, did not have an easy time of it on Saturday. It defeated host Gilbert High handily in its first match. After a break that approached three hours, the Gators returned to the floor and were taken to three sets by Phoenix Mountain Pointe before earning the win.

In its final match of the day against Gilbert Highland, Xavier dropped the first game, but rallied to win the next two, including a 15-13 score in decisive third game.

“We are happy to pull out those three-game matches,’’ said Xavier coach Lamar-Renee Bryant. “Highland is a scrappy team, and we were glad to be able to battle back.’’

Bryant could not say enough good things about the play of junior middle blocker Jasmine Knight.

She was there to reject opponents’ shots on many occasions, and scored much-needed points with her powerful swings.

“They were great matches for her,’’ Bryant said. “She took a lot of pressure off everyone else. This is the kind of Jasmine we are going to need to see for the rest of the season. She wants the ball (on offense), and when she gets it, she sees where the opponent is and is able to hit around them.’’

Senior setter Shannon Shields had some of her best games of the season in the tourney, and sophomore setter Zaira Reyes gave the offense a boost with senior Kate Spellman unavailable due to taking collegiate tests.

Bryant said she wanted the offense to play with more energy, so she instructed Shields to increase her workload as an occasional outside hitter. Shields’ power is greater than a lot of people might realize, and she seems to use it at just the right time.

The Gators have two matches during the coming week on back-to-back nights – at Phoenix Desert Vista in Ahwatukee on Tuesday (Oct. 9) and on Wednesday (Oct. 10) at home against Hamilton.

Xavier scores in Gilbert Invitational

XCP def. Chandler Basha, 25-16, 25-22.

XCP def. Phoenix Sunnyslope, 25-14, 25-23.

XCP def. Tempe Corona del Sol, 25-17, 25-27, 15-10.

XCP lost to Chandler Hamilton, 26-24, 18-25, 10-15.

XCP def. Gilbert High, 25-21, 25-21.

XCP def. Phoenix Mountain Pointe, 25-15, 24-26, 15-7.

XCP def. Gilbert Highland, 22-25, 25-21, 15-13.

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