DON KETCHUM is a native of Phoenix. He was a sportswriter for The Arizona Republic/The Phoenix Gazette for nearly four 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, September 24, 2014

Gators rally, grind out 5-set volleyball win

Xavier’s Gators were listless. Their fuel gauge pointed to E.
They won their first game against host Gilbert High on Tuesday night (Sept. 23), but lost the next two in the best-of-five match. The second loss definitely was not a good sign – 14-25.
They were competing in their eighth match in five days, the first seven coming at a tournament in Las Vegas over the weekend. Many of the girls had been burning both ends of the candle, trying to prepare for important upcoming tests in the classroom in addition to playing volleyball.
Just how were they going to summon whatever was necessary to allow them to overcome this big obstacle?
They did it – somehow they did it.
They came back for an impressive 25-16 win in Game 4 and finished the Tigers off with a 15-9 triumph in the decisive Game 5.
The five scores were 25-22, 21-25, 14-25, 25-16 and 15-9.
“I’m very proud of the girls and the way they were able to come back,’’ said Gators coach Lamar-Renee Bryant. “This was like a state-tournament match.’’
In the fourth game, Xavier regained its service and passing touch and began to take control.
“I think our serves kind of put them on the defensive and in general we sort of forced them to be one-dimensional,’’ Bryant said. “Those middle two games (losses) were tough, but the girls were able to get their confidence back.’’
The coach pointed to big efforts from four players – freshman outside hitter Alayna Wagner, junior setter/outside hitter Claire Coppola, junior libero Kristen Largay and sophomore middle blocker McKenna Patterson.
“Lanie took some big swings out there and Claire was nice with some blocks on the right side,’’ Bryant said. “Kristen extended the play several times by digging the ball out and with her passing, and McKenna made some key plays for us late in the match.’’
Wagner finished with 10 kills and 15 digs, Largay had 28 digs, junior Khalia Lanier had 18 kills and 33 digs, and senior Kate Even had 12 kills.
The Gators now will have a week to rest up before their next match, at home against Scottsdale Desert Mountain on Oct. 2.

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