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.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Seniors help keep XCP volleyball on the right path

Xavier Prep’s badminton team recently won its second straight state championship. Can the Gators’ volleyball team do the same? We are about to find out.
Xavier enters the 2014 Division I tournament as the No. 3 seed and will host a first-round match against No. 14 Mesa Mountain View on Tuesday (Nov. 4) at 6:30 p.m. at the XCP Activity Center. If Xavier wins, it would host another match on Thursday (Nov. 6) at 6:30 against either No. 6 Peoria Centennial or No. 11 Phoenix Horizon.
Semifinals are Saturday (Nov. 8) at Mesquite High in Gilbert and the championship match is on Nov. 12 at Mesquite.
“We are happy with our seed,’’ said Xavier coach Lamar-Renee Bryant. “We lost one of our early matches (to Phoenix Desert Vista), but we remained confident and tried to be the best team we can be. We were the No. 5 seed last year and won it all, so we are certainly capable from the No. 3 spot.
“We are a completely different team than last year. We have two seniors (Kate Even and Molly Scheel) and six players who weren’t on the team last year. We have had to earn everything. The girls get along, and they work hard for each other.’’
The two leaders are Even, a 6-foot middle blocker, and Scheel, a 5-10 outside hitter.

Seniors Molly Scheel and Kate Even will lead Xavier's volleyball team as it attempts to win a second straight Division I state championship.
 Even is more of an emotional leader, while Scheel is quiet by comparison and leads by example.
“Our seniors have provided us big stability,’’ Bryant said. “We are young on and off the court and the seniors wanted to make it clear to the young players that when you sign up to come here, you are and will be competitive. It’s part of the Xavier DNA.’’
Even always seems to have a smile on her face, but she and her teammates know when to take care of business.
“We are a close team on the court and off, with all the activities we do, like scavenger hunts and other things,’’ Even said.
Scheel said the team was close to begin with, but became even closer while being with each other 24-7 at an early season tournament in Las Vegas.
Even and Scheel are close friends and have been playing together for about six years, including club volleyball. They hope to go on and play in college and are considering playing sand volleyball.
“How great would it be that as seniors, we could win it again this year?’’ Even said.
“It would be awesome,’’ Scheel chimed in.
Even enjoys her schoolwork and is leaning toward psychology, while Scheel is considering occupational therapy, where she can assist young kids with their learning skills.
Scheel plays mostly the right side at outside hitter, but is versatile enough to play the left side, Bryant said. Even said she tries to “control the middle, so that Molly and the other outsides (hitters) can put it away.’’
According to Even, the best thing about the team this season “is that we can have so much fun and be so competitive.’’
The Gators, with a 34-3 overall record, have shown they can play with the best of them.
They played well in the Las Vegas tournament, won the Gilbert tournament and won their bracket in the Nike Invitational, defeating Desert Vista, which now is the No. 1 seed in the state tournament.

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