Bio

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 AIA365.com, the web site of the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

SAND-TASTIC!! Gators win 4th state title in a row

Assistant coach Sue Contreras, far left, and head coach Tim McHale, far right, enjoy another proud moment with their Xavier sand volleyball team after winning their fourth straight state title.
 Each time Xavier Prep’s sand volleyball players get in a circle for a team cheer, they finish by shouting the word, “Dynasty!’’
You really can’t explain it any other way.
The Gators won their fourth straight state championship in the four years the sport has been in existence in Arizona, edging out Gilbert Highland 3-2 on Friday night (April 24) at the Victory Lane Sports Complex in Glendale.
Xavier did it with victories by the two-player teams of Ainsley Ramsey and Kailey Klein, Kasie Thompson and Caroline White and Kristen Klein and Emma Cisneros-Luebke. Xavier also had defeated Highland 3-2 in an earlier match this season.
“The kids went out here and did their job. That’s what we ask for all the time and that’s what they do,’’ said Xavier coach Tim McHale.
“Each championship team is different, but this might have meant a little more because of what we had to go through. We went through a lot of changes. Everyone did a great job.’’
The amazing thing about the Gators is that all but two of their players will be back again next season.
The seniors who finished their careers put a lot of sweat and tears into helping build the program.
Natalie Braun struggled with illness during a large part of the season. She played Friday night. Kelly Andrew sat out the season with a stress fracture in her foot but proved to be an asset with her observations, much like a coach, and the support of her teammates.
“It’s so exciting to be a part of it. You never know what’s going to happen in the season, but we were able to come through again,’’ said Braun, who is headed to Arizona State to continue her sand career.
Andrew obviously would have preferred to be on the court, but took pride in helping the Gators in other ways.
She would like to coach volleyball in the future and got a taste of it as a middle-school coach. She would like to see younger players come to Xavier and continue to build on the dynasty.
“I would encourage the young players to start as soon as they can, try it to see what it’s like and above all, have patience – don’t give up. I think they will grow to really like it. The sport is continuing to grow in Arizona.’’
According to an Arizona Interscholastic Association official, Arizona currently is the only state in the country to offer sand volleyball for high schools.


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