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.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Gators earn hoops title trophy in summer ball

Add another element of evidence to Xavier’s improvement on the basketball floor.
The Gators recently completed a 28-7 record in summer camp play (ASU, NAU, Grand Canyon) and had a consistent output in summer leagues at Phoenix Thunderbird and Phoenix Alhambra high schools.
Xavier finished off the run with a 55-27 victory over defending Division IV state champion Phoenix Christian in the championship game of the Alhambra tourney. Xavier had reached the semifinals of the Thunderbird tourney.
“We were on fire from the 3 (-point range) and they (Phoenix Christian) never recovered,’’ said Xavier coach Stephen Moss.
Xavier Gators celebrate with Alhambra tournament championship trophy.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Hoops camp good indicator of raised level of play

Basketball at Xavier Prep looks to be in good shape, both for the near future and a little farther down the road.
In regard to the Gators team that will play in 2015-16, the team has played well in summer leagues, going 6-0 in a camp at Arizona State and 4-2 in a camp at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.
On Wednesday night (June 24), the Gators will play in the semifinals of a tournament at Thunderbird High in Phoenix. If they win that one, the championship game will be played on Thursday night (June 25). Tip-off times are 8 p.m. on Wednesday and 9 p.m. on Thursday.
“We’re on schedule (with player development) and I think we’ll be ready to go when the season starts,’’ said Stephen Moss, who shed the interim coach tag in the offseason and will be the full-time leader in 2015-16.
Xavier will be energized by the return of senior-to-be forward-post Vanessa Murphy, who seems to be getting more and more college scholarship offers by the day, sophomore sensation Alana Kelley and a pair of incoming freshmen who should see a significant amount of playing time, one as a point guard and the other as a shooting guard.
And the Gators expect to be bolstered by the return of sophomores Montana Oltrogge and Katie Hassett, who went down with knee injuries about halfway through last season.
This week, Moss and assistant coach Laura Forbes are overseeing a group of young players at a camp at XCP. About two dozen are in attendance, from fifth grade on up through incoming freshmen.
Moss raved about the job that Forbes has done with the campers, teaching them good fundamentals in just a short period of time. Some current Xavier players also are involved in the process.
“It’s a learning environment and everyone is seeing how that translates into the program,’’ Moss said.
“They’re going to need to learn what the program is all about. We want them to be great students, capable of doing two or three hours of homework once school starts, in addition to working hard on the court. I think most of them will be ready to accept the challenge.’’

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Young players from badminton camp should help XCP

Xavier assistant badminton coach Susie Murphy looked out on the gym floor at the two dozen or so players gathered for the school’s annual summer camp for the sport.
“Badminton is alive and well,’’ she said.
Murphy and head coach Nancy Meyer were encouraged by the turnout for this week’s camp. It was open to athletes going into fifth grade through incoming freshmen, but all of the attendees were from the latter category.
“This gives all of them a head start, knowing more what to expect about coming here to school and what it takes, helping to prepare for the team tryouts,’’ Murphy said.
Xavier had just one freshman on the varsity last season, but could have significantly more this fall because a number of players graduated from the roster that won the school’s second straight Division I championship and fifth since 2004.
Players also can receive additional help at the Arizona Badminton Club in Mesa.
“This camp is about learning, but it’s also about having fun,’’ Murphy said.
As the outside temperature crept past 110, the players jogged around the inside of the gym a few times and did some stretching and conditioning drills.
XCP athletic director Sr. Lynn Winsor took a break from finalizing the 2015-16 sports schedules to address the team and pass along her own brand of excitement.
“I’ve been hearing that we’ve got some good ones (players) coming through,’’ she said.
The players were scheduled to participate in a “mini-tournament’’ on Friday (June 19), the camp’s final day.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

New robotics team will put it all together

The room at the far southeast corner of the XCP campus now is used for storage, but before long, it will be transformed into a world where robots rule.
It will be the home of the Xavier robotics team, as well as the place where robotics classes will be held.
In the past, Xavier had a robotics team but it was discontinued and now, after about an absence of a little more than a decade, has returned.
In recent years, the few Xavier students who wanted to participate in robotics would have to team with the boys at neighboring Brophy College Prep.
With robotics having a resurgence in popularity and the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) holding statewide competition, Xavier decided to give it a go again.
The robotics team and robotics class will be led by Xavier faculty member Nathan Ward, who  also teaches sculpture, 3D printing and a maker’s class, and is involved with building sets for the school’s theatre productions.
The team also will have an official logo that will be on t-shirts and other items. The logo was designed by 2015 graduate CeCe Ramey.
The logo is in a circular gear-like shape with the Gator head and tail.

The new Gator robotics logo will be a source of pride for team members.
 “It appears that we will have a good amount of interest,’’ said Ward. “The robotics class likely will be in 7th hour and then carry over to the actual robotics team, similar to what they have with some of the athletics teams. But you are not required to be in the class to be on the team, or vice versa.’’
The robotics activities have been in the planning stages for the last few months, Ward said.
“When Sr. Joan (Fitzgerald, principal) brought up the idea in March or April, we jumped at the chance,’’ said Ward, who owned a steel-fabrication business before switching to the teaching ranks.
Robotics usually is divided into two types of “bots,’’ the larger ones and smaller ones. Ward said the team likely will begin with the smaller ones, due in part to expense.
The smaller bots offer more of an opportunity to compete, to make adjustments and are more engineering-oriented. Competition is expected to be held throughout the school year, including a state “tournament’’ run by the AIA. This year’s event was held at the arena in Prescott Valley.
The students are not expected to pay for the equipment. The cost will be absorbed by the school as well as donations from the community, such as Valley Steel Supply, which is graciously donating much of the needed materials. Ward envisions patches on the t-shirts that feature the donors/sponsors, much the same as race-car drivers have on their uniforms.
The girls are more mechanically oriented than one might first realize. Ward taught his daughter to weld at the age of 6, for instance.
“They want to take ownership in what they are doing,’’ Ward said.
The “brain’’ of the small bots often is one through the Lego “Mindstorms’’ program, run on remote-control power and perform small tasks.
Ward expects to gain more knowledge this summer when he attends seminars at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
“It is one of the world leaders in robotics,’’ he said.
The XCP robotics home currently has a gravel floor and a few items are stored there. But soon, the floor will be re-done and the addition of electrical outlets and a compressed-air system.
“We hope the interest in this builds,’’ Ward said.
*Keep checking The XCP Files after the school year begins for updates on the classes and competition.

Quality instruction helps volleyball camp attendees

Volleyball campers join two green gators after a week of hard work and fun.

It’s never too early for volleyball players to prepare for their time at Xavier Prep.
XCP varsity volleyball coach Lamar Bryant and her assistants were busy at a camp this week, putting incoming freshmen and seventh/eighth graders through the paces and giving them a taste of what life as a Gator will be like.
The gym floor was full of activity all week. For about two hours each day, players worked on fundamentals and talked about their dedication to the sport. The incoming freshmen numbered 45 and the seventh/eighth graders were at 40.
Bryant & Co. will be back in the gym for a week starting June 22, working with fifth and sixth graders.
Most of the older players in the camp have a good amount of experience from club competition, so it’s not like they are starting from scratch.
“We’re trying to work with them on fundamental skills, learning how to compete and knowing that every touch (of the ball) matters,’’ Bryant said.
A handful of Bryant’s returning varsity players were on hand to demonstrate some of the drills.
Communication on the court during matches also is an essential element.
Many of the players attending the camp were involved in summer school, and came out for volleyball afterward.
“It’s almost like the atmosphere we have for tryouts or even later in the season. It’s good for them to see what that time commitment is like,’’ Bryant said. “We want them to be the best at everything that they do.’’
Sand volleyball
XCP will be holding a sand volleyball camp from June 29-July 2 at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, 3300 W. Camelback Rd. Instruction will be available for fifth through ninth graders.
More information is available from XCP camps director Sue Contreras, or (602) 230-2621.