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, August 26, 2015

Volleyball notes: XCP good in 4-team scrimmage

Xavier Prep’s volleyball team, moving toward its season opener against Chandler Basha on Sept. 3, looked like a team that should develop into a Division I contender when it faced Basha, Phoenix Sunnyslope and Chandler Hamilton in a scrimmage on Wednesday (Aug. 26) at Hamilton.
The Gators had many good moments during the 30-minute matches and a few that showed the team still has some work to do.
“It was a good litmus test for us,’’ said XCP coach Lamar-Renee Bryant. “We have been practicing for a little less than two weeks.
“All of these teams were good. The competition let us know where we are and will help us dial into the focus that we need.’’
In particular, the Gators were looking at Basha to see if they might have any advantages in personnel.
Xavier probably had the edge on the Bears, then appeared to be on equal footing with Hamilton, which had defeated the Gators in the semifinals of last season’s Division I state tournament. Perennial power Sunnyslope featured a shorter team, but one that was athletic with a lot of quickness.
Most of the Xavier players had their strong moments. Grace Morrison, a 6-foot junior transfer from Virginia, showed some spark and appeared she will be a good fit in the lineup.
Lanier honored -- Another national honor has gone to Lanier, a senior outside hitter.
She was one of seven first-team selections to the 2015 American Family Insurance All-USA Preseason Girls Volleyball Team.
The 6-foot-2 Lanier, who recently completed a stint with the USA Youth National Team, will play collegiately at USC.
Athletic heritage – Many people know that Lanier is the daughter of former NBA player Bob Lanier. Junior Makena Patterson is the daughter of the late Steve Patterson, who also played in the NBA and was the men’s head coach at Arizona State in the 1980s.
And Morrison’s father is Darryl Morrison, a former safety for the University of Arizona who played in the NFL with the Washington Redskins. Darryl Morrison is back on his old stomping grounds – he played high school ball at Phoenix Central, Xavier’s neighbor school.
Brush your teeth – While most of her fellow seniors will move on and play volleyball in college, senior opposite Hope Helser has another goal in mind.
The 6-1 Helser hopes to become an orthodontist, and the time she needs to devote herself to science and other classes will outweigh remaining on the court.
“You have to take all sorts of biology, chemistry and after you graduate, you have four years of dental school and two more years of residency,’’ Helser said.
Helser became interested in orthodontics during her trips to her own orthodontist. She pressed him for advice and what would be expected of her, and he said she would be a good candidate.
Callie commits – In March, setter Callie Jones recently committed to study and play volleyball at Santa Clara (Calif).
“They have a good program there and I’m looking forward to going, but first I want to try to help us (Xavier) win a state championship,’’ Jones said.
She enjoys her role on the floor.
“Being in command, the strategy of the game,’’ she said. “I like to figure out what the opponents are doing. A lot of times, I see things that others don’t. Being the setter allows you to touch the ball almost every single play.’’
If she happens to make a mistake, “You can’t be throwing a pity party. You have to get back and be ready for the next play,’’ she said.
Surf’s up – Junior setter Cierra Flood likes volleyball so much that she plays for the varsity in the fall and sand volleyball in the spring.
Last year, her commitment to club volleyball limited her sand participation as Xavier went on to claim its fourth straight title. She said she likely will concentrate on the sand game in the spring of 2016, and believes that’s where her future will be in college.
“Sand volleyball is really becoming more and more popular in our state, but I also like playing indoor, too,’’ she said.
Bravo, libero – Senior libero Kristen Largay will attend American University in Washington, D.C. and play volleyball there.
Bryant thinks Largay is one of the best liberos in the state and said Largay “is coming off an outstanding club season. We expect her to do well again.’’

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