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, October 31, 2015

Fall sports teams are ready for state

Xavier Prep’s Gators will be the No. 2-seeded team out of 16 for the Division I state volleyball tournament as the brackets were announced by the Arizona Interscholastic Association on Friday (Oct. 30).
Xavier, which finished 31-7 during the regular season with a three-game sweep of host Mesa High on Thursday (Oct. 29), will open state tourney play at home on Tuesday (Nov. 3) at 6:30 p.m. against No. 15 seed Peoria Liberty.
If the Gators win, they would host a quarterfinal game on Thursday (Nov. 5) at 6:30 p.m. against either No. 7 Peoria Centennial or No. 10 Tempe Corona del Sol.
Semifinals are Nov. 7 and finals are Nov. 10, both at Gilbert Mesquite.

Cross country dominates
The XCP cross-country team on Friday (Oct. 30) showed that it will be a force to be reckoned with at the upcoming state meet with a dominating effort in the Division I, Section II meet at the Rose Mofford Sports Complex in Phoenix.
All of Xavier’s runners finished in the top 10 of the 81-runner field, giving the Gators 19 points. Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor finished second with 62 points.
Junior Sarah Carter won the 5,000-meter event with a time of 17 minutes, 57.56 seconds. Senior Tessa Weiss was second at 18:15.59, senior Jane Miller was third at 18:24.09, sophomore Caroline McClelland was sixth at 19:04.18, freshman Helen Innes was seventh at 19:12.66, sophomore Caroline Liddy was eighth at 19:21.91 and senior Shannan Higgins was ninth at 19:28.91.
Team scores were Xavier 19, Sandra Day O’Connor 62, Glendale Mountain Ridge 80, Phoenix Pinnacle 151, Phoenix North Canyon 155, Anthem Boulder Creek 175, Glendale Ironwood 176, Surprise Valley Vista 257, Peoria Centennial 257, Goodyear Millennium 267, Surprise Willow Canyon 271 and Avondale Westview 308.
The Division I state meet will be held Nov. 7 at the Cave Creek Golf Course in north Phoenix.

Golf looks for No. 33
Xavier’s storied golf program looks to add another championship trophy beginning Monday (Nov. 2) and continuing Tuesday (Nov. 3) in the Division I state tournament at the Aguila Golf Course in Laveen. Tee times are 7:30 a.m. both days.
Xavier has won 32 state titles and four in a row under Sr. Lynn Winsor, who is the co-coach along with Tui Selvaratnam.
Four Xavier players have a realistic chance to earn medalist honors, following in the footsteps of former teammate Madison Kerley, who won it all in 2014.
The top Gators are junior Elizabeth Calderelli, senior Mikayla Fitzpatrick, junior Emily Mahar and senior Alisa Snyder.
Other players are sophomore Madeline Brown, freshman Emily Cons, sophomore Lauren Faulkner, freshman Laura Lu, freshman Holly Otlewski, junior Lily Worden and freshman Eve Worden.

Pearl heeds advice, badminton wins 3rd straight title

“I heard voices.’’
Kind of creepy, considering it was the night before Halloween.
But, no, Laura Pearl wasn’t losing her mind.
Those words were a reflection of the Xavier Prep senior’s resolve when playing her No. 5 singles match against Mesa Red Mountain’s Abby Mann on Friday night (Oct. 30) in the badminton team title match at Gilbert Perry.
Pearl won her first game in the best-of-three showdown quite handily 11-3, but Mann rallied to win the second game 11-6.
The momentum continued for Mann as she took a 10-5 lead in the third and decisive game. Pearl stopped to gather herself, and that’s when the voices showed up.
“They told me to just take one point at a time,’’ she said.
And so she began the task of trying to salvage the game and a get the Gators back into it. One misstep and Red Mountain, which fell to Xavier 6-3 on Oct. 7, would put itself in a position to unseat the Gators, who had won two previous titles and three of the last four.
The point-at-a-time advice worked for Pearl, as she stormed from behind for a 13-10 win. She was mobbed by teammates as she approached the Xavier bench.
Xavier went on to capture another title, 5-3, as the doubles team of Kirielle Singarajah and Katie Russell put the Gators over the top with a 15-1, 15-6 win over Kylee Gillespie and Melissa Schraidt. Xavier finished the season 18-0.

Xavier's Gators celebrate winning their third straight state title with coach Nancy Meyer (blue shirt).
Of all the Xavier titles, this one might mean the most. The team lost four key players from last season to graduation, and needed returning players such as Pearl, Singarajah and Russell to step up.
“This team was the closest of all of them,’’ said Xavier coach Nancy Meyer. “They are all good friends with no drama. They became a true badminton family.’’
Said Pearl: “It wasn’t easy replacing those girls (from 2014). We decided that we were going to come back and do it again. It was a lot different for me, being a leader. But being here right now with these girls in this situation is really amazing.’’
So Pearl now can move on to college (UCLA, she hopes) with a sense of contentment.
Singles winners for Xavier were Singarajah, Russell, Pearl and Emily Woodrow. Woodrow’s match also had some anxious moments, before the junior prevailed in three games. She had lost the first game, then rallied to win two over Jaime Rostron.
The latest Xavier victory was cause for celebration, and many of the girls gathered at Olive Garden afterward.
One player’s mother passed out roses, and another’s father had Xavier blue paint covering his face and head, looking like one of the members of the Las Vegas Blue Man Group.
The Gators will lose four more to graduation – Pearl, Russell, Singarajah and Sydney LaPierre. But don’t be surprised if the team finds a way to earn another trophy in 2016.

State championship match
Xavier Prep 5, Mesa Red Mountain 3
Singles – Kirielle Singarajah, XCP, def. Sam Berg, RM, 11-8, 11-4. Nicole LoDestro, RM, def. Tatum Clarke, XCP, 11-9, 11-9. Melissa Schraidt, RM, def. Sydney LaPierre, XCP, 11-8, 11-7. Katie Russell, XCP, def. Kylee Gillespie, RM, 11-0, 13-10. Laura Pearl, XCP, def. Abby Mann, RM, 11-3, 6-11, 13-10. Emily Woodrow, XCP, def. Jaime Rostron, RM, 5-11, 11-3, 11-4.
Doubles – Berg-LoDestro, RM, def. Clarke-Pearl, XCP. Singarajah-Russell def. Gillespie-Schraidt, RM, 15-1, 15-6.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

No "L' for Kirielle this time, badminton in finals

Xavier Prep badminton coach Nancy Meyer called it “unbelievable.’’
No. 1 singles player Kirielle Singarajah called it “the most stressful night of my life.’’
How else to describe what took place in Wednesday night’s (Oct. 28) semifinals of the state tournament at Gilbert’s Perry High?
Top-seeded Xavier was facing fourth-seeded Phoenix Desert Vista in an attempt to have a chance to move on to Friday night’s finals and perhaps win a third straight title.
Desert Vista featured Karen Guo, who won the individual title in 2014 and again last week for 2015. In the latest title match, Guo defeated Singarajah.
It was an emotional loss for Singarajah, but she had a chance to atone for that against Guo in the semifinals.
Singarajah, a senior left-hander, won the first game 13-10. But Guo came back to take Game 2, 11-7. The moment of truth had arrived. If Guo were to win this last game, it would put the momentum clearly on Desert Vista’s side. A Singarajah win would signal just the opposite for the Gators.
As one might expect, the game went back and forth. Singarajah would stop play in between points, go over to the sideline and cleaned off the soles of her shoes by stepping on a damp towel. She would say later that the floor was slick, but that she also used it as a way to focus on what she needed to do.
It worked. Singarajah won that last game 13-11, allowing her to exhale in a huge sense of relief, bring tears to the eyes of Meyer and assistant coach Susie Murphy and embraces from her teammates.
It gave the momentum to Xavier, and the Gators went on to a 5-2 victory, sealing the match with a doubles victory by Singarajah and senior Katie Russell.
Xavier will meet No. 3 seed Mesa Red Mountain for the title on Friday night at 6:30 at Perry. Red Mountain advanced by stunning host Perry, the No. 2 seed, 5-0.
It won’t be easy. Red Mountain, which fell to the Gators 6-3 on Oct. 7, will make XCP earn it.
“They are a very good team,’’ Meyer said.
Meyer added that Singarajah’s performance “was what I was hoping for. I knew she would be ready for it. This was her night. I told her (before the match), “You’re a senior and this is it. Just go out and play your game.’ And that’s what she did.
“All of our girls did a great job.’’
SIngarajah said in the individual finals vs. Guo on Saturday (Oct. 24), “I was a lot more optimistic. Maybe I was a little overconfident.’’
When Guo pulled even in the second game, Singarajah simply told herself, “You can do this,’’ as Game 3 fast approached. She wanted so bad to accomplish her objective, and she did it.

Semifinal results
Xavier Prep 5, Phoenix Desert Vista 2
Singles – Kirielle Singarajah, XCP, def. Karen Guo, DV, 13-10, 7-11, 13-11. Victoria Fagan, DV, def. Tatum Clarke, XCP, 13-12, 11-6. Cindy Wu, DV, def. Sydney LaPierre, XCP, 10-13, 11-7, 13-11. Katie Russell, XCP, def. Tabby Biggs, DV, 11-6, 11-5. Laura Pearl, XCP, def. Aarzoo Kumar, DV, 13-11, 8-11, 11-7. Emily Woodrow, XCP, def. Elizabeth Wadsworth, DV, 11-3, 11-4.
Doubles – Singarajah-Russell, XCP, def. Fagan-Wadsworth, DV, 15-4, 15-8.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

V-ball wins 30th, set for final home match

The record will show that Xavier Prep’s volleyball team scored a three-game sweep of host Scottsdale Chaparral on Tuesday night (Oct. 27).
Peel away a few numbers and you will find that accomplishing that objective wasn’t as easy as it might have seemed.
Xavier trailed in all three games, including a seven-point deficit in Game 2, but managed to come away with hard-fought victories over surprisingly tough Chaparral.
The Gators move on to play their final regular-season home match on Wednesday (Oct. 28) against defending Division I Phoenix Desert Vista, then wrap up the regular season with a road match at Mesa High on Thursday (Oct. 29).
Scores against Chaparral were 25-22, 28-26 and 25-21.
Xavier’s win was its 30th of the season, while Chaparral fell to 15-14.
In the first game, Chaparral trailed 23-22 and was threatening to tie it. Xavier senior outside hitter Khalia Lanier responded with a big kill, and Chaparral erred for the decisive point.
Xavier trailed 12-5 in the early part of Game 2 and did not pull even until 24-24 with a service ace by freshman Shannon Shields.
Chaparral kept the pressure on and took a 26-25 lead. But Xavier relied on the 6-foot-2 Lanier and 6-4 junior middle blocker Makena Patterson for three straight kills and the win.
The Firebirds started to wear down in the late stages of Game 3. They were tied with the Gators at 17-17 before Xavier took control with four straight points. Chaparral pulled close again at 23-21, but Lanier came up with a kill and then Xavier got match point shortly thereafter on another Chaparral error.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Focused Gators reach badminton semifinals

The final four is set for high school badminton as the 2015 state team tournament moves to Gilbert Perry High for Wednesday’s (Oct. 28) semifinals.
Xavier Prep, the two-time defending state champion, is seeded No. 1 and will meet No. 4 Phoenix Desert Vista at 6:30 p.m. The other 6:30 semi is between No. 3 Mesa Red Mountain and No. 2 host Perry. Semifinal winners will meet for the title on Friday (Oct. 30) at Perry with a 6:30 p.m. start.
Xavier hosted a four-team first-round and two-team quarterfinal matches on Monday (Oct. 26).
The Gators defeated Goodyear Millennium and Glendale Cactus, both by 5-0 scores. Cactus defeated Prescott in the first round.
There is no easy draw for unbeaten Xavier (16-0) at this point.
Desert Vista gave the Gators one of their toughest matches of the season on Oct. 14. Xavier escaped with a 5-4 victory.
“Without a doubt, Desert Vista is very tough,’’ said Xavier coach Nancy Meyer. “At this point in the season, it doesn’t matter which seed a team is, you have to keep focused. We are going to have to bring our game and be ready.’’
Desert Vista’s top player is Karen Guo, who won her second straight singles championship on Saturday over Xavier’s Kirielle Singarajah. There is no doubt that Singarajah, a senior, would like to atone for that setback.
Other singles players for Xavier are expected to be junior Tatum Clarke, senior Sydney LaPierre, senior Katie Russell, senior Laura Pearl and junior Emily Woodrow.
The top three doubles teams for the Gators are Clarke and Pearl, Russell and Singarajah and LaPierre and Woodrow.
First round results
Xavier 5, Goodyear Millennium 0
Singles – Singarajah def. Taryn Bolte 11-0, 11-2. Clark def. Hailey St. Bernard 11-2, 11-2. LaPierre def. Madi Wright 11-7, 11-0. Russell def. Veronica Nieborek 11-3, 11-1. Pearl def. Adrianne Mailari 11-3, 11-6.
Quarterfinal results
Xavier 5, Glendale Cactus 0
Singles – Singarajah def. Katie Cuthbertson 11-0, 11-0. Clarke def. Julia Hansen 11-7, 11-2. LaPierre def. Lexi Thompson 11-7, 11-3. Pearl def. Nicole Osteen 11-4, 11-6. Woodrow def. Donesia Wilburn 11-1, 11-1.