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, November 11, 2015

Gifted Gators earn D-I volleyball runner-up status

The Xavier Prep volleyball team was hoping that momentum gained from a dramatic five-game victory over Gilbert High in the semifinals would carry over to the Gators’ Division I championship match against Phoenix Desert Vista on Tuesday night (Nov. 10).
It appeared that was true, at least for the first game. But after Desert Vista scored a 32-30 marathon victory in the second game to pull even, the momentum shifted to the Thunder and they kept it the rest of the way.
Top-seeded Desert Vista won its second straight state title by defeating the No. 2 Gators 18-25, 32-30, 25-19 and 25-14 at Gilbert Mesquite. Xavier finished at 34-8, Desert Vista 42-3.
The gym was packed to the rafters with loud, rabid fans. Each team had its own student cheering section and Xavier’s was dressed in the school’s main color, blue. Even Xavier’s energetic athletic director, Sr. Lynn Winsor, helped lead some of the cheers.
It was a difficult conclusion to the career of outside hitter Khalia Lanier, one of the top players in the country, as well as fellow senior teammates Hope Helser, Callie Jones, Kristen Largay and Caroline Kennedy.

Xavier's volleyball team gathers after a fantastic season that produced the Division I state runner-up trophy. (Photo by Sr. Lynn Winsor).
 Lanier, moving on to USC next year, had about three dozen kills.
“We all want to leave here with a win, but that doesn’t always happen,’’ said Xavier coach Lamar-Renee Bryant. “I’m proud of what the girls accomplished this season. They worked really, really hard.’’
In the second game, Xavier led 25-24 (teams must win by at least two) and appeared to win it 26-24, but officials ruled that the Gators were in the net and gave the point to Desert Vista, making the score 25-25.
The game continued back and forth before Desert Vista prevailed.
Xavier quickly rebounded with a 4-0 lead in Game 3, but Desert Vista managed to pull even at 15 when a Gator block went out of bounds. The Thunder never trailed again.
“That game (Game 2) took a lot out of us. We were not able to recover emotionally, mentally or physically,’’ Bryant said.
That was particularly evident in Game 4. The last time the Gators were even was at 6 and things went downhill from there. Desert Vista finished off the match with a big kill by Rachael Kramer.
Bryant is encouraged by the fact that she will have a solid group of players returning in 2016, including 6-foot-4 middle blocker Makena Patterson and 6-1 outside hitter Lanie Wagner.
Wagner had been sidelined for most of this season with an injured knee, but managed to come back to see action in the title match.

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