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, November 7, 2015

Remarkable rally lifts XCP to volleyball title match

Xavier Prep’s volleyball team lives to play another day.
But you have to wonder – just how did it happen?
The second-seeded Gators were left for dead in Game 4 of their Division I semifinal match against No. 3 Gilbert High at Gilbert Mesquite on Saturday afternoon (Nov. 7).
Xavier won the first game but was beaten twice by the Tigers in the next two games. It didn’t look good in Game 4. It appeared the Gators were headed for elimination, in almost the same fashion as they were a year ago, when they fell to Chandler Hamilton in a five-game semifinal.
The Gators trailed Gilbert in Game 4, 24-22. Only one point needed for the Tigers.
Gilbert didn’t get that point. Xavier roared from behind for a 26-24 win, thanks to a pair of kills by senior star Khalia Lanier and a big block of a Gilbert return shot on defense.
It was on to Game 5, this one only going to 15 points. Winner takes all.
Back and forth, back and forth it went. It was tied at 12 on a nice touch shot by the Tigers.
Then Xavier finished with a flourish. The Gators went up 13-12 after Lanier returned a shot that had been saved by the Gilbert defense. It went 14-12 as a Gilbert block was out of bounds. Lanier, starting to show fatigue along with her teammates, rose above the net one last time and powered it home for a 15-12 triumph to complete one of the most remarkable matches in recent memory.
Xavier advances to Tuesday’s (Nov. 10) championship match (7:45 p.m.)  at Mesquite against the winner of a later match on Saturday between top-seeded defending champion Phoenix Desert Vista and No. 5 seed Phoenix Sunnyslope.
After Lanier’s last shot hit the ground, the Gators stormed the court and Gilbert was swept up in a wave of despair.
Like most of the fans in attendance, Xavier athletic director Sr. Lynn Winsor was stunned.
“If that doesn’t give you a heart attack, then nothing will,’’ Winsor said.
Asked about being on an emotional rollercoaster that carried the team from a sorrowful finish a year ago to this new awakening, Xavier coach Lamar-Renee Bryant said, “This feels much better. Our team grew by leaps and bounds tonight. They were determined not to leave here without the win. We (coaches) are excited for the girls.’’
As they say, it was a shame that either of these teams had to lose.
Gilbert had come back from an 0-2 deficit to defeat Gilbert Perry in the quarterfinals.
“They were battle-tested,’’ Bryant said. “They are a class act. They extended a lot of rallies and so did we.’’
As one might expect, it was the seniors who came up with many of the big plays for the Gators – Lanier, libero Kristen Largay and setter Callie Jones. Xavier also got a big lift from freshman Ashley Yeung, who had several big serves and played strong defense along the back line.

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