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.

Monday, February 29, 2016

"Fab 4'' keep track and field on the move

Xavier Prep opens its track and field season against Phoenix North Canyon at the Brophy Sports Campus on Wednesday (March 2), and we are taking a look at four athletes who are expected to play prominent roles for the Gators this season.
They are sprinter-hurdler-long jumper Cydeni Carter, sprinter-relay runner Kinsey Ehmann, hurdler-relay runner Annie Grant and long jumper-hurdler Teresa Roessler.
Cydeni Carter
The senior is known affectionately among XCP coaches and teammates by one simple name – “Squid.’’
Carter, who wears goggles/glasses most of the time, got the nickname in seventh grade at St. Francis Elementary School. Her teacher knew someone named Sydney and called her Squid, so she started calling Cydeni by the same name and it stuck.
“It’s easy to remember,’’ Carter said.
Carter played guard for the XCP basketball team that recently reached the state tournament.
“Track is more individual. You have to be accountable for yourself. You have to try and prove yourself,’’ she said.
“Track is definitely more social, more laid-back.’’
She would like to continue to be involved in track in college. She has no offers as of yet, but is considering trying out for the team at Arizona State, where she hopes to become a broadcaster.
Kinsey Ehmann
Like Carter, Ehmann, a sophomore, is a versatile athlete.
She also is the goalkeeper for Xavier’s high-profile soccer team.
“In soccer, you focus on agility,’’ said Ehmann, whose brother also was a goalie for Brophy Prep. “Out here, it’s running faster. You work more on your speed rather than endurance. You just go as fast as you can.
“I like soccer, but I also like being out here, too.’’
She puts her speed to the test in the sprints, 400-meter dash and 4x400-meter relay.
Xavier track and field coach Dave Van Sickle said that when Ehmann reaches college, she can be as successful in track as she is on the soccer field.
Annie Grant
The junior has been involved in track since she was a freshman.
“I love the hurdles,’’ she said. “The 300 and the 100 are different. With the 100, you have to have a lot more form. Just when you get over one hurdle, you are almost at the next one. With the 300, you have a longer stride.’’
She said she had a personal record in the 100 last year.
Participating on a club team from August until just before the XCP season started also helped Grant stay sharp.
What are her expectations for the high school season?
“I think we are going to do a lot better this year,’’ she said.
Teresa Roessler
The senior enjoys the long jump and the hurdles.
“The long jump is more relaxed, and the hurdles are more stressful,’’ she said.
She had a personal best of 18 feet in the long jump last season and thinks she can improve, due in part to increased weight training with her teammates.
“I think we are going to be a lot stronger and faster,’’ Roessler said.
Roessler would like to continue in college.
“We’ll just have to see after this season,’’ she said.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

XCP wins 5 of 6 to capture softball title

Xavier’s 3-2 softball victory over Phoenix Pinnacle in Saturday’s (Feb. 27) championship game of the Sunrise Mountain Invitational was significant in more ways than one.
The Gators went 5-1 in the tournament and served notice that they will be a force to be reckoned with all season. And first-year coach Carrie Markham’s win over Pinnacle came against Bobby Pena, the man she replaced at Xavier.
“It was a great team win,’’ Markham said.
The Gators began the tournament at Peoria’s Pioneer Park on Thursday (Feb. 25) with a 10-4 win over Surprise Shadow Ridge.
The team suffered a tough loss in the first of two games on Friday (Feb. 26), 8-7 at the hands of Peoria Centennial in a contest shortened by a time limit. The time-limit scenario again was a factor in XCP’s second game. The Gators rallied from a 4-2 deficit and recorded a 6-4 win over Glendale Raymond S. Kellis.
Xavier survived a three-game gauntlet on Saturday to claim the crown.
The Gators advanced easily after a 10-0, five-inning win over Goodyear Millennium in the first game. Next up was a rematch with Centennial, and Xavier prevailed this time 10-4. The win over Pinnacle was hard-fought until the end.
Xavier relies on the strong pitching of seniors Caitlyn Dickman and Emily Richards, and they came through in the tournament, both in the circle and with the bat.
“They hit pretty well,’’ Markham said.
Other players of note were senior center fielder Megan Donahey, who made some nice defensive plays, including some in the gaps, and sophomore catcher Melissa Fedorka, who did a good job of blocking pitches in the dirt and handling the pitchers.
The Gators return to action on Tuesday (March 1) with a road game at Chandler Basha (3:45 p.m.), and will play their home opener on Thursday (March 3) against Anthem Boulder Creek.
In a ceremony before the 6:30 p.m. game, the press box and Petznick Field will be dedicated in honor of long-time Xavier athletics official Sr. Nancy Perlick, who passed away in December.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Improvement is goal of Xavier track and field

Xavier Prep’s track and field team is looking to improve on its ninth-place finish in last year’s Division I state meet, and head coach Dave Van Sickle thinks he has plenty of athletes to do it.
The Gators will have a better idea of how they are progressing when they compete in their first meet of the season on Wednesday (March 2) at the Brophy Sports Campus against Phoenix North Canyon and Phoenix Pinnacle. Xavier features about 60 athletes on the team.
As with last season, Xavier will be strong in distance and middle-distance events (Van Sickle has coached most of these girls in cross country).
“The reason is that we are so competitive in that area is because the distance kids run all year,’’ Van Sickle said.
Among the top distance runners are Sarah Carter, who won the state cross-country individual title, Tessa Weiss and Shannan Higgins.
He also expects the sprinters to be improved, particularly with the addition of new sprint coach Ryan Regula.
Regula has implemented some updated approaches, including an increase in weight training, “and you can already see the difference,’’ Van Sickle said.
Regula is a former college athlete at Notre Dame and works as an attorney, Van Sickle said. Regula inquired about helping out the team, and things fell into place.
Van Sickle’s other assistant coaches are Vito Perrone (distance), Eden Higgins (distance), Chris Pfaff (hurdles, horizontal jumps), Kelly Fitzgerald (throws) and Shea Kearney (pole vault).
Xavier has some young athletes in the shot put and discus.
The difference between now and two weeks ago, when the team first started practicing, is quite noticeable, the coach said.
“They are young. They have potential, and we are confident they will figure it out,’’ he said.
Top athletes to watch for the Gators are long jumper Teresa Roessler, hurdler Annie Grant and sprinters Cydeni Carter and Kinsey Ehmann. (Profiles on them coming soon).
Van Sickle likes the enthusiasm and the girls’ work ethic.
“It is better than ever,’’ he said. “If they keep it up, they should be able to do pretty well. It’s hard to tell sometimes in practice how it will play out until you start competing in the meets.’’

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Gators rated No. 4 in preseason softball

Xavier Prep’s softball team is expected to be one of the top contenders for the Division I state championship this season, and that is reflected by the Gators’ placement in the No. 4 spot in’s preseason Super 10.
The Gators trail top-ranked Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor, the defending champion, No. 2 and state runner-up Glendale Mountain Ridge, and No. 3 Chandler Hamilton.
In addition to the team honor, XCP senior Becky Ducar was listed in the preseason All-Arizona team as an outfielder, although she is expected to see a lot of time at shortstop.
Xavier opens play on Thursday (Feb. 25) in the Sunrise Mountain Invitational at Pioneer Park. The Gators face Surprise Shadow Ridge at 3 p.m., then play two games on Friday (Feb. 26) against Peoria Centennial at 1 p.m. and Glendale Raymond S. Kellis at 5 p.m. Saturday’s (Feb. 27) play will be bracket play.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Volleyball honors for seniors Lanier, Jones, Largay

Xavier senior outside hitter Khalia Lanier has been named to the All-American First Team for the third straight season.
The 6-foot-2 Lanier, who will play collegiately at USC, was previously honored as the Gatorade National Player of the Year.
Also, senior setter Callie Jones was named as a Special Mention designation as part of the All-American honors. The 5-9 Jones will play collegiately at Santa Clara.
And senior libero Kristen Largay received the same designation. The 5-7 Largay will play at American University in Washington, D.C.

Jones Academic All-American First Team
Jones also has been named to the High School Academic All-American First Team.
She has a grade-point average of 4.125. She is a member of the National Honor Society, will represent XCP at a national leadership conference and has been recognized for her excellence in science and technology.
Jones is an accomplished poet and has received a scholar-athlete award from the Arizona Interscholastic Association in all four of her Xavier years.

Freshman Shannon Shields recognized
Freshman Shannon Shields also received a big honor.
She was named a Special Mention designation by for its Super 59 Freshman Team.
When Jones was injured early in the season, the 5-11 Shields filled in nicely by averaging seven assists for the Gators. Her season totals were 497 assists, 196 digs, 108 kills and 42 service aces. The left-hander has a powerful serve that only figures to get better.