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.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Volleyball has good mix of experience, youth

The Xavier Prep volleyball team appears to have a good balance of upper-class leadership and rapidly improving young players, and that could lead to success on a regular basis.
Here is a look at a key senior, junior and sophomore going into the 2016-17 season . . .
The senior
At a height of 6 feet, 4 inches, middle blocker Makena Patterson is a formidable presence at the net.
She said last season’s loss to Phoenix Desert Vista in the championship match was sad, but realizes the team can’t dwell on that. This is a new year with a fresh outlook.
“When I play, I want to make sure I leave it all out there, have no regrets,’’ Patterson said.
“I want to leave my mark. I want to have huge impact and I am working toward being the leader that I want to be, pass things along to the younger players.’’
Patterson likes being a factor on offense, “but I also like blocking a lot,’’ she said.
She will play in college at Texas A&M. She said it is a family-oriented program that is on the rise. A number of her relatives attended the school. She took a visit in the fall of 2015 and was convinced that is the place for her.
The junior
Lanie Wagner is a 6-foot-1 ½ outside hitter. Selected as one of the captains, she is ready for a breakout season.
“It’s a new year, but we have to get used to different things and some people in different spots,’’ she said. “We have a lot of youth, but it is cool to see those younger players step up. We think we have a good chance to go a long way this year.’’
Her main job is taking passes from the setter and slamming them home, but she said she has raised the bar in all the other aspects of her game.
“I am a lot better defensive player. I know defense is very important,’’ she said.
The sophomore
Shannon Shields is a 5-10 setter who emerged as a force last year. She features good passing ability and a devastatingly powerful left-handed serve.
She hopes to use success attained at the club level this summer to help push her to greater heights with Xavier.
“I have a lot of confidence, and a lot of the girls who played club have a lot of confidence,’’ Shields said.
It is a challenge to set up the taller players at the net with good passes, and she wants her teammates to rely on the way she can get the ball to them at the same spot almost every time for the point.
And as for that jump serve, she said she started learning it at around age 14.
“I had a private coach who had a killer jump serve, and he tossed the ball high, almost to the ceiling. It was kind of tough at first, but I got used to the timing and the footwork,’’ Shields said.

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