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, September 28, 2016

Xavier volleyball responds after early struggle

With a 25-20 loss to visiting Chandler Basha in the first game of its match on Tuesday (Sept. 27), Xavier Prep’s volleyball team appeared to be in danger of going 0-2 in the tough 6A conference Premier Region.
The early setback against Basha caught the Gators’ attention. Although they didn’t play nearly as well as in a three-game sweep of Phoenix Desert Vista last week, the girls did enough to win the next three games and took a 3-1 victory in the match.
The scores were 20-25, 25-6, 25-22 and 25-21.
Xavier, ranked fourth in 6A by, raised its record to 14-2. The Gators have a quick turnaround, traveling to face Chandler High on Wednesday night (Sept. 28) before participating in the Nike Tournament of Champions in Phoenix on Friday (Sept. 30) and Saturday (Oct. 1).
Basha, ranked sixth, slipped to 13-5. The Bears also will play in the Nike TOC.
Before the match, Xavier coach Lamar-Renee Bryant stressed the importance of a win over Basha after the Gators dropped their previous region match at Gilbert Perry on Sept. 14.
“We want to avoid going 0-2 in the region,’’ Bryant said, also noting that she knew Basha would be competitive.
Xavier wasn’t on top of its game in the opening set. The Gators trailed most of the way, pulling close but then falling back as Basha unleashed some powerful kills.
Senior middle blocker Makena Patterson led the way as XCP rebounded in the second game. The Gator setters gave her good passes to set up her point-producing kills.
Basha helped the Gators in the third game, somewhat self-destructing with some overzealous serves that were wide and long. A long serve allowed Xavier to break a 22-22 tie, and an ace serve by sophomore Shannon Shields dropped right in the middle of the Basha side to clinch the game.
Basha made a late run in the fourth game, but the Gators maintained just enough of an edge.
Bryant liked the work of sophomore Ashley Yeung as she dug out shot after shot near the back line, and praised the service of Yeung and Shields. And the coach also took note of the strong play of senior outside hitter Grace Morrison.
“She is becoming one of our top three offensive weapons,’’ Bryant said.

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