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, September 17, 2016

Gators come up big, finish 2nd in Las Vegas title game

What a difference a few days makes.
It wasn't that long ago when Xavier Prep's volleyball team suffered a tough loss at Gilbert Perry after winning the first two sets on Wednesday night (Sept. 14).
But now the Gators can hold their heads high with an outstanding performance at the Durango Classic in Las Vegas.
Xavier, seeded 13th out of 64 teams, reached the tournament's championship match on Saturday (Sept. 17) before falling to Archbishop Mitty of San Jose, 25-23 and 25-19.

The volleyball team did Xavier proud, finishing second in the prestigious Durango Classic in Las Vegas (Photos courtesy of Lamar-Renee Bryant).

"To come from that loss to Perry and 48 hours play this well against some of the top teams in the country -- we took 10 steps forward,'' said Xavier coach Lamar-Renee Bryant. "It was our best finish ever in the tournament. We came out of it healthy and that's the best part. I'm very proud of them.''
Xavier defeated Sacred Heart of Louisville in a three-set semifinal, 22-25, 25-21 and 25-14.
Junior outside hitter Lanie Wagner, senior middle blocker Makena Patterson and sophomore Shannon Shields made the All-Tournament team.

From left, Xavier's Lanie Wagner, Makena Patterson and Shannon Shields made the All-Tournament Team.

"Lanie played wonderful, outstanding. It was the best she has ever played as a Gator,'' Bryant said.
Service and passing, which had deserted the Gators for the  most part against Perry, was working at a high level, the coach said.
Xavier also got solid play from senior Emma Cisneros-Luebke, who now has established herself as the No. 1 libero.
Earlier Saturday, the Gators defeated Torrey Pines of San Diego in three sets, 27-29, 25-23 and 25-23 and St. Thomas Aquinas, Fla., 25-20 and 25-21.
Xavier was 3-0 in pool play on Friday (Sept. 16) wit two-game sweeps in each of its matches against South Torrance, Calif. (25-15, 25-18), Long Beach Poly (25-22, 25-18) and Lakeside, Wash. (25-16, 25-12).
The Gators were due to return to Phoenix on Sunday (Sept. 18) and will get a bit of rest before playing again on Tuesday (Sept. 20) at home against Gilbert Highland.

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