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.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

XCP seeded second in state volleyball tourney

Xavier Prep has been seeded second behind Chandler Hamilton in the 6A Conference state volleyball tournament that begins Wednesday (Nov. 2).
The Gators are 32-6 and finished with a five-game winning streak to close out the regular season. One win came against Hamilton in the finale and another was against fourth-seeded Gilbert Perry.
Xavier will open play at the Activity Center on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. against 15th-seeded Anthem Boulder Creek. XCP defeated the Jaguars 3-0 in a road match on Sept. 8.
If the Gators defeat Boulder Creek, they would host a quarterfinal match on Saturday (Nov. 5) against the winner of a Wednesday match between No. 10 Chandler Basha and No. 7 Gilbert High. Starting time for the quarter has yet to be determined.
The semifinals will be played on Nov. 8 at Gilbert Mesquite and the championship match will be played on Nov. 9, also at Mesquite.
Xavier defeated Premier Region rival Basha twice in regular-season matches (Sept. 27 and Oct. 18) and a third time in the Gilbert Invitational (Oct. 14). The Gators took a five-set win over Gilbert in the regular season (Sept. 6) and defeated the Tigers again in the Gilbert Invitational (Oct. 15).
Xavier players are sophomore Ashley Yeung, senior Emma Cisneros-Luebke, senior Kristen Klein, sophomore Jennelle Yarwood, freshman Briana McKnight, sophomore Trinity Cavanaugh, sophomore Shannon Shields, senior Makena Patterson, junior Alyna Draper, senior Emma Gelinas, senior Cierra Flood, junior Ericka Snopko, senior Grace Morrison, junior Alexis Diaz-Infante and junior Lanie Wagner.
Lamar-Renee Bryant is the Gators’ head coach, and she is assisted by Kim Jasperse and Chaz Arah. The team manager is Hailee Carr-Walsh.

Swimmers, divers maintain momentum

Xavier Prep’s swimming team won the AMDG Invitational on Saturday (Oct. 29) at the Brophy Pool, and coach Maureen Rankin said her swimmers were able to secure more provisional qualifying times for the Nov. 5 Division I state meet at the Skyline Complex in east Mesa.
Rankin said 13 XCP swimmers will be entered at the state meet, and that the top 32 placement will be known sometime on Monday (Oct. 31).
The coach expects a strong effort from the Gators’ relay teams and a big effort from the divers, who fared very well in the state qualifying event on Friday (Oct. 28).
“It should be an exciting weekend,’’ Rankin said.
Xavier’s four divers are looking for a good showing at state.
Sophomore Alyssa Largay finished third with 386.30 points. Freshman Maddie Sewell was seventh at 361.55, sophomore Molly Cahill was 17th at 305.85 and sophomore Talle Donley was 25th at 280.60.
“These ladies toughed it out and I am proud to call myself their coach,’’ said Frank Pipitone, who coaches the Gators and neighboring Brophy.

Cross country captures sectional championship

Xavier Prep’s cross-country team appears to have set itself up nicely for a good run in the Division I state meet on Nov. 5 at the Cave Creek Golf Course in north Phoenix.
The Gators had six runners finish in the top 21, including three in the 4-5-6 spots, to claim the Division I, Section II title on Friday (Oct. 28) at the Rose Mofford Sports Complex in north Phoenix.
Xavier (49 points) and second-place Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor (73) were the only teams to finish in double figures.
Other teams were Glendale Mountain Ridge (104), Mesa Mountain View (106), Mesa Skyline (114), Mesa Red Mountain (150), Anthem Boulder Creek (195), Phoenix Horizon (195), Scottsdale Desert Mountain (242), Phoenix Pinnacle (270), Mesa High (274), Mesa Westwood (393) and Mesa Dobson (403).
Junior Caroline McClelland was the top XCP finisher in the 5,000-meter event with a time of 19:27.41, good enough for fourth place. Freshman Mia Olsen was right behind in fifth with a time of 19:28.33 and sophomore Helen Innes was sixth with a time of 19:31.66.
The other three Xavier finishers were senior MJ O’Gara in 18th at 20:13.83, sophomore Karina Smith in 19th at 20:17.18 and junior Carolina Liddy in 21st at 20:24.39.
Sandra Day O’Connor’s Jesselyn Bries was the individual section winner at 18:07.59.
The girls’ varsity race for Division I at state will begin at 8:55 a.m.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Badminton makes Xavier title town again

Xavier's badminton team enjoys a moment with a group of dads who pained themselves blue in a show of support. (Photos by Sr. Lynn Winsor).
 All the ingredients were there for a festive evening.
Shiny silver bows in the Xavier Prep badminton players’ hair, a large vociferous group of supporters, and the Blue Man Group (or reasonable facsimile) stopped by at Phoenix Sunnyslope for Thursday’s (Oct. 27) Division I state championship match against Gilbert Perry.
Now if the Gators could only hold up their end of the bargain.
For most of the night, fans were on the edge of their seats as the No. 1-seeded Gators and No. 2 Pumas matched each other shot for shot. It appeared that it was going to come down to whoever blinked at the end.
It was not until a doubles victory by Emily Woodrow and Kiana Valentova-Macdonald that everyone could let their emotions fly. Even the group of blue-painted dads could celebrate.
Xavier completed another unbeaten season and claimed its fourth straight title and 10th overall with a 5-3 triumph over Perry.

Doubles teammates Tatum Clarke, left, and Annie Kamps anxiously watch the decisive doubles match with Emily Woodrow and Kiana Valentova-Macdonald.
 First-year Xavier coach Sue Contreras, clutching a large stuffed green alligator and her eyes red from tears of joy, almost couldn’t believe it.
“It means a lot being my first year,’’ she said.
“Mentally, we knew we were going to be playing tough team. We had beaten them twice before (regular season and in the Independence Tournament) and it was going to be hard to beat a team like that three times.
“The girls worked so incredibly hard. We knew we would have to work together and communicate. We thought we might have a chance to be here at the end, but we knew it wouldn’t be given to us. We just focused on each match, not the entire season.’’
And as if the Gators needed to be reminded, someone wrote “First to Five’’ on the white board at school (first to win five sets) before the short trip to Sunnyslope.
Xavier and Perry were at 3-3 after the singles matches. What prevented the Gators from going down the drain were three-set rallies by the top two players, Tatum Clarke and Woodrow, and No. 5 Maddie Reinhart.
That left three doubles matches. Whichever team won two of those three would be crowned the state champ.
Clarke and Annie Kamps, who won the state individual doubles title last weekend, finished off the Pumas’ Tori Allen and Dominique Garcia, 15-3, 15-12.
Woodrow and Valentova-Macdonald and Reinhart and Alexa Wolfson played on courts alongside that of Clarke and Kamps.
Woodrow and Valentova-Macdonald won 15-13 in the first set and went back and forth in the second with Jillian Lagasca and Katie Cross, who were making a bid to send the match to a third set.
Wolfson and Reinhart were in the midst of their third set against Kylie Goldberg and Julia Mumme. They didn’t need to finish after Woodrow and Valentova-Macdonald secured another 15-13 win.

The championship trophy was the object of the players' affection.
 Valentova-Macdonald said her initial reaction was, “We did it!’’
Woodrow said she was proud that “all of our hard work paid off.’’
The two were the top seed in the individual doubles state tournament, fell in the semifinals and then won the consolation championship. Did this win make up for that a bit?
“Yes, but we did our best in that tournament and we played great,’’ Valentova Macdonald said.
“It gave us motivation,’’ Woodrow said.
At first, some thought this might be a transition year for the Gators with Contreras taking over. But it was business as usual, mixed in with some fun.
“She (Contreras) was amazing, awesome, the best,’’ Woodrow said.

Xavier Prep Division I championship results

Xavier 5, Gilbert Perry 3

Madison Clarke, X, def. Jillian Lagasca, P, 11-4, 7-11, 11-9.
Emily Woodrow, X, def. Katie Cross, P, 8-11, 11-7, 11-8.
Tori Albin, P, def. Annie Kamps, X, 3-11, 13-12, 11-3.
Dominique Garcia, P, def. Kiana Valentova-Macdonald, X, 11-1, 11-2.
Maddie Reinhart, X, def. Kylie Goldberg, P, 11-6, 8-11, 11-6.
Julia Mumme, P, def. Misaal Irfan, X, 11-3, 11-8.


Woodrow-Valentova-Macdonald, X, def. Lagasca-Cross, P, 15-13, 15-13.
Clarke-Kamps, X, def. Albin-Garcia, P, 15-3, 15-12.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Gators hope badminton magic lasts 1 more day

Doubles, anyone?
Xavier Prep’s badminton team hasn’t had to worry about it in its first two matches of the Division I state tournament.
Translated, that means that the Gators’ singles players have been so successful that doubles have not been necessary.
Whether that trend will continue will play itself out on Thursday night (Oct. 27) when Xavier meets Gilbert Perry for the state championship at Phoenix Sunnyslope. Start time is 6:30.
Xavier advanced with a 5-1 semifinal victory over Glendale Mountain Ridge on Wednesday night (Oct. 26) at Phoenix Desert Vista. Perry earned its title-match trip with a 5-1 win over Mesa Skyline. Perry did not have to play doubles, either.
Unbeaten Xavier will be attempting to win its fourth title in a row and 10th overall.
The Gators met Perry on Oct. 4 at Xavier, and came away with a 6-3 victory.
If anyone has the upper hand in doubles, it might be Xavier. The Gators can boast the state champions (Tatum Clarke, Annie Kamps) and consolation winners (Emily Woodrow, Kiana Valentova-Macdonald).
But Perry’s doubles teams certainly should be formidable. They are state runner-ups Dominique Garcia and Tori Albin and fourth-place finishers Jillian Lagasca and Katie Cross.
Xavier was able to keep its doubles teams fresh by winning five of its singles matches against Mountain Ridge.
The key match was the No. 5 spot. The Gators’ Maddie Reinhart won the first game against Mountain Ridge’s Samantha Guerrero, 11-9, but the match was in danger of going to a third game because Guerrero led most of the way. Reinhart, however, rallied for a 13-12 win, and combined with Misaal Irfan’s victory in the No. 6 singles, the Gators could breathe a sigh of relief.

Xavier-Mountain Ridge semifinal results
Xavier 5, Mountain Ridge 1
MacKenzie Whitten, MR, def. Tatum Clarke, X, 7-11, 11-7, 11-1.
Emily Woodrow, X, def. Allison Price, MR, 11-3, 5-11, 11-1.
Annie Kamps, X, def. Gaby Nichols, MR, 11-6, 11-8.
Kiana Valentova-Macdonald, X, def. Hannah Kirby, MR, 11-6, 11-4.
Maddie Reinhart, X, def. Samantha Guerrero, MR, 11-9, 13-12.
Misaal Irfan, X, def. Brianna Adamo, MR, 11-6, 11-2.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Title-worthy effort drives Gator volleyball

It was a championship-caliber match between two championship-caliber volleyball teams.
Host Xavier Prep and Chandler Hamilton battled back and forth for most of Tuesday night (Oct. 25). Xavier weathered the storm and finished off the Huskies 3-1. Scores were 25-19, 19-25, 25-18 and 26-24.
Xavier raised its record to 32-6 and Hamilton fell to 33-7.
Hamilton was the top-ranked team in the 6A Conference in the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s power points system as well as by Xavier was third in power points and second by
The victory allowed Xavier to split its home-and-home, regular-season series with Hamilton. Xavier also had lost to the Huskies in an abbreviated match in the recent Gilbert Invitational.
The regular season is now complete. The AIA will announce its state tournament brackets on Sunday (Oct. 30), following eight “play-in’’ games on Thursday night (Oct. 27).
Xavier is assured of one of the top eight seeds and will host a first-round game on Nov. 2.
Xavier coach Lamar-Renee Bryant believes Hamilton will continue to hold the top spot going into the tournament, that Xavier and Tempe Corona del Sol would be 2-3 or vice versa, putting them in the bottom half of the bracket. Xavier defeated Corona del Sol in the Gilbert Invitational.
After some tense moments against Hamilton, particularly in the fourth game, Bryant finally was able to offer a relieved smile.
In its earlier match at Hamilton, Xavier won the first game but lost three in a row. On Tuesday night, it appeared a repeat could be in store because Xavier won the first game and lost the second. But the result was different this time.
“I think we were just more determined, more battle-tested (than the previous match),’’ Bryant said.
“Hamilton is a team that takes big swings all the time and we had to make sure we did not let that affect us.’’
In the fourth game, Hamilton had the early edge but Xavier came back to go in front. Xavier appeared to have the game and match sewn up with a 24-22 lead, but Hamilton battled back to tie it at 24 with a big kill and a block.
Xavier had a block to make it 25-24. Hamilton then had a block, but it went out of bounds and it was over.
An unlikely heroine for Xavier was freshman outside hitter Briana McKnight. She came up with kills all night and played strong defense.
A group of Brophy students were part of the boisterous crowd and yelled, “She’s a fresh-man, she’s a fresh-man . . .’’
“She just keeps getting better and better,’’ Bryant said. “She’s not a freshman anymore.’’
The coach also lauded senior middle blocker Makena Patterson for her defensive work at the net, particularly in the third game. Kudos also went to senior setter Cierra Flood, who helped with some noteworthy defense.
“She helped keep a lot of our points alive,’’ Bryant said.
So now the Gators sit and wait to learn where they will be placed in the bracket. It’s a lot easier to wait after they played up to their capabilities against Hamilton.