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, February 28, 2017

Hamilton too strong for Gators in home opener

Chandler Hamilton showed the Arizona softball world what it was made of last season, earning the state’s big-school state championship, the school’s first.
As the new season begins, the Huskies don’t appear to have lost much, if anything.
Xavier Prep’s Gators found out the hard way on Tuesday (Feb. 28), dropping their home opener 11-1 in a contest shortened to five innings by the 10-run (lead) rule.
Xavier fell to 3-3 and doesn’t have much time to dwell on the outcome. They travel to face Phoenix Pinnacle on Wednesday (March 1). Pinnacle defeated XCP recently in the Sunrise Mountain Invitational in Peoria.
Hamilton (3-0) pounded out 14 hits, including a pair of home runs. And four Husky pitchers combined to limit Xavier to four hits, none after the second inning. Xavier’s highlight on offense was a solo homer by senior shortstop Kaela Stehly, the Gators’ second batter of the game in the first inning.
The big inning for the Huskies was the third, when they scored six runs on six hits. Four of those hits were for extra bases.
Xavier will meet 6A Conference Premier Region foe Hamilton one more time this season, at Hamilton on April 18.

Monday, February 27, 2017

No ocean, but Gators enjoying life at the beach

The Arizona Interscholastic Association has altered its course slightly by now referring to Sand Volleyball as Beach Volleyball.
What won’t change is the fact that Xavier Prep remains the team to beat in 2017.
And why not? The Gators have won the state championship in each of the five years of the sport’s existence.
One other new wrinkle is the fact that XCP now has a place of its own rather than traveling to Grand Canyon University in west Phoenix for its “home’’ contests.
Xavier followed up on its plan for acquisition of land at the corner of Fourth Street and Meadowbrook Avenue, just to the south of Petznick Field, and the construction of four sand courts.
The Gators were scheduled to host Chandler Hamilton in a scrimmage on Monday (Feb. 27), and the team’s first “official’’ home game on March 6 against Flagstaff High.

Xavier's beach volleyball team warms up for Monday's scrimmage against Chandler Hamilton. (Photos by Sr Lynn Winsor).
The courts have been in the planning stages for a little more than a year with various funding sources, including the generosity of the Cavanaugh Family.
Even Larry the Dog, whose owner lives next door to the courts, has come by to visit the girls.
“It’s a very good facility right now, but when it is finished, it should be the best one in the state behind the University of Arizona,’’ said Xavier coach Tim McHale.
As an elementary school teacher in Peoria, McHale now has a longer drive for practices and games than he did at Grand Canyon, but he doesn’t seem to mind.
“We are so appreciative,’’ said assistant coach Susan Contreras, who also serves as Xavier’s badminton coach.
The courts are surrounded by a temporary chain-link fence which at some point will be replaced by a sturdy wrought-iron version. A few rolls of artificial turf currently in storage will add to the ambiance along the edges of the courts.
As of right now, there are no plans to add lights, McHale said.
“Beach volleyball is made to be played in the daytime,’’ he said.
“The courts are amazing,’’ said senior Kristen Klein. “We are really blessed. It is so convenient for us now. We are lucky to have them.’’
Last season’s state champs only lost three seniors to graduation, and this year’s version appears to have a good blend of experience and youth. There are five seniors and four players each from the other three classes.
The Gators are led this season by three outstanding seniors – Macy Gordon, Klein and Cierra Flood.
Gordon probably is the most athletic player on the team. She isn’t afraid to get her uniform dirty, diving for anything she deems within her reach. She also has good jumping ability and has a powerful swing and follow-through.
Gordon (Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo) and Flood (Arizona State) will play beach volleyball at the next level, but for Klein, this is her last hurrah according to McHale. Klein will concentrate on obtaining her degree in psychology at ASU, but said she might play intramural volleyball. Klein and Flood also played for Xavier’s indoor team.
Beach volleyball continues to grow in popularity among Arizona’s bigger schools. Contreras said the sport is no longer a “pilot’’ program according to the AIA, and it now is “official.’’
“That is exciting,’’ she said. “Beach volleyball is not an expensive sport compared to some. It’s growing more and more. It’s more relaxed out there. And it gives the girls the opportunity to earn (college) scholarship money by doing something they love.’’
Many of the girls have played indoor club volleyball or sand club volleyball during the “offseason,’’ and McHale said it will be interesting to see how they all come together as Xavier’s season moves along.
Gordon has been slowed by an injury, but she said she expects to be back at close to full strength within a week.
“Our girls have a lot of beach knowledge and we are stacked, ability-wise, from bottom to top,’’ Gordon said.
She played most of the summer on the “real’’ beach in California, where the game is played at its top level.
“It raises my game,’’ she said.
Gordon enjoys being a team leader, “but it is very challenging, I’m not going to lie. You have to be able to settle down and tell the younger players where you’re coming from. You can see the world from both views, try to be successful as an athlete and a person.’’
Klein wants to seal her Xavier career with another title.
“Being at Xavier has been super special to me, the whole experience,’’ she said. “It has been amazing. I am taking each moment for all it’s worth. I’m not taking anything for granted. Would I like to win one last time? Of course.’’
She enjoys psychology “because I am interested in how people think, how their brain works.’’
And if we got inside Klein’s brain, what would be learn?
“That I’m always analyzing,’’ she said. “I think about every game, what I need to do and what we need to do as a team.
“There’s a little pressure on us from what we’ve done in the past, but we don’t feel intimidated by that. We’re just working hard, day-in and day-out.’’

Xavier's Cierra Flood returns a shot against Hamilton.
Flood is a solid all-around player. She serves well and sets up teammates with accurate passes.
“It’s really good to have our own courts now,’’ she said. “We need to defend them. That makes the stakes even higher for us.
“Every year, we try to work as hard as the year before, then we push ourselves even harder. I think we are going to be even stronger than last year, because we have a lot of good fundamental players.’’

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Gator softball finds something on which to build

Before each season begins, coaches always wonder about their team and what will happen once the green light is turned on.
Will pitchers be able to perform when the pressure is on? Can hitters step up in clutch situations?
All in all, Xavier Prep’s Gators were a competitive group during their first battles on the field of 2017 in the Sunrise Mountain Invitational over the weekend in Peoria.
Xavier finished 3-2 in its five games, showing signs that it will be able to develop consistency.
The Gators split their two games on Thursday (Feb. 23) against Glendale Raymond S. Kellis and Surprise Shadow Ridge, won their single game on Friday (Feb. 24) against Peoria Centennial and split two more games on Saturday (Feb. 25) against Anthem Boulder Creek and Phoenix Pinnacle.
“We got a better idea of how the girls played, whether they could step up. It was a good esperience for our team,’’ said coach  Carrie Markham. “Our pitchers did pretty well, all things considered. We have a young staff and some might be a bit nervous, but we were able to get some of that out of the way and move forward.’’
The win over Kellis was 15-2 and the loss to Shadow Ridge was close – 6-5.
Against Centennial, Xavier scored a combined for eight runs over the first two innings and held on for an 8-5 victory.
In bracket play on Saturday, the Gators downed Boulder Creek 9-4 and dropped a 14-1 decision to Pinnacle. Led by former Xavier coach Bobby Pena, Pinnacle was the state big-school runner-up last season and features one of the state’s top pitchers, junior Marissa Schuld.
Xavier will get another chance to defeat Pinnacle with a road encounter on Wednesday (March 1). The Gators open the home portion of their season on Tuesday (Feb. 28) with a game against defending state champion Chandler Hamilton at Petznick Field.
Among the top hitters in the tournament were catcher-first baseman Melissa Fedorka and outfielder Annamarie Hartman. Mercedes Silva did a solid job in the pitching circle.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Ole Miss to honor Gator hoops coach Gillom, sister

What better way to celebrate a big achievement than share it with a family member?
Xavier assistant varsity basketball coach and physical education teacher Jennifer Gillom and her sister, Peggie Gillom-Granderson, both former basketball stars at the University of Mississippi, will be honored with the 2017 Legacy Award from the Ole Miss Women’s Council for Philanthropy.
The sisters will be honored on April 22 at an awards event and dinner at The Pavilion at Ole Miss.
Gillom played at Ole Miss from 1982-86 and was awarded the Southeast Conference Female Athlete of the Year. She was the school’s second-highest scorer and third-highest rebounder.
She became popular in the Phoenix area as a member of the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury from 1997-2002. She also played in Europe and later became a WNBA coach. She also was Xavier’s head coach for a brief period.
In 1988, Gillom earned an Olympic Gold Medal as a player and picked up another Gold in 2012 as a coach of Team USA.
Gillom-Granderson still holds the record as the all-time leading scorer and rebounder at Ole Miss, from 1976-80. She went on to play for the WNBA’s Dallas Diamonds in 1980, then coached in the WNBA before returning to Ole Miss to coach from 1981 to 1997.
She also coached the Houston Comets in 1997-99, which saw the team win the WNBA championship both years. From 1999 to 2003, she was head coach at Texas A&M University and served as assistant coach for Team USA in the 2000 Olympics, leading the team to capture gold.
Gillom-Granderson returned to Ole Miss as a coach from 2003-09, when she retired. She also serves as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes’ women’s chaplain at Ole Miss.
Established in 2000, by a group of female leaders and philanthropists, the OMWC nurtures the development of students who have the potential to graduate and improve their communities through leadership. Council members promote philanthropy to sponsor innovative programs that attract and develop students through leadership, scholarship, mentoring and cultural experiences.
Congratulations to you and your sister, Coach Jen, for this wonderful honor !!

Gators grab opening victory in tennis

It wasn’t quite the same as a victory in the state championship match, but Xavier Prep will take it.
The Gators made up a bit for a setback to Mesa Mountain View in last season’s big-school tennis title duel by opening the 2017 season with a hard-fought 5-4 win over the host Toros on Thursday (Feb. 23).
As expected, Mountain View twins Anya and Madeline Lamoreaux dominated their singles and doubles matches, but XCP was in control of virtually everything else.
Emily Even, Maddy Corley and Jessica Mirmelli all captured singles wins for Xavier and the doubles teams of Jordan Craft and Corley and Caroline Armknecht and Mirmelli also triumphed.
The Gators play their first home match of the season on Tuesday (Feb. 28) against Phoenix Pinnacle. Start time is 3:30 p.m.

Xavier Prep 5, Mountain View 4
Anya Lamoreaux (MV) def. Erica Stutz (X) 6-1 6-4; Madeline Lamoreaux (MV) def. Jordan Craft (X) 6-2, 6-4; Emily Even (X) def. McKenzi Godfrey (MV) 6-4, 6-1; Maddy Corley (X) def. Sara Williams (MV) 6-0, 6-0; Tatum Hiatt (MV) def. Caroline Armknecht (X) 6-1, 6-4; Jessica Mirmelli (X) def. Emma Wheeler (MV) 6-0, 6-1.
Anya Lamoreaux-Madeline Lamoreaux (MV) def. Shelby Daniel-Emily Even (X) 8-0; Jordan Craft-Maddy Corley (X) def. Sara Williams-Tatum Hiatt (MV) 8-2; Caroline Armknecht-Jessica Mirmelli (X) def. Blum-Emma Wheeler (MV) 8-1.