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.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Lacrosse out to show them who's boss

Xavier Prep’s club lacrosse team showed many signs of life during the 2016 season, eventually reaching the Arizona Girls Lacrosse Association semifinals against Phoenix Pinnacle and finishing with a 12-6 record.
Now it’s a new season and coach Rachael D’Angelo says, “this is the most promising year since I’ve been here.’’
The primary reason is that the Gators are loaded up with seniors, most playing together for as long as they can remember.
Xavier has been practicing for a few weeks and opens the season on Monday (Feb. 27) against Phoenix Horizon at Desert Canyon Middle School in Scottsdale. First draw is at 5 p.m.
“The team is meshing really well,’’ D’Angelo said.
The Gators figure to get their share of scoring opportunities. It is their defense that has drawn the most attention thus far.
“Everybody is “getting it,‘ ‘’ D’Angelo said. “They have their usual positions, but they know they might be called upon to cover for a teammate at a different position at times, depending on the flow of the game. We noticed how that was working a lot last year, particularly later in the season.’’
There are nine teams in the league and Xavier will play 12 games, including eight at home at Petznick Field.
“We have a good schedule,’’ D’Angelo said.
The coach lists a group of key players for the Gators. They are seniors Kayla Swanson, Bella Johnson, Katie Hobaica, Caitlin Blomo, Casey Dougherty, Caylie Wagner and goalkeeper Anna Schrader. Blomo was the AZGLA Attack Player of the Year as a junior.
D’Angelo says that Schrader “does a fantastic job. She is very quick and can clear the ball all the way out to midfield.’’
Pinnacle and Scottsdale Chaparral will be the teams to beat, but the Gators will be right in the middle of the action, stirring things up.
“We are aggressive and we are not afraid to show who we are,’’ Johnson said.
In the past, Xavier has run a man-to-man defense and last year began to run more of a zone, which yielded some success. It will be back to the zone for the most part again this time.
“Most of us have played together so long that we know the way each other thinks, and we are good at predicting what the opponent might do,’’ Johnson said. “We need to make sure we cover the crease where the goalie is and make sure the back side is covered.’’
Johnson admits she likes to score, but also likes playing defense, where she has been for most of her career.
“I think I have a good relationship with the goalies,’’ she said.
Swanson and Johnson have joined a number of their teammates in participating in non-school club play over the summer and into the fall.
“We’re all excited to begin the season for Xavier,’’ said Swanson, who was a second team All-State selection last season.
“We know that playing against the good teams won’t be easy. We just have to make sure we are prepared, are mentally strong and fight for each other the whole game.’’

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