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, February 22, 2017

XCP tennis has youth, room for growth

It won’t take long for coach Laurie Martin’s Xavier tennis team “to find out what we’re made of.’’
The Gators open the 2017 season on Thursday (Feb. 23) at Mesa Mountain View, the team that knocked XCP from its state-championship perch a year ago.
Xavier will have to do it without its No. 1 singles player, sophomore Tristanne Dechoux, who is out with an unspecified injury. Martin is hopeful that Dechoux can return soon.
In the meantime, senior captain Jordan Craft and juniors Caroline Armknecht and Maddy Corley will have to pick up some of the slack.
“We have a lot of youth, but we have a lot of upside,’’ Martin said. “We have a hard-working group.’’
The Gators should get help from a pair of players who are up from the junior varsity, Jessica Mirmelli and Lorelie Glidden, and two strong freshmen, Erica Stutz and Emily Even. Stutz is expected to team with Dechoux in doubles once Dechoux returns.
“Last year was a different team atmosphere and we want to carry that over,’’ Craft said. “We grew close to each other and close from that loss (to Mountain View).
“You always want to win, of course, but we are looking for internal growth and not necessarily titles.’’
Everybody is aware that Xavier has perhaps the strongest program in the state (18 state titles, the last in 2015), but it might be good, Craft said, that the Gators are able to come in a bit under the radar this season.
“The pressure is off, so we can just go out and play,’’ Craft said.
Since the setback in the title match, she has played virtually non-stop to get ready for this season.
“I put in a lot of hard work, but it was kind of a rollercoaster,’’ she said. “If I took time off, maybe only a week or two, I would feel like I was out of the loop. So you have to try to stay on top of it.’’
It is doubtful, she said, that she will continue to play in college. She is waiting to hear back from the schools in which she has expressed interest and hopes to make a decision by April. She likely will go to a school in California and pursue a degree in engineering.
Dechoux also has played quite a bit in the last year, including tournaments in Arizona and out of state.
She is looking forward to the season, especially in doubles, to see how much she has improved.
Last year, she did not have much experience in doubles, but has worked on that aspect since. Martin said Xavier will get some help in doubles instruction from veteran coach Ford Oliver.
“I am really excited to get out there every single day,’’ Dechoux said.
“I really grew to like doubles, once I figured out what was going on, and now I am enjoying it even more. Erica and I seem to work well together, so we will see what happens.
“In doubles, you have to make sure you make the little decisions, make better decisions, and communicate with each other.’’
As for her singles play, she said, “I just worked on being consistent. I want to do that during the season. My goals are definitely high.’’
Xavier’s first home match will be Tuesday (Feb. 28) against Phoenix Pinnacle and will begin at 3:30 p.m.

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