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, April 27, 2017

Beach volleyball seeks 6th championship trophy

No. 6 swings in the breeze from the championship tree. All that’s left for Xavier Prep’s Gators is to grab it.
Thanks to a decisive 5-0 semifinal victory over 12th-seeded Phoenix Mountain Pointe on Wednesday night (April 26) at Gilbert Mesquite, Xavier’s top-seeded beach volleyball team is ready to claim its sixth straight Division I crown in as many years of the sport’s existence.
The Gators had expected to face Tucson Salpointe Catholic for the second straight year in the title match, but were surprised to learn that No. 3 Salpointe was upset by No. 10 Goodyear Millennium 5-0 in the other semi.
The title match will be Tuesday (May 2) at 6:30 p.m. at Mesquite.
Xavier coach Tim McHale said his team wasn’t necessarily thinking about the No. 6 designation.
“We just want to finish it off with a strong effort, and if we win, this (title) will stand alone. All of them are different,’’ he said.
Despite being in its first year, McHale does not think Millennium will be an easy mark.
“They have some really good volleyball players, very athletic,’’ he said.
As they did in the first-round win over Queen Creek and a second-round win over Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor, Xavier’s top tandem of Macy Gordon and Cierra Flood was at the top of its game. Gordon and Flood won 21-13 and 21-15.
No. 2 Taylor Lopez and Trinity Cavanaugh also won 2-0, as did No. 5 Kristen Klein and Emma Cisneros-Luebke.
The keys to the match were 2-1 victories by No. 3 Kailey Klein and Lydia Rush and No. 4 Alyna Draper and Shannon Shields. The Klein-Rush team’s win was particularly noteworthy because it came back from a 0-1 deficit.
McHale said Kailey Klein, a junior, is a bit more experienced and that Rush, a sophomore, doesn’t have as much and might have been a bit nervous when their match began.
“Kailey talked her through it and she settled down and played a lot better,’’ McHale said.
“I keep telling the girls that it isn’t always the No. 1 or No. 2 teams that play the decisive match. Sometimes, matches are won or lost in the three or four hole. You’re either eliminated or you finish it off.’’
The coach is eager to see what transpires in the title match.
“This team is one of the most tight-knit teams I’ve had,’’ he said. “They all get along and are willing to sacrifice for each other.’’

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