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, May 3, 2017

Beach volleyball Gators earn another championship

Add another jewel to the crown.
Xavier Prep’s Gators are Arizona’s beach volleyball state champions again. And again, and again, and again, and again . . .
Well, you get the idea.
In an impressive display of power, touch and desire, Xavier won its sixth title in six years of existence for the sport on Tuesday night (May 2), overcoming a strong, athletic team in Goodyear Millennium 4-1 at Gilbert Mesquite.
Xavier, the top seed, finished 16-0. Millennium was seeded No. 10.
“This is one of those weird, or amazing, combinations of experience and some really, really exuberant youth,’’ said Xavier coach Tim McHale, who is assisted by Susan Contreras. “All year long there's been different kids who have stepped up and they've done a variety of things that have helped us.
“We had some outstanding seniors, but it wasn’t just the seniors.’’
McHale, the former indoor coach at Xavier, started the beach program with Matt Rogers and assumed full control of the program when Rogers was unable to continue due to work commitments. Rogers was on hand to review the latest masterpiece.

Let the celebration begin !! Xavier head coach Tim McHale, center, meets with his players before they accepted the state championship trophy for the sixth straight time. (Photo by Don Ketchum).
The key match of the evening perhaps was at No. 3, with the Gators’ Kailey Klein and Lydia Rush. The pair won the first game, lost the second and came back to capture the third, 15-8.
Xavier had dropped an earlier match and McHale said, “It looked like it might go to 2-2 with Kailey and “Lu’’ (Rush), but they came out and played extremely well in that third game. You have to give them a lot of credit.’’
Instead of 2-2, it clinched the title for Xavier at 3-1, but the Gators weren’t done.
The No. 1 duo of seniors Macy Gordon and Cierra Flood finished it off with a 21-6, 21-17 win over the Tigers.
Gordon and Flood are among four seniors who have earned college scholarships. Gordon and Flood lost only one match all season and for the second straight year won the prestigious Cat Box tournament at midseason at the University of Arizona.
Gordon will go to Cal Poly (San Luis Obispo), Flood to Arizona State, Klein to Cal State Northridge and Emma Cisneros-Luebke to Cal Lutheran.
With a powerful swing and a will do get her uniform dirty, Gordon declared the evening “bittersweet.’’
“I’m going to move on, but this program put me where I am today,’’ she said. “When I was a freshman, they took a shot (chance) on me and I developed a passion for it. I have made a lot of good friends here and it has been an honor to represent Xavier by wearing this jersey.’’
She said she sort of wished that the teams would have been even at 2-2 when she and Flood took to the court.
“That would have meant that our match would have mattered even more,’’ she said.
Her serves, she said, “were on fire, particularly in the first game, and I was in a zone most of the night, which is right where you want to be.’’
Asked how she would celebrate, she wasn’t sure because she has to concentrate on final exams.
Flood remembered playing in the No. 3 slot as a freshman, “and I think I’ve come a long way since then. It’s definitely been a fun ride. We have a great sense of family here.’’
Time after time, Flood scored points against Millennium with a soft touch that dropped the ball behind the opponent who was trying to make a block at the net.
Was she surprised that Millennium did not try to make more of a defensive adjustment?
“Yeah, a little bit,’’ she said. “But I was going to keep doing that until it didn’t work.’’
As the finale came to a conclusion, Xavier players lined up on an adjacent court and swarmed the No. 1 pair.
There were plenty of photographs with the state championship trophy, the singing of the school’s alma mater and even a few impromptu gymnastics moves by Contreras.
A good time was had by all – again. And again, and again, and again, and again . . .

Championship results
Xavier Prep 4, Millennium 1
Cierra Flood-Macy Gordon def. Millennium.
Taylor Lopez-Trinity Cavanaugh def. Millennium.
Kailey Klein-Lydia Rush def. Millennium
Alyna Draper-Shannon Shields def. Millennium.
Kristen Klein-Emma Cisneros-Luebke lost to Millennium.

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