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, August 8, 2017

Volleyball players working hard to make teams

The invasion came Monday (Aug.  7) as dozens of volleyball players swarmed the courts in the Activity Center and Vestar Hall for annual tryouts.

Tryouts will continue on Tuesday (Aug. 8) and Wednesday (Aug. 9) with the final rosters posted on Wednesday evening. Early official practices will run Thursday (Aug. 10), Friday (Aug. 11) and Saturday (Aug. 12).

Monday was an important day for the freshmen. It was the girls’ first day of school, followed by the tryouts. Approximately 36 prospects showed up at Vestar, wearing white T-shirts with numbers on the back in black magic marker.

Near the conclusion of the first session, eight players whose skill levels were a bit more diverse than others were asked to stay around and participate in the varsity and junior-varsity workouts that came after.

Freshman coach Jamie Itule said about 80 percent of the girls trying out had some sort of club experience.

“We have a good, solid number of girls out here,’’ Itule said. “Some are here for the very first time, others have more experience. If I could say one word about this first practice, I would say “competitive.’ ‘’

Passing the ball is the players’ biggest asset at this point, Itule said.

Varsity coach Lamar-Renee Bryant oversaw the proceedings and was pleased with the players’ mindset.

“There is a lot of excitement for them,’’ Bryant said. “The girls are working very hard because they want to be a part of this great Gator program.’’

The session for the older girls was divided into two groups – those who likely will play on the varsity and the others on the JV.

“It was a good first day,’’ Bryant said afterward. “Some of the main things you have to learn are to give your maximum effort at all times, have a positive attitude and support your teammates.’’

There were times when the Activity Center was a bit too quiet for Bryant’s liking. She wants to hear more noise.

“You have to be able to communicate,’’ she told the players. “You have to say what you see, let your teammates know what is going on when you see what your opponent is trying to do.’’

Xavier will have its annual four-way scrimmage with Chandler Hamilton, Chandler Basha and Phoenix Sunnyslope at Hamilton on Aug. 23.

The first varsity match will be at Xavier on Aug. 29, against Mesa Mountain View. The Gators will play in three tournaments this fall, the Durango Classic in Las Vegas, the Nike Tournament of Champions in Phoenix and the Gilbert Invitational at Gilbert High. 

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