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.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Wagner is big hitter for Xavier volleyball

After weeks of practicing and scrimmaging, the hour arrives for Xavier Prep’s volleyball team to officially begin its 2017 season. The Gators will face Mesa Mountain View on Tuesday (Aug. 29) at 6 p.m. in the Activity Center.

Xavier appears to have a good balance of experience and youth, power and blocking up front, setting and defensive strength along the back line.

One of the biggest focal points will be the power swing of 6-foot-1 senior outside hitter Lanie Wagner.

She is a co-captain in her third year as a starter, and after she completes her tour of duty with Xavier, she will move on to play at the University of Georgia.

The start of the season is coming at just the right time, Wagner said.

“I’m really excited for my senior season,’’ she said. “We are going to have a good team. All the girls are selfless, we work well together and hold each other accountable.’’

For Xavier coach Lamar-Renee Bryant, having Wagner on the floor is almost like having another coach in terms of strategy.

“She has a very good volleyball IQ,’’ Bryant said. “She is a three-year starter and is battle-tested. She is the hardest hitter in the gym. She is a quiet person, and she leads by example.’’

After enduring the recruiting process for many months, Wagner decided on the University of Georgia, but the school changed head coaches a short time later. Wagner decided to wait and see who the new coach would be before deciding whether to remain.

Georgia decided on Tom Black, a former coach at UC-San Diego and Loyola Marymount (Calif.) and assistant coach for Karch Kiraly on the U.S. National Team.

With those kinds of coaching credentials, it is not surprising that Wagner will stay put.

Before then, Wagner believes she has what it takes to help Xavier reach great heights.

“I think I have improved a lot this year between club and getting ready for the Xavier season,’’ she said. “My club coach helped me learn to coach myself. That way, she won’t have to ask me all the time and I can adjust to things on the court. That’s what I’m hoping to do for Xavier.’’

Anticipating what an opponent might do in an attempt to block her shot will be a benefit.

“You can see the block coming and hopefully go around it,’’ she said.

And the thunder will roll.

“It’s a great feeling to get a big shot,’’ she said. “I know my teammates all helped put me in that situation. I get so excited when I see those passes coming (from setter Shannon Shields and libero Alyna Draper) and follow through for the point. I think it “amps up’ the whole team.’’

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