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, September 20, 2017

Fatigue doesn't fit XCP volleyball

After a strong effort at the Durango Invitational in Las Vegas over the weekend, the Xavier Prep volleyball team returned to Arizona for another in-state match on Tuesday (Sept. 19).

The Gators picked up where they left off, excelling in all phases of the game for a 3-0 victory over host Gilbert Highland. Scores were 25-9, 25-16 and 25-16. XCP is now 13-1, with its only loss coming to Torrey Pines (San Diego) in the Durango.

Playing seven matches over two days as the Gators did in the Durango can drain a team of its energy. Xavier did not show any evidence of that.

“We didn’t practice Monday (Sept. 18) and we came out super focused (for Highland),’’ said Xavier coach Lamar-Renee Bryant.

The Gators continue to feed off a 3-2 win at Gilbert Perry last week, a match in which Xavier started the contest 0-2.

“After the Perry match and the good showing in Vegas, we are super confident right now and are playing at a high level,’’ Bryant said.

As if dealing with Xavier’s strength wasn’t enough, Highland did not help itself, committing numerous unforced errors.

Sophomore Bri McKnight had a productive first game with a handful of kills, a few blocks and a service ace.

“Bri was super aggressive out there,’’ Bryant said.

Xavier usually gets big efforts out of its top players, and a different player each match will step up and push the Gators over the top. In the Highland match, that was senior middle blocker Erika Snopko.

“She had some big blocks and kills and attacked over the middle,’’ Bryant said.

Junior outside hitter Hayley Nash provided the decisive final point in the second game with a kill. The last few points were delayed when a Highland player bumped her head on the padded post that supports the net. She was lying on the floor for a few minutes but later returned to the Hawks’ bench and fortunately did not appear to be seriously injured.

Highland stayed close early in the third game, but Xavier gradually began to pull away. The last Gator points were produced by sophomore middle blocker Jasmine Knight on a block and McKnight on a kill.

The Gators return home to the Activity Center on Thursday (Sept. 21) for a match against Phoenix Desert Vista. Start time is 6 p.m.

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