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 6, 2017

Xavier volleyball schedule heats up

Gilbert High’s strong volleyball program lost a considerable amount of firepower in the school’s 2017 graduation.

It was imperative, then, that Xavier would be able to take advantage of its opportunity on Tuesday night (Sept. 5) when the teams met at the Activity Center.

The Gators maintained their focus with a three-game sweep, 25-15, 25-11 and 25-11.

Senior outside hitter Lanie Wagner had a solid all-around effort, as did junior setter Shannon Shields.

And Xavier’s two talented sophomores, outside hitter Bri McKnight and middle blocker Jasmine Knight, gave notice that they should be a factor for the Gators through the rest of the regular season and into the playoffs.

McKnight helped get the Gators off and running in the first game, coming up with a number of key kills.

Knight provides defensive strength at the net, but on this night became more involved in the offense.

She finished off the second game with a kill and began the third game with another power shot.

“Jaz has been blocking well, and tonight they (passers) found her for some good shots,’’ said Xavier coach Lamar-Renee Bryant.

XCP returns to action with another home match on Thursday night (Sept. 7) against Anthem Boulder Creek. The event begins at 6 p.m.

Next week, the difficulty factor increases considerably for the Gators with back-to-back road matches on back-to-back nights, Tuesday (Sept. 12) and Wednesday (Sept. 13) against Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor and Gilbert Perry, respectively.

Then comes a trip to Las Vegas for the annual Durango Classic, one of the top tournaments in the nation. Xavier has held its own there in the past and will attempt to do so again (seven tournament games) on Sept. 15-16.

To make the trip a success, Bryant said, the team must not let up.

“We have a lot of things to work on,’’ she said. “Things are going to get a lot tougher, and we have to make sure we button down.’’

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