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.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Gators may be down, but they're not out

Have you ever wondered how a sports team is able to come back from a deficit to win – not just once but time and again?

Just ask Xavier Prep’s volleyball team. The Gators have become quite proficient in accomplishing that task.

Xavier staged a big comeback for the third time this season in Friday’s (Oct. 6) first day of action in the Gilbert Invitational at Gilbert High.

The Gators stunned rival Tempe Corona del Sol, dropping the first game but then coming back to win the next two. Matches in the round-robin tournament are best of three instead of the normal best of five.

Scores on Friday were 22-25, 26-24 and 15-13.

It was the second time in a week that Xavier had victimized the Aztecs in such a manner. In last week’s Nike Tournament of Champions, Xavier lost the first game but won the next two against the team that defeated the Gators in last year’s Division I semifinal game before going on to win it all.

Xavier began the day in the Gilbert Invitational with wins over Chandler Basha and Phoenix Sunnyslope to set up the rematch with Corona del Sol.

The Gators had the early lead in the first game but Corona del Sol came back to go in front. Xavier made a couple of comeback attempts but could not get over the top. The Aztecs mixed up their shots pretty well, and senior star Brooke Nuneviller came as advertised at outside hitter, and showed why the University of Oregon will have a place for her on its roster in 2018.

Game 2 went back and forth until the Gators managed to do just enough at the end to hold on.

As Game 3 entered the home stretch, senior libero Alyna Draper came up with some big serves to help XCP win it.

Xavier later won a fourth match on the day, 25-16 and 25-9 over Gilbert Highland. Xavier is now 28-2 on the season.

The Gators will have three more games on Saturday (Oct. 7) in the Gilbert Invitational, against host Gilbert at 9 a.m., against Phoenix Mountain Pointe at noon and against Chandler Hamilton at 1 p.m.

Xavier coach Lamar-Renee Bryant said her team actually played “cleaner’’ against Corona in the Nike, that the Gators had some mental lapses on Friday.

“But we were able to do what we needed to do,’’ said Bryant, whose team also staged a recent monumental comeback against Gilbert Perry, winning 3-2 after falling in the first two games.

“We were not “buttoned up,’ or how I like to call it when we are near the top of our game. We were a step slow.

“Our seniors kept us in it, the way seniors are supposed to do. Alyna with her serves, Lanie (Wagner, outside hitter) with her great play at the net, Ericka Snopko with some big blocks.’’

Bryant said she is not sure what will happen down the stretch in the regular season and how the Gators will wind up being seeded in the state tournament, but she expects to see the Aztecs again at some point.

Given the first two meetings, No. 3 also should be well worth watching.

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