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.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Seniors shine in home volleyball finale

Volleyball fans entering the lobby of the Activity Center on Thursday night (Oct. 19) were greeted by life-like cardboard cutouts of the four Xavier Prep seniors that were to be honored on Senior Night before the Gators played Chandler High.

Inside the gym, the real versions of Alyna Draper, Ericka Snopko, Alexis Diaz-Infante and Lanie Wagner were just as impressive.

They helped lead the Gators to a 3-0 sweep of the Wolves in the regular-season home finale. Scores were 25-8, 25-11 and 25-18.

Xavier (34-3) has one regular-season match remaining – on Tuesday (Oct. 24) at Chandler Hamilton.

“All the seniors played a lot of minutes and really helped us,’’ said Gators coach Lamar-Renee Bryant.

“It was an emotional time for them. They have been watching this (ceremony) as others have gone through it for quite awhile, and this time it was their turn.’’

Bryant granted a request by Draper to play outside hitter in the middle game instead of her customary libero position. The 5-foot-5 Draper responded with three kills and a block.

“I think it was a dream of hers,’’ Bryant said.

Xavier finished off the first game with seven straight points, including two on service aces by Diaz-Infante.

The middle blocker also picked up the final point of the second game with a block.

Chandler put up more of a fight in the third game, but the Gators still prevailed. It seemed fitting that Wagner, a 6-1 outside hitter, pounded the final point home with a kill as she has done so many times during her career here.

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