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, November 29, 2017

Three seniors have essential soccer roles

Among the reasons why Xavier Prep is expected to challenge for a second straight soccer title is the play of three seniors – forward Abby Hubbard, midfielder Mady Chait and defender Nicole Hook.

The XCP Files takes a closer look at the trio and how they believe they fit in with the team.

Bringing the energy

Hubbard has been playing soccer for a long time and it’s hard to believe sometimes that she is in her last year at XCP and ready to move on to play for Colorado College.

“We definitely have a title to protect,’’ she said. “I’ve only one it once and I want to win it as many times as I can.’’

To Hubbard, there is no better game than the one she plays.

“Soccer is the best game in the world,’’ she said. “It has been special for me, helping me make friends. It’s such a beautiful sport to play and watch. I have so much respect for this program. I am excited to be a senior.’’

Asked how she makes an impact for her team at left forward, Hubbard said, “I bring a lot of energy right from the (opening) whistle. I really get hyped for a game. We have good team bonding. Coach (Barb Chura) is a firm believer in that, both on and off the field.’’

Hubbard is constantly on the move.

“I love to run at a player (opponent) and get a shot off,’’ she said. “And I like setting up my teammates when I can, creating “corners’ (kicks). Or I might be called on to drop off and slide over towards the middle to help there.’’

More than just the shoes

It’s hard to miss Chait as she moves up and down the field.

She wears bright pink shoes and often has socks to match.

“If I find ones I like, it’s more about the fit than the color, though,’’ Chait said.

She is a center mid (fielder) and says her job “is to keep the game flowing with good passes and make sure we maintain good field position.’’

But every now and then, she is counted on to put the ball in the net. She did just that by scoring the Gators’ first goal in a 2-0 win over Phoenix Desert Vista for the 6A state championship last season (junior Kyla Ferry scored the other).

Chait said the Gators can get a good idea from what to expect from an opponent in the first 15 minutes of the match.

“Teams know we’re going to be good,’’ she said. “We think we are pretty versatile. Some people might not think we’re much of a scoring team, but we can score when we need to. It depends on the year, I guess. We were a good scoring team a few years ago and now we rely a lot on defense. Whatever works for us.’’

Enforcer says “stay away’’ from goal

Hook might be the strongest player on the team, and that is why she is stationed near the front of the goal and does whatever she can to keep opponents from getting a clear shot against Xavier senior goalkeeper Kinsey Ehmann.

“The physical part of the game can be tough, but it’s also a lot of fun,’’ Hook said. “We play some teams that are very good and very physical, like (Chandler) Hamilton and Desert Vista.’’

Like most of her Xavier teammates, Hook played club ball where she attempted to stay in condition through running and weight training.

Hook said that for the majority of her first two years at Xavier, she played forward.

“I wasn’t what I would call a great attacker, so they put me on defense for my junior year and I like that a lot better,’’ she said.

Playing defense near the goal involves letting your teammates know where their opponents are going and talking with the keeper.

“It’s important to be vocal, be able to communicate,’’ Hook said.

So another season begins on Monday (Dec. 4) with a 6 p.m. home match against Gilbert High at Petznick Field. Will it help the Gators win another championship? Hubbard, Chait and Hook will be right there in the middle of the action, doing their part.

Gators win, come home "at the right time for us''

Xavier Prep basketball fans should be excited to watch their favorite team play its first home game of the season against Mesa Skyline at 7 p.m. on Friday (Dec. 1).

But they probably will not be as pumped up as the coaching staff and players themselves.

“We need one (home game). It’s coming at the right time for us,’’ said Gators coach Jennifer Gillom.

Her sentiments come after a grueling first week of the season that saw the team go 2-3 in the (Gilbert) Highland Thanksgiving tournament and win the first game of the “regular’’ season, a 64-49 triumph on the road over Phoenix Mountain Pointe on Tuesday night (Nov. 28).

“Overall, we are happy. The most important thing is that we played well at both ends of the floor,’’ Gillom said. “That said, we are still not satisfied with the overall consistency of our game. That has to get better.’’

The Gators’ defense put pressure on Mountain Pointe from the opening tip, forcing several turnovers that helped to produce an eight-point lead at the end of the first quarter.

The second quarter was highlighted by a rare 4-point play from senior guard Payton Davis.

She hit a 3-pointer to begin the quarter, and a few minutes later drilled a 3-pointer from along the baseline, was fouled and converted the free throw for the 4-pointer.

Xavier outscored the Pride 10-0 to begin the third period, but Mountain Pointe went on an 11-4 run to remain within range.

In the fourth, the Gators increased their lead to 21, but a pair of 3-pointers by the Pride in the final moments soothed some of their wounds.

Getting a big lead on a few occasions and watching it shrink was not what Gillom wanted to see.

“Once we get a big lead like that, we have to keep ‘em down. We can’t let them get back into it,’’ she said.

Senior forward Montana Oltrogge scored 20 points, including two 3-pointers, to lead the Gators. Junior point guard Leilani McIntosh found a good pace and played perhaps her best overall game of the season with 15 points. Junior Addison Putnam had 10 points, including a pair of 3-pointers. And senior forward Katie Hassett continued to work hard under the basket. She was scoreless in the first half but came back with six points in the second half, along with aggressive rebounding and defense.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Soccer season nears for defending champ Gators

By the time Xavier Prep begins its 2017-18 soccer season on Dec. 4, the school’s basketball team already will have played seven games.

But that’s OK. Good things are worth waiting for.

The defending state champion Gators open up at home against Gilbert High.

Xavier coach Barb Chura will be interested to see how things turn out after she and assistant coach Rafael Rios have spent nearly a month mixing and matching players in practice, deciding on who is going to play where.

Xavier posted a 15-1-3 record last season. The Gators’ lone loss was not in Arizona, but against a team from the Los Angeles area in the annual Excalibur tournament in southern California, which runs between Christmas and New Year’s.

“We are getting better each day, but it’s going to take some time to figure out what our lineup is going to be,’’ Chura said.

Some players who thought they would play a certain position might find themselves playing in another spot if they are needed there.

“We have some athletes who are capable of doing that,’’ Chura said.

Xavier lost five key seniors to graduation – midfielder Madie Amavilah, midfielder Natalie Duque, forward/midfielder Quiqui Hita, fullback Elena Zurek and fullback Katie Moore.

Chura said the Gators will be fine up front and at midfield, so one of the main objectives is to develop a strong defensive presence. Senior fullback Nicole Hook is the anchor in front of senior goalkeeper Kinsey Ehmann, but will need help when opponents apply pressure. Ehmann recently won the Wendy’s Heisman award for Arizona.

Because of their title, a 2-0 win over Phoenix Desert Vista, the Gators will have a target on their backs.

“It’s always a challenge for us, and the fact that we won it makes it even more so this year,’’ Chura said.

Among the players expected to have key roles for Xavier are senior midfielder/forward Mady Chait and junior forward Kyla Ferry. Each scored a goal in the state championship game.

Other key players are Ehmann, Hook, senior forward Abby Hubbard and sophomore fullbacks Elizabeth Warren and Megan Zacher.

The top teams joining Xavier in the fight for the title trophy should be Desert Vista, Gilbert Perry, Chandler Hamilton and Phoenix Pinnacle.


00 – Ella Eberhardt/Fr., GK; 0 – Katie Hessel/Sr., GK; 1 – Kinsey Ehmann/Sr., GK; 2 – Megan McGinty/Fr., F; 3 – Abby Hubbard/Sr., F; 4 – Mady Chait/Sr., MF/F; 5 – Camila Grifol/Fr., D; 6 – Brynn Lebel/So., MF/F; 7 – Jocelyn Rupp/So., MF/D; 8 – Elizabeth Warren/So., FB; 9 – Ololade Adebayo/Fr., MF; 10 – Kyla Ferry/Jr., F/MF; 11 – Abby Ditmer/So., FB; 12 – Katie McGee/Jr., D; 13 – Izzy Culver-Witt/Jr., F; 15 – Taylor Brown/So., MF; 16 – Jessie Simmons/Sr., F; 17 – Karla Alvarado-Lopez/Jr., MF; 18 – Abby Castlen/Sr., F; 19 – Maddy Skrovan/So., D; 20 – Caroline Hink/So., D; 21 – Megan Zacher/So., FB; 22 – Megan Onofrei/So., D; 25 – Nicole Hook/Sr., FB.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Big learning curve for Xavier basketball

Xavier Prep’s basketball rollercoaster took quite a few twists and turns on Saturday (Nov. 25), but the Gators did not enjoy the ride.

The Gators faced host Gilbert Highland in the final day of play in the Highland Lady Hawk Thanksgiving Classic. The teams were tied at 43 entering the fourth quarter, but Xavier was outscored 8-0 down the stretch and dropped a 61-55 decision.

Xavier finished 2-3 in the tournament and will begin its regular season on Tuesday (Nov. 28) with a road game in Ahwatukee against Phoenix Mountain Pointe. The Gators will have their home opener on Friday (Dec. 1) against Mesa Skyline.

According to Xavier coach Jennifer Gillom, there wasn’t much to like about her team’s effort.

“We can’t blame anyone but ourselves,’’ she said.

The Gators also could blame some questionable calls by the officials (they were whistled for 10 more fouls than Highland), but Gillom did not want to go down that road.

“The team has to learn to play through all of that,’’ she said. “There are going to be times when that happens, particularly on the road. We have to be able to step up in the big games. That is why we wanted to come to this tournament with all of its strong competition.’’

The learning and maturation process “is going to be something that takes time,’’ she said. “At this point, it isn’t so much about winning as it is about teaching.  We are trying to get there, but not yet. You can see it on the players’ faces that they are not happy.’’

The team has yet to get consistent leadership from some of its more experienced players, Gillom said.

“We need it, particularly in pressure situations,’’ she said.

Xavier had a 10-6 lead midway through the first quarter. The Gators perhaps could have put more distance between themselves and the Hawks, but did not.

The contest continued to go back and forth in the second and third, and long-time Highland coach Miner Webster received a technical foul with two seconds left in the third. Xavier could convert only one of two free throws.

In the decisive fourth, Xavier held a 55-53 lead with about 3 ½ minutes left, thanks to a three-point basket by Addie Putnam. Those would be the last points for the Gators as Highland made six of eight free throws in the final 2:23.

Forward Montana Oltrogge led Xavier with 15 points. Guard Paris Rasheed-Moore had 14 points and forward Katie Hassett had another strong game inside with 10 points.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Now that's more like it: Gators get two tourney wins

Xavier Prep’s basketball players needn’t have worried about how many calories they were taking in on Thanksgiving.

Because the Gators burned every one of them and then some on Friday (Nov. 24) in the (Gilbert) Highland holiday tournament.

Xavier began the day by routing Tucson Flowing Wells 88-28 and came back in the afternoon to roll past Phoenix Horizon 71-43. Both games were at Gilbert Mesquite.

The Gators, now with a 2-2 record, will play their final tournament game on Saturday (Nov. 25), this time at Highland. They will face Highland at noon.

Considering the way Xavier struggled in its first two tourney games, coach Jennifer Gillom was borderline ecstatic about Friday'’s turn of events.

“The difference for us was that we played hard at both ends of the court,’’ she said. “The girls are understanding how you win games, playing with intensity. I am really happy with what we’re doing.’’

The Gators worked the ball around well on offense, and that was ignited by tough, pressurized play on defense in both games.

On offense, Gillom said the Gators took care of the ball and had only seven turnovers against Horizon.

Xavier had 11 players score in its win over Flowing Wells. Senior forward Montana Oltrogge scored 28 points, 25 in the first half, and probably could have had at least 40. Senior forward Katie Hassett had 11 points and had a strong presence under the basket.

Hassett was even better in the second game. She scored six points and outhustled and outmuscled Horizon’s primary post player. Hassett kept her feet on the floor most of the way and kept a close watch on her opponent when they attempted to cut through the paint.

Oltrogge again was atop the scoring leaders with 23 points against Horizon, including three 3-point baskets. Junior Paris Rasheed-Moore had her best all-around game of the young season with strong defensive pressure that led to layups by her teammates, and 14 points on offense. Junior point guard Leilani McIntosh had 10.

“Katie did all the little things you need to do that sometimes might go unnoticed,’’ Gillom said. “And Paris was the real thing, too. Her presence really helped us.’’

After Saturday’s game, the Gators begin the “real’’ part of their schedule (power-points games) with a road contest at Phoenix Mountain Pointe in Ahwatukee. Xavier’s first home game of the season will be Dec. 1 against Mesa Skyline.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

No win, but XCP basketball plays much better

The final result was not what Jennifer Gillom wanted. But compared to what occurred one night earlier, she was very encouraged by her Xavier Prep basketball team’s effort in Tuesday night’s (Nov. 21) second round of the (Gilbert) Highland Thanksgiving tournament.

The Gators were outplayed in every way, shape and form by Tucson Pueblo on Monday night (Nov. 20). They came back to face host Gilbert Mesquite on Tuesday night. It would be a daunting  task because Mesquite, the defending 5A Conference champion, had put 117 points on the board against Tucson Flowing Wells in the first round.

Xavier matched Mesquite stride for stride for the most part, even leading at halftime (by two) but the talented Mesquite team regained its composure in the second half and went on to win 60-52.

The Gators were aggressive from the start at both ends of the floor. They moved the ball around, rebounded with more authority and more importantly did not have the blank look on their faces that they had in the opener.

“I think that after what happened on Monday, people expected them (Mesquite) to come in and just run us off the court,’’ Gillom said. “Mesquite did not outhustle us and they did not outplay us. For us to hold a good team like that (to 60) after they got 117 the night before was a big improvement.

“We learned from yesterday (Monday). We learned about discipline and trusting one another. They came back and did what I asked them to do. We had a few little defensive mistakes, but it was a good effort. I think that overall, this will help us down the road.’’

Xavier trailed by six at the end of the first quarter but came back to hold Mesquite to nine in the second and led 30-28 at the half.

Unfortunately for the Gators, the intermission interrupted their momentum.

“Yes, I was thinking that if we had about four more minutes, we might have been farther ahead with the way we were playing,’’ Gillom said.

Mesquite was led by senior star point guard Shaylee Gonzales. But the two-time All-Arizona player and Brigham Young signee limped off the court in the closing moments of the third quarter and did not return. The injury did not appear to be too serious and her mother, Mesquite coach Candace Gonzales, likely kept her out the rest of the way as a precautionary measure.

Senior forward Montana Oltrogge had another solid game for the Gators. She led the team with 21 points and was much more aggressive in the rebounding department. Junior wing Addison Putnam scored 11, including three 3-pointers, and junior point guard Leilani McIntosh scored 10.

After a two-day break, Xavier returns to tournament play on Friday (Nov. 24) at Mesquite with a contest against Flowing Wells. Tip-off is at noon. The Gators are expected to play a second game later that day (time TBA) and one more on Saturday (Nov. 25). Saturday’s games will be at Highland.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Gators fall flat in basketball opener

Xavier Prep basketball coach Jennifer Gillom was looking forward to playing in the (Gilbert) Highland “preseason’’ tournament because of the quality of competition – three defending state champions are entered.

She wanted to see how her Gators would fare.

And now, after the first game is over? Maybe not so much. Particularly after the way Xavier played in Monday night’s (Nov. 20) season opener against Tucson Pueblo at Gilbert Mesquite.

Xavier jumped to an 11-0 lead in the first quarter, but that quickly evaporated. Simply put, the Gators were outplayed in every phase of the game and Pueblo, a 4A Conference quarterfinalist a year ago, earned a 72-65 victory.

The road doesn’t get any easier on Tuesday (Nov. 21). Xavier will face Mesquite at 5:30 p.m. Mesquite is the defending 5A champion and routed Tucson Flowing Wells 117-12 in its tourney opener.

Asked what about the performance frustrated her the most, Gillom said, “All of it. Pueblo played smarter, outrebounded us, they outran us . . . after all of the running we’ve been doing (in practice) . . .

“Our defense is more mature than that. Overall, we have to learn to play consistently for all four quarters. We definitely have a lot to work on.’’

Pueblo also was quicker and seemed more athletic. The Warriors stepped into the passing lanes to take the ball away. They did pretty much whatever they wanted.

When Xavier had the ball, its players did a lot of standing around. When the ballhandler would come across the half-court line and get some defensive pressure from Pueblo, there often would be no one to throw to because teammates were not coming to get the ball.

Four of the Gators’ five starters scored in double figures, but very few seemed to have much of an impact.

Senior forward Montana Oltrogge scored 18 points, followed by junior wing Addison Putnam (13, including three 3-pointers), senior forward Katie Hassett and junior point guard Leilani McIntosh (10 each).

Monday, November 20, 2017

Xavier food drive shatters previous record

Xavier Prep continues to have that magic touch and is able to come through when its help is needed the most.

And that is during holiday time, Thanksgiving in particular.

The XCP community – students, faculty, staff, family and friends – recently set a record for its annual canned food drive for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Phoenix.

From Oct. 23-Nov. 17, Xavier, with its National Honor Society leading the way, gathered 83,798 cans of food for the St. Vincent de Paul Food Bank. It shattered the previous record of about 40,000, set in 2016.

According to Tara Metzger, Xavier’s Assistant to the President and Principal and the NHS moderator, a new wrinkle was added this year in the form of the acceptance of monetary donations to help supplement the food collection.

For every dollar brought in, the can count increased by two.

As the result of the big effort, students will be allowed to wear sweat pants/jeans (“sweans’’) on Tuesday (Nov. 21), similar to other school community-service projects. So instead of a “Buck a Sweans,’’ the right to wear them will cost nothing as a thank you for all of the food-collecting assistance.

Most of the food was collected and placed in a “mini’’ storage unit in the parking lot near the school’s entrance, to be picked up each week, Metzger said. About halfway through this year’s drive, the money/can equivalent aspect was added.

“For some people, it is more convenient to do it that way, so it worked out very well,’’ she said.

One family donated $500, she added.

“We all get pumped up about it,’’ Metzger said. “Students, faculty, staff . . . we all get behind it.’’

Another way to help would be to actually go down to St. Vincent de Paul, located a bit south of downtown Phoenix, and volunteer to work for a few hours, as Metzger and others from the school have done.

“It makes a difference when you are actually there,’’ she said. “To see first-hand, all that goes into it, means even more.’’

Friday, November 17, 2017

Sky's the limit for Gator basketball's Oltrogge

Are you ready for your geography lesson?

Here goes: Montana is now in Arizona, but next year will be in Idaho.

Before you go scurrying around looking for a map, it’s not as confusing as it might seem.

Montana Oltrogge is right here at Xavier Prep, preparing for what she hopes will be an outstanding senior season on the basketball floor. When she graduates, she will move on to play college ball at Idaho State in Pocatello. She recently signed a national letter of intent.

The 6-foot Oltrogge is a good all-around athlete and player. She can run the floor, rebound and her shooting touch is very much improved.
Senior Montana Oltrogge isn't worried about the gator sneaking up on her. She's more concerned about helping the XCP basketball team have a strong season. (Photo by Don Ketchum).

Her first objective is to stay healthy. Knee issues sidelined her for most of her freshman season and part of her sophomore year and a few games as a junior. If she can survive the 2017-18 season unscathed, Xavier’s chances of traveling far into the playoffs will rise dramatically.

Oltrogge said that dealing with the injuries “was the hardest thing ever. People said that I would come back better than before. It’s happened a little bit so far, but I want to have it happen for a whole season.’’

One of the reasons for her optimism has been her training approach and trying to stay in shape, particularly in the weight room.

“I feel a lot stronger now,’’ she said. “I want to be able to finish more layups, including those with contact (from an opponent). Rebounding, too. I want to get as many as I can.’’

And there is the matter of putting the ball in the basket, not just layups.

Year by year, it seems that Oltrogge’s shooting range has increased. She said much of that improvement has come through working with Jennifer Gillom, XCP’s assistant coach for her first three years and now the Gators’ head coach.

As a junior, Oltrogge averaged 15.3 points in 15 games, 4.9 rebounds, shot 50 percent from the floor and 71.8 percent from the free-throw line.

“Montana is coming into her own,’’ Gillom said. “Her maturity level has really blossomed. It’s not just physical, but in the example she sets, being a more vocal leader. I know she wants to leave here with a state championship.’’

Oltrogge said Gillom, who was Xavier’s head coach from 2006-11 before going on to coach in the WNBA, has created more of a team atmosphere where the players are more supportive of each other than ever.

“I think we are going to push the ball down the floor quite a bit,’’ Oltrogge said. “A lot of fast-break stuff. We have a lot of athleticism.’’

Oltrogge said her relationship with Idaho State began in club ball but also carried over to Xavier. She continued to talk to the coaches, took a trip to Pocatello and met some of her future teammates.

“It (Pocatello) is totally a college town,’’ she said. “There seems to be about a thousand people there each game, which is pretty good. When I visited, I had people come up to me and say, “We’re going to come and watch you play next year.’

“The players there all love the school and I’m looking forward to going there (pre-med). The coaches say that I am going to have to work for my position, and that’s the way it is supposed to be. That’s the way I did it here at Xavier.’’

Tournament -- The Gators will open the season on Monday (Nov. 20) and continue most of Thanksgiving week in a tournament co-hosted by Gilbert Highland and Gilbert Mesquite. Xavier’s first three games will be at Mesquite. The first opponent will be Tucson Pueblo, on Monday at 5:30 p.m.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Xavier confident entering new hoops season

Xavier Prep’s basketball season begins on Nov. 20, and new head coach Jennifer Gillom is setting the bar high for her team coming out of the gate.

“That is what you should do. You have to be confident,’’ she said.

The Gators will be playing five games over four days (Nov. 20, 21, 24 and 25) at the (Gilbert) Highland Lady Hawk Thanksgiving Classic at Highland and Gilbert Mesquite. Xavier’s first three games will be at Mesquite.

The tournament will feature 14 teams and without a doubt will have the strongest field of any early season event in the state.

It will have the defending state champions in the 6A Conference (Surprise Valley Vista), 5A (Mesquite) and 4A (Chandler Seton Catholic). It will have 6A semifinalist Gilbert High, 6A quarterfinalists Highland and Phoenix Horizon, 5A semifinalist Scottsdale Chaparral and 4A quarterfinalist Tucson Pueblo.

Pueblo will join Xavier in Pool D, along with Mesquite and Tucson Flowing Wells. Xavier will face Pueblo in its tourney opener on Nov. 20 at 5:30 p.m.

Other teams in addition to 6A first-rounder Xavier are Scottsdale Desert Mountain, Avondale Westview, Mesa Desert Ridge and Gilbert Leading Edge Academy. Desert Mountain's roster lists senior forward Alana Kelley, who transferred from Xavier after last season.

Xavier varsity basketball coach Jennifer Gillom.
Gillom, who played for the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury and coached in the league, was Xavier coach from 2006-11 and posted a 97-32 record.
“We expect to win it,’’ she said boldly. “It’s a tough tournament. We had some close losses last year to some of the teams in the tournament. We want to be able to set the tone.’’

Gillom, an assistant varsity coach the last few seasons, has been putting the Gators through their paces in the first few weeks of preseason practice.

“I have been impressed,’’ she said. “We (coaches) have thrown a lot at them these first two weeks, and they are soaking a lot of it in. They understand that we are also preparing many of them for the next level (college). It’s not about coming in and going through the motions like some players do. These girls are here to work.

“It’s also more about just trying to catch the ball and score. It’s many other things. We are emphasizing the little things, too.

“We are definitely not a one-player team. We give it the top effort, whether it’s in practice or a game. We are well-balanced and we have depth. Whatever we do with the lineup, we won’t skip a beat.’’

Staying healthy also is of the utmost importance. The team has struggled with injuries the last two or three seasons. If they can avoid that, they could wind up being in the state championship conversation.

The Gators’ top two players are senior forward Montana Oltrogge and junior point guard Leilani McIntosh.

Oltrogge, slowed by knee injuries in her early years at Xavier, averaged 15.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and shot 50 percent from the floor and 71.8 percent from the line. She recently signed a national letter of intent with Idaho State.

McIntosh is one of the top point players in the state. She continues to refine and expand her playing style and adds a level of speed that permeates the rest of the roster. McIntosh averaged 12.6 points, 2.3 assists, 3 steals and shot 43 percent from the floor a year ago.

Senior post-forward Katie Hassett offers a strong complement to Oltrogge. Hassett averaged 7.6 points a game and likely will be counted on to at least reach double figures this time around. She also averaged 5.9 rebounds and shot 44 percent from the floor.

McIntosh also is tough defensively and will be joined by fellow junior Paris Rasheed-Moore, who will use the same speed that allowed her to be a success in track to put pressure on opponents in the backcourt and on the wings. Rasheed-Moore averaged 2.7 steals, 8.2 points, 5 rebounds and 2.1 assists.

Xavier has had some good 3-point shooters in the past, but lost one to graduation in Brittany Robinson, who connected on 20 of the long shots last season. That will mean more opportunities for junior Addie Putnam (15) and McIntosh (14).

Xavier Prep basketball 2017-18

Head coach – Jennifer Gillom. Assistants – Patrick Mangosing, Rikki Mulloy.

Roster – Cara Coffman (Jr.), Telisa Colelay (Jr.), Payton Davis (Sr.), Elysia Fleetwood (So.), Katie Hassett (Sr.), Truly Helton (Jr.), Mary Long (Sr.), Leilani McIntosh (Jr.), Bianca Nava (Jr.), Montana Oltrogge (Sr.), Addie Putnam (Jr.), Paris Rasheed-Moore (Jr.), Lisset Salcedo (Jr.), Isabel Wirth (Sr.).

Friday, November 10, 2017

Gator volleyball has quite a view from the top

In the days leading up to Thursday night’s (Nov. 9) 6A Conference state championship volleyball match, coach Lamar-Renee Bryant spoke of Xavier Prep’s 75th anniversary celebration.

She mentioned that it was fitting with the state titles won by golf and swim-dive, a state runner-up by cross country and a solid season from badminton.

And Bryant wanted her team to be included in that conversation.

So go ahead, shout it from the mountaintops: “The Gators are state champs!’’

Xavier, which fell to Tempe Corona del Sol in last year’s semifinals (Corona went on to win it all), atoned for that loss with a 3-1 victory over the Aztecs at Gilbert Mesquite.

After dropping the first game, the Gators rebounded to win three in a row. Scores were 23-25, 26-24, 25-17 and 25-17. A deep blue sea of screaming Xavier fans saved their biggest enthusiasm for the end.

Xavier finished 40-3, Corona del Sol 41-3. All of its losses were to Xavier.

“This was our mission, our goal, and we did it,’’ said Bryant, who earned her second title for Xavier (the first came in 2013, her first season).

“We wanted to go out there and play all-out, have no regrets.’’

The stars were many for the Gators, but perhaps it was fitting that 6-foot-2 senior outside hitter and co-captain Lanie Wagner exterted her influence in her last prep match.

Bryant said that Wagner “did not have her best day’’ in Tuesday’s (Nov. 7) five-set win over Gilbert Perry in the semifinals.

Against Corona del Sol, the situation “was a totally different story,’’ Bryant said.

“She was determined, she was serious,’’ Bryant said. “You couldn’t have written a better story.’’

Wagner, who will study and play volleyball at the University of Georgia, had 22 kills, 17 digs, 2 service aces and 2 blocks.

Another senior, Ericka Snopko, had 7 kills and 4 blocks, while sophomores Bri McKnight and Jasmine Knight had 13 and 7 kills, respectively.

Junior setter Shannon Shields did a good job putting the ball in the right place to allow her teammates to score, and senior libero Alyna Draper had some key serves and played well defensively along the back line.

Both players, who are good friends, collected state titles for Xavier in beach volleyball, but this one might rate an edge.

“This is amazing,’’ Draper said. “It lets you know that all the hard work you put in over these last few years has paid off. We really worked together as a family.’’

Said Shields: “It is the best feeling, that Alyna and I were able to win a ring together.

“We just showed up and played the way we needed to. I think we were more motivated. We had confidence, even after that first loss, and we couldn’t be stopped.’’

Now Shields must try to figure out what to do for an encore in 2018.

Draper, Wagner, Snopko and Alexis Diaz-Infante will graduate, but XCP will have plenty of talent returning.

In addition to Shields, there are current juniors Ashley Yeung, Jennelle Yarwood, Trinity Cavanaugh, Hayley Nash and Kate Spellman. Current sophomores are McKnight and Knight. And there are two freshmen – Serena Turner and Christianna Griedl.

“It’s going to be great,’’ said Shields of next year. “Some teams will be rebuilding, but we will still have a lot of power. I am locked in right now and ready to go out and win another one.’’

The opening game was tied at 23, but Corona del Sol finished with the “W’’ on a kill shot by senior star Brooke Nuneviller and a net violation by the Gators.

It was much the same in the second game. The contest was tied at 24 and then Wagner came up with a kill to the back corner and the Aztecs made a return that was out of bounds.

Corona del Sol jumped to the early lead in Game 3, but Xavier finally gained control near the midway point. The Gators finished it off with a block. They were strong on the block all night against Nuneviller and her teammates.

Game 4 was pretty much a repeat of Game 3. Corona del Sol grabbed the early lead and Xavier gained a lead it would not relinquish on a shot by Snopko. Xavier got help from the Aztecs in the decisive last moments in the form of a net serve and a return shot into the net.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Gators want to put smudges on title trophy

Xavier Prep volleyball coach Lamar-Renee Bryant would like to see her fingerprints and those of her players all over the 6A Conference state championship trophy.

Will it happen?

We will find out on Thursday night (Nov. 9), when the top-seeded Gators face No. 2 seed and defending champion Tempe Corona del Sol at Gilbert Mesquite. First serve is 7:30 p.m.

“They don’t just hand out trophies to everyone. You have to earn it,’’ Bryant said.

Whichever team wins, they certainly will have earned it. This match offers one of the most highly anticipated pairings of the year or any year.

Both teams left every ounce of energy on the floor in the semifinals on Wednesday night (Nov. 7).

Xavier was stretched to five games against No. 5 Gilbert Perry for the third time this season, and the result was the same – a 3-2 victory by the Gators.

And Corona del Sol’s 3-2 victory over No. 3 Phoenix Mountain Pointe came after Corona del Sol extricated itself from a 0-2 hole.

Xavier (39-3) and Corona del Sol (41-2) will have plenty of motivation against each other.

Xavier’s quest for the 2016 title ended in the semifinals against Corona del Sol, so the Gators aim to atone for that. Xavier did get a bit of revenge earlier this season with victories over the Aztecs in the Nike Tournament of Champions and the Gilbert Invitational tournaments. Those were Corona del Sol’s only losses of the season.

Scores for Xavier against Perry were 23-25, 25-15, 25-20, 20-25 and 15-11.

“We knew it would be a battle. Perry is such a great team,’’ Bryant said. “But we were able to take care of business when we needed to.’’

News of the Gators’ success traveled fast. As she was being interviewed after the game, Bryant took a call from Kristen Largay, a former libero for Xavier who now is playing for American University in Washington, D.C.

“Once a Gator, always a Gator,’’ Bryant said.

Given what is at stake against Corona del Sol, Bryant is going to need each member of the team to step up their play, as they did against Perry.

Sophomore outside hitter Bri McKnight put the Gators on her shoulders at various points of the match. She was particularly tough in the fifth and deciding game, having three kills in a row and providing a key service ace.

Senior libero Alyna Draper and junior libero/defensive specialist Ashley Yeung kept things alive for the Gators with their work along the back line, digging out many of the Perry shots.

Juniors Kate Spellman and Trinity Cavanaugh chipped in with some key serves, and Serena Turner had some crucial kills, showing maturity beyond her freshman standing.

McKnight had 26 kills, 3 aces and 9 digs. Turner and sophomore middle blocker Jasmine Knight had 10 kills apiece. Draper had 29 digs and Yeung had 18. And junior setter and all-purpose player Shannon Shields had 42 assists, 14 digs and 6 kills.

In the first game, Xavier started a bit slow and Perry maintained its pace throughout. The Gators pulled even at 23, then were called for being under the net and allowing a Perry service ace.

Game Two was all Xavier. Shields applied the finishing touches with a kill to the back corner. A kill by McKnight in Game Three put Xavier up 2-1, setting up a possible finish in four games.

That didn’t happen as Perry responded with a quality effort in Game 4.

The Pumas could not endure some self-destruction in Game 5, having four service errors. Still, they were within 13-11 with a key block. Xavier locked it up with the final two points when Perry was called for a double hit, followed by a return shot that fell short and into the net.

Note – Junior outside hitter Hayley Nash did not play against Perry and likely will not be available for the title match after suffering an ankle injury in practice on Monday (Nov. 6).

Signees another example of athletic excellence

Xavier Prep athletes who signed national college letters of intent were, front row, from left, Kailey Klein, Melissa Fedorka and Alyna Draper. Back row, Caroline White, Kaitlyn McCoy and Montana Oltrogge. (Photo by Sr. Lynn Winsor).
They signed on the dotted line, and the next chapter in their academic and athletic career has been secured.

Six Xavier Prep senior athletes made it official on Wednesday (Nov. 8) when they signed national letters of intent to play and study at colleges across the country.

They are beach volleyball’s Kailey Klein (Cal State Northridge), softball’s Melissa Fedorka (Lehigh, Pa.), indoor volleyball’s Alyna Draper (Virginia Commonwealth), beach volleyball’s Caroline White (Texas Christian), swimming’s Kaitlyn McCoy (Boise State) and basketball’s Montana Oltrogge (Idaho State).

Monday, November 6, 2017

Xavier has two of top five riders in mountain biking

The five-race Arizona Interscholastic Cycling League season came to a conclusion on Sunday (Nov. 5), and the Brophy/Xavier club team finished eighth out of 13 teams in the Division 1 overall standings.

The Brophy/Xavier mountain bikers also combined to finish eighth in the last race at the White Tank Mountain Regional Park in the far West Valley community of Waddell.

Xavier’s Erin Hill finished third in the girls’ sophomore race, with Samantha Sandoval finishing ninth.

In the overall standings for sophomores on the season, Xavier had two riders finish in the top five – Hill (fourth) and Heather Kwapiszeski (fifth). In the overall standings for freshmen, Xavier’s Natalie Fuchs was 17th.

The team made great strides from the 2016 season and head coach Rich Perrott and his staff look forward to even more improvement along with more participants in 2018.

A fantastic effort by all !!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Xavier swim-dive coach, state title won't be forgotten

All along, it was something that Xavier Prep’s swimming and diving team wanted. It was something the Gators needed.

And on Saturday (Nov. 4), they reached their goal.

They earned their first Division I state crown since 2012 and 28th overall in honor of their late coach, Maureen “Mo’’ Rankin, who died of cancer on Sept. 25.

XCP did it by powering past Chandler High 321-263 while winning two of the three relay events at the Skyline Aquatic Center in east Mesa and finishing second in the third relay. Individually, they were led by senior Kaitlyn McCoy, who won two events for the second straight year.
Xavier Gators celebrate an emotional swim and dive championship. (Xavier photo).

Rankin’s husband, Mark, who helped Jenny James coach the team after she took over for Mo, was emotional, as one might expect.

The crowd paused for a minute of silence before the meet began. The Xavier swimmers wore T-shirts with Mo’s advice to them: “Feel Your Power,’’ along with #mostronger as a social-media magnet.

And before the final results were announced, the Coach of the Year award (voted by the coaches) was posthumously awarded to Mo. Mark accepted and raised the plaque above his head while gazing at the sky that was a beautiful orange color at dusk.

Then Mark joined James and the rest of the team in a celebratory dip in the pool. The Pointer Sisters’ “We Are Family’’ song played in the background.

As Mark toweled off, he couldn’t help but marvel at the turn of events.

“It is an unforgettable feeling. It has been a special year,’’ he said. “We (coaches and athletes) talked about the foundation that Mo had built, and we knew we had to do something special. We’ve been talking to her a lot lately. We are very proud, and we know she would be also.’’

Said James: “I am overwhelmed with pride and what the girls did. They swam their hearts out. We are so excited to win state.’’

In the days shortly after Mo’s passing, James said the team would win the state title for her.

Mark said that in the days before the state meet, the coaches tried to figure out who of the Gators would score what and how it might lead to a title.

“It started the first day (Friday) and continued today. We had no mishaps,’’ he said.

One of the top individual efforts by the Gators did not produce a victory, but almost. Freshman Mia Rankin, the 14-year-old daughter of Mo and Mark, went back and forth in a tremendous duel with Chandler High’s Destiny Kling in the 500-yard freestyle. Kling barely touched the wall first, edging out Mia by .18 seconds.

“I thought I had it,’’ Mia said. “It was still great to get up on the (awards) podium, especially since I am a freshman.

“I am so happy with how things turned out. I was brought to tears by all of the support. I know it’s been awhile since Xavier won, and I know my mom would be so proud. I am really excited to be a part of high school swimming like this.’’

Mia also finished third in the 200-yard individual medley and swam a leg on the 400-yard freestyle relay that finished second to Chandler.

McCoy, meanwhile, won the 200-yard individual medley and the 100-yard backstroke, achieving All-American status for her time in the latter event. She also swam in a pair of relays, the victorious 200-yard medley and the 400 free.

“This whole situation gave us something to fight for,’’ McCoy said. “We know coach Mo is looking down on us. All of us were crying.’’

All state championships are memorable, but this certainly will not be forgotten by anyone.

Xavier results

200-yard medley relay – Xavier 1st, 1:45.97 (Kaitlyn McCoy, Paola Guerra, Olivia Paliscak, Mary Roediger).

200-yard freestyle “B’ final – Vica Dow 15th (1:58.21).

200-yard individual medley – McCoy 1st (2:03.07), Mia Rankin 3rd (2:04.68), Sydney Millane 8th (2:13.91).

50-yard freestyle – Roediger 3rd (24.32). “B’’ final – Paliscak 10th (25.06), Kelly Scott 12th (25.10).

1-meter diving – Madeline Sewell 10th (368.35), Alyssa Largay 11th (366.15), Talle Donley 17th (230.65), Molly Cahill 24th (142.55).

100-yard butterfly “B” final – Paliscak 10th (58.94), Haley Hubbard 12th (59.51).

100-yard freestyle – Dow 6th (53.74). “B’ final – Scott 12th (54.41).

500-yard freestyle – Rankin 2nd (4:55.93). ”B’ final – Maddie Wright 12th (5:16.08), Carlie Hermann 14th (5:20.46).

200-yard freestyle relay – Xavier 1st, 1:38.22 (Paliscak, Roediger, Scott, Guerra).

100-yard backstroke – McCoy 1st (55:05). “B’ final – Millane 9th (59.79).

100-yard breaststroke – Roediger 2nd (1:06.61), Guerra 3rd (1:06.73).

400-yard freestyle relay – Xavier 2nd, 3:32.43 (Wright, McCoy, Rankin, Dow).

Team scores

Xavier Prep 321, Chandler High 263, Mesa Mountain View 238 ½, Mesa Red Mountain 186 ½, Phoenix Pinnacle 160, Chandler Hamilton 144, Gilbert Highland 137, Phoenix Desert Vista 132, Anthem Boulder Creek 115, Gilbert High 90, Gilbert Perry 88, Scottsdale Desert Mountain 64, Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor 58 ½, Tucson High 52, Mesa Desert Ridge 48, Tucson Rincon/University 43 ½, Phoenix Horizon 34, Mesa Skyline 31, Mesa Westwood 29, Mesa High 26, Surprise Valley Vista 24, Glendale Mountain Ridge 20, Chandler Basha 4, Mesa Dobson 4.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Gators sweep, await another volleyball duel with Perry

Xavier Prep’s top-seeded volleyball team moved a step closer to a Division I state championship with a 3-0 quarterfinal victory over visiting No. 9 seed Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor at the Activity Center on Thursday night (Nov. 2). Scores were 25-16, 25-22 and 25-16.

The Gators (38-3) will play a semifinal match on Tuesday (Nov. 7) at Gilbert Mesquite against fifth-seeded Gilbert Perry (36-6). First serve is at 6:30 p.m. Perry defeated No. 4 seed Goodyear Millennium 3-2.

Xavier played Perry twice this season and had hard-earned five-set victories in both.

The Xavier match will be preceded by the other semifinal at 5 p.m. between second-seeded, defending champion Tempe Corona del Sol (40-2) and No. 3 Tempe district rival Phoenix Mountain Pointe (36-7). Corona del Sol defeated No. 7 Phoenix Horizon 3-0 in its quarterfinal and Mountain Pointe had to rally after dropping the first two sets for a 3-2 win over No. 6 Chandler Hamilton.

Xavier had struggled with inconsistency in its opening 3-0 win over No. 16 Glendale Mountain Ridge on Tuesday night (Oct. 31), but against Sandra Day O’Connor was on more of an even keel.

“We were much more focused,’’ said Xavier coach Lamar-Renee Bryant. “We respected our opponent and knew they were capable of playing well.’’

Bryant said the Gators’ serving was much better than it had been and the ball was distributed in a more proficient manner.

Junior outside hitter Trinity Cavanaugh was a factor most of the way, and senior middle blocker Alexis Diaz-Infante had a strong effort in the decisive third game with her kill shots as well as blocks on the defensive side.

“Trinity played great and Alexis gave us a real spark,’’ Bryant said.

“It takes a whole team effort to win. At any time on any day, you have to be able to step up when your number is called.’’

Cavanaugh had a couple of key kills in the opening game and sophomore middle blocker Jasmine Knight provided a big power shot.

In the second game, Sandra Day O’Connor led in the early moments. The Gators pulled even and then ahead, but still could not shake the Eagles.

Sandra Day O’Connor was within 23-22 after a Xavier block when out of bounds, but the Gators got the last two points on a kill by senior outside hitter Lanie Wagner and too long of a return by the Eagles.

The Eagles jumped out to an early 4-1 lead in the third game, including  a couple of service aces. Xavier went ahead 7-6 on a kill by Wagner and never trailed again.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Late legend Prefontaine still motivates runners

When Xavier Prep competes in the Division I state cross-country meet on Nov. 4 at the Cave Creek Golf Course in north Phoenix, it will do so in the spirit of one of the greatest American distance runners in history.

Steve Prefontaine was an Olympian (Munich, 1972) and set numerous American records. Some believe the Oregon native was one of the reasons why the sport of running became so prevalent among everyday people during the 1970s and since. He also was around when Nike shoes (based in Oregon) were developing into the rage they became for several decades.

In May of 1975, Prefontaine, who also was a University of Oregon student-athlete, was killed when he rolled his car not far from campus. He was only 24, and the running world was shocked.

Over the years, the accident site became a “shrine’’ of sorts. A tribute marker was placed alongside the road and came to be known as “Pre’s Rock.’’ Runners and fans from all over visit the site and leave some sort of meaningful trinket or emblem from their school on or next to the rock to honor Prefontaine.

That’s where Xavier’s Gators come in. Coach Dave Van Sickle, who was in high school at the time of Prefontaine’s death, joined his runners for a visit the site in mid-October in Eugene when they were competing in a meet near Salem, the George Fox Invitational.

“Obviously, these girls weren’t even born yet, so I don’t think it really sunk in at first, what it was all about,’’ Van Sickle said. “Then it started to get quiet and they looked at all of the things that were left there and gained more of an understanding.’’

The girls left a Xavier Gators patch/emblem at the front of the rock (see photo).

The Xavier Prep cross-country team left a school emblem at the site of "Pre's Rock,'' a tribute to late running star Steve Prefontaine. The Oregon athlete died in a car crash in 1975. (Photo courtesy of Dave Van Sickle).
“We were able to go out of state and fly to a different location and were able to see this, and it was interesting, a real thing,’’ said senior Caroline McClelland.

“It was kind of cool do go up there and see it,’’ said senior Annika Nielson.

The atmosphere, with the leaves on the surrounding trees starting to change color, was not quite the same as what the girls were used to.

“I guess it was kind of hot for other teams, but not for us. The weather was cool,’’ said senior Kate Straneva.

The group, which also included seniors Caroline Liddy and Abbie Conrad, discovered that the site is updated and maintained on a regular basis.

The Xavier runners also viewed a few inspirational videos telling about Prefontaine’s outstanding career. In one race, he crosses the finish line first and takes a quick look over his shoulder to see where his other competitors are.

Amazingly, no one is even close. Not for dozens of yards.

Wouldn’t that be a great way to win a race?

Amazing Gators claim 7th golf title in a row

Xavier Prep athletic director and golf coach Sr. Lynn Winsor said Tuesday (Oct. 31), “I just loved our season.’’

And why not? The Gators had just finished their seventh straight Division I state championship run and 35th overall.

It also was the 130th state championship in the history of the school (all sports) and the 201st division/section crown.

The two-day tournament featured competition at the beautiful courses at the Tucson Omni Resort. Xavier had a total of 591, nine shots better than second-place Chandler Hamilton (600).

Xavier Prep's Gators were all smiles after winning their seventh straight golf state championship and 35th title overall. (Photo courtesy of Sr. Lynn Winsor).
And sophomore Ashley Menne, who shared state medalist honors with two others as a freshman in 2016, was medalist again, this time all by herself. Earlier this week, Menne earned another honor when she was named a Rolex All-American Honorable Mention.

In the recent past, the state tournament was played at the City of Phoenix course in Laveen called Aguila. The Omni’s two courses are the Sonoran and the Catalina. The Sonoran is somewhat mountainous, almost as vertical as it is horizontal, and the up and down aspects can make for a long day. The Catalina is more of a “traditional’’ layout. The course was the site of the Tucson stop on the PGA Tour for about 40 years.

“The courses were tough and were a good test for everyone,’’ Winsor said. “The pin placements were difficult, to say the least.’’

The girls played the Sonoran on the first day and the Catalina on the second day (the boys were the reverse).

Following Xavier and Hamilton were Phoenix Pinnacle (617), Mesa Red Mountain (617), Phoenix Horizon (662), Gilbert Highland (679), Phoenix Desert Vista (694), Mesa Desert Ridge (712), Scottsdale Desert Mountain (718), Gilbert Perry (726), Tempe Corona del Sol (784), Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor (785), Mesa Mountain View (794) and Gilbert High (847).

Menne shot a 69 on the first day and a 71 on the second for a 140. Sandra Day O’Connor’s Michelle Nguyen was in a duel with Menne both days and finished with a 142.

Xavier’s future appears to be very bright, because all five of its players in this year’s tournament were underclassmen. The team has just two seniors.

Freshman Lauren Garcia finished seventh (74-75 – 149), sophomore Millburn Ho was 12th (72-80 – 152), sophomore Breyana Mathews was 13th (73-80 – 153), and junior Eve Worden was 18th (78-77 – 155).

The girls played the courses in an early season invitational tournament and went down on a few other occasions to familiarize themselves with the conditions.

The girls added to the spirit of day by wearing colorful, Halloween-themed socks. Some of them even pictured spiders.

“We (Winsor and co-coach Tui Selvaratnam) were proud of all the girls,’’ Winsor said. “We had the whole team down here supporting the ones who were playing, and had a great response from the parents, especially since it was all the way down in Tucson.

“Our team was so together this year. The camaraderie and the friendship. The girls really worked hard at getting along. Whether it was the 14th player or the first, they all felt a part of it. That’s what made it all so enjoyable.’’

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Volleyball not sharp, but advances to quarters

For Xavier Prep’s volleyball team, it was Halloween, treat after treat after treat on Tuesday night (Oct. 31).

For Glendale Mountain Ridge, it was Ground Hog Day, the same score day after day after day – 25-17, 25-17, 25-17.

So Xavier moves into the 6A Conference quarterfinal neighborhood. The top-seeded Gators will play host to No. 9 Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor on Thursday night (Nov. 2). Start time is 6:30.

Xavier faced Sandra Day O’Connor way back in the early days of the season on Sept. 12, and came away with a 3-0 road victory. The first two games of that match were comfortable wins (25-14, 25-18), but the third was not as the XCP outlasted the Eagles 32-30. But too much time has passed since that marathon game to allow any residue of doubt to remain.

While the Gators were able to control No. 16 seed Mountain Ridge, they will need to step it up from here on out.

“It was good to get a (tournament) game underneath our belt, but I would say that it was not our best performance,’’ said coach Lamar-Renee Bryant.

The Gators were unable to pull away until the late stages of the first game. A service ace by junior Hayley Nash and a floating placement shot by senior Lanie Wagner wrapped it up.

Slowly but surely, the Gators gained some momentum that carried them the rest of the way.

“We were able to start playing our style of volleyball,’’ Bryant said.

“Our confidence increased as we went along. We have a trusting group – they trust in each other and that helps them play more aggressively. And when we’re aggressive, we can be tough to beat.’’

Bryant was pleased with the play of junior defensive specialist Ashley Yeung and sophomore middle blocker Jasmine Knight.

“Jasmine had her hands up above the net consistently and is becoming one of our better “middles,’ ’’ Bryant said. “And Ashley extended a lot of rallies for us.’’