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, 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.

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