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.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Gators stumble twice in Arcadia hoops event

It was a day that every coach dreads, when the inevitable occurs, because very few basketball teams run the table and win every single game in a season.

After winning its first 16 games of the season, Xavier Prep came to a screeching halt on Saturday (Dec. 29) with not just one, but two losses in the Lady Titan Winter Hoops Classic at Phoenix Arcadia, doubling the disappointment for the Gators.

Xavier began the day with a 49-23 blowout at the hands of Phoenix Shadow Mountain, which went on to defeat Phoenix Desert Vista for the Gold Bracket championship later in the evening.

The loss meant Xavier would have to face Phoenix Horizon in the Gold third-place game. Xavier trailed by eight at halftime, used a big third quarter to get back into it, but faded down the stretch as Horizon went on a 9-3 run to close it out for a 67-61 triumph.

“I don’t know where the team went. We were in a brain fog. We were doing stuff on offense and defense that we haven’t done all season,’’ said Xavier coach Jennifer Gillom. “It’s a good thing they have about a week to get ready for the next game (Jan. 8 at Gilbert Perry).

 “I know they are tired. They’ve played a lot of games lately. We will just continue to try to do the things that we do.’’

Xavier entered the tournament as the No. 1 team on the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s power points list for 6A Conference teams, and is expected to remain there at least for now because power points are not affected by tournaments.

Shadow Mountain is 4A and Horizon 5A.

“We want to try to make sure we are still No. 1,’’ said Gillom, whose team finished as state runner-up last season.

Xavier was never really in it against Shadow Mountain, which had the advantage in size and athleticism.

Xavier scored just two points in the second quarter and only seven in the third.

The Gators were missing senior point guard Leilani McIntosh, who did not play in either game. Her ball-handling and quickness on defense were missed.

Senior guard Addie Putnam helped pick up the slack in the second game, scoring 16 points in the third quarter on the way to a 33-point finish. Senior guard Paris Rasheed-Moore scored 18.

Alyssa Alvarez, a senior guard, carried the load for Horizon (17-2) with 32 points, including five 3-pointers.

“We’re going to have to learn to deal with this adversity,’’ Gillom said.

Will that happen?

The New Year will be here soon enough, and we will find out.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Xavier soccer suffers narrow 1-0 loss in tourney

Xavier Prep’s soccer team battled Beckman High (Irvine, Calif.) throughout their contest on Friday (Dec. 28) in the Excalibur Tournament of Champions in Norco, Calif., but couldn’t quite manage to get over the top with a narrow 1-0 setback.

The Gators were 2-1 in the tournament and have a 6-2-1 mark as they enter the New Year.

Xavier’s first game of 2019 will be a road matchup against Scottsdale Chaparral on Jan. 10.

Gator hoops back in form with decisive victory

Xavier Prep’s basketball players would admit that they did not play very well in a victory over Oro Valley Ironwood Ridge in Thursday’s (Dec. 27) opening round of the Lady Titan Winter Hoops Classic at Phoenix Arcadia.

The six-point win felt almost like a loss. But thankfully for the Gators, Friday (Dec. 28) was another day.

And the Gators were feeling like their old selves.

They jumped to a 15-point lead at the end of the first quarter and never looked back, taking a 53-36 victory over Phoenix Desert Vista.

That put Xavier’s record at 16-0, and sent the team into a 2 p.m. game on Saturday (Dec. 29) against Phoenix Shadow Mountain. Xavier was the top team in the Gold A bracket, and Shadow Mountain was the No. 2 team in the Gold B.

Win or loss, Xavier was to have another game on Saturday night at 8:15, when the Gold A-B brackets had their championship and third-place games.

After a subpar game against Ironwood Ridge, senior guard Addie Putnam came back with a flourish. She led XCP with 27 points, including a pair of 3-pointers. Many of her points came as she slashed through the defense for layups.

Senior guard Paris Rasheed-Moore also played a big role with 12 points (a pair of 3-pointers), as well as her defense and rebounding.

And with senior point guard Leilani McIntosh sitting out, sophomore Mackenzie Coder stepped up and played well, particularly in the early going as the Gators were establishing themselves.

Coder handled the ball well and helped set up the offense. She also contributed two 3-pointers.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Golfers Menne, Matthews Player of Year candidates

Xavier Prep’s M&M players led the golf team to another sweet finish in the Division I state tournament and gave the Gators their 36th title in school history.

Now juniors Ashley Menne and Breyana Matthews are among the candidates for the Player of the Year honor at the media outlet’s annual Sports Awards program at Arizona State in June.

After winning the state individual title for the third straight season, Menne is in line to take her third straight POY trophy home. She has committed to ASU. Menne won the 2018 state crown by two shots and Matthews was close behind, tying for the No. 3 spot.

Also, Ivy Song had a big season for the Gators as a freshman, tying for 10th at the state tournament and is listed as an Honorable Mention selection by

Xavier wins first two in Calif. soccer tourney

Xavier Prep’s soccer team posted victories in its first two games in the annual Excalibur Tournament of Champions on Thursday (Dec. 27) in Norco, Calif.

The Gators improved to 6-1-1 after defeating two California teams, Yorba Linda and Santa Margarita. That put them atop the Group D and sent them into a game on Friday (Dec. 28) at 3 p.m., Arizona time, against the Group E leader, Beckman High of Irvine, Calif.

Depending on the outcome of that contest, Xavier was expected to have another game later on Friday.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Basketball Gators walk a dangerous tightrope

Xavier Prep’s basketball team now has a 15-0 record and is the top-ranked team in the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s power points listing for 6A Conference schools.

Yet you would have had a hard time convincing Gators coach Jennifer Gillom after her team’s second of two games in Thursday’s (Dec. 27) first day of the Lady Titan Winter Hoops Classic at Phoenix Arcadia.

XCP picked up a 57-37 win over Mesa Westwood in its opener, but the second contest, against Oro Valley (Tucson) Ironwood Ridge, was a borderline disaster.

The Gators triumphed 38-32, and had to hang on for dear life the game’s late stages.

Xavier lost senior star point guard Leilani McIntosh late in the first quarter with a knee injury and could not compensate. The Gators made just 14 of their 58 field-goal attempts for a woeful .194 percentage, and connected on just a pair of 3-pointers, both by junior guard-forward Elysia Fleetwood.

McIntosh received treatment from Arcadia’s athletic trainers and sat on the bench the rest of the way with her right knee wrapped with a large plastic bag of ice. Gillom said McIntosh possibly could play as the tournament moves to Day 2 on Friday (Dec. 28), but stopped short of saying that it definitely would happen.

Xavier faces Phoenix Desert Vista on Friday at 5:45 p.m. in Arcadia’s main gym. The Gators defeated the Thunder, 61-49, in a game on Dec. 7 in Ahwatukee. The Gators likely will have two more games on Saturday (Dec. 29).

McIntosh scored a team-high 14 points against Westwood, but had just five against Ironwood Ridge before leaving the game. Senior guard Paris Rasheed-Moore had an all-around strong effort in helping the Gators keep their unbeaten record intact, scoring 16 points as well as coming up with several key rebounds and steals.

After the game, Gillom was forceful as she took her players to task.

Then, speaking to The XCP Files, she said, “It’s almost like we’re starting the season over. We need to show progress, not have regress.

“We have some players who have not quite matured yet. Whenever things don’t go their way and their shots don’t fall, it shows. We need our people to start stepping up.’’

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Arcadia tourney is next stop for XCP hoops

Xavier Prep’s basketball players had an exciting time unwrapping their Christmas gifts. Now they get to add more excitement this week by participating in the 27-team Lady Titan Winter Hoops Classic at Phoenix Arcadia.

Xavier is 13-0 and the No. 1-ranked 6A Conference team in the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s power points system.

The Gators will play two games on Thursday (Dec. 27), against Mesa Westwood (10-4) at 10:15 a.m. and against Oro Valley (Tucson) Ironwood Ridge (10-3) at 2 p.m. The fourth team in the Gold A Division is Phoenix Desert Vista (7-6), and it will serve as XCP’s opponent on Friday (Dec. 28) at 5:45 p.m. Xavier defeated Desert Vista 61-49 in a game on Dec. 7 in Ahwatukee.

The tournament will continue on Saturday (Dec. 29) with game times to be determined.

Xavier has put up some impressive early season numbers.

Perhaps the most notable is the team’s average steals per game, fueled by a smothering full-court press. The Gators’ average is 25.9. As one might expect, the team’s three senior guards lead the way in that category. Paris Rasheed-Moore comes in at 7.3 per game, Leilani McIntosh at 4.8 and Addie Putnam at 4.3. Junior guard-forward Elysia Fleetwood is averaging 3.3.

The team is averaging 68.4 points per game, with the three guards figuring prominently.

Putnam leads with an 18.6 average, followed by McIntosh at 17.5 and Rasheed-Moore at 10.7. McIntosh is shooting 66 percent from the floor, and many of her 88 baskets have come on layups after steals. The team has made 66 3-point shots, 25 by Putnam.

Rasheed-Moore often starts the fast break by using her athleticism to get position under the basket and either hits the outlet or takes the ball down the floor herself. She is the team’s top rebounder with an average of 4.5 per game.

Extra practices send Gator soccer to Calif. tourney

Xavier Prep soccer coach Barb Chura was looking forward to the holiday break to allow her team to get some valuable practice time after starting the season with a 4-1-1 record.

Now the Gators will get to put that to use when they participate in the 24-team Excalibur Tournament of Champions in Norco, Calif.

Just as valuable, Chura said, will be an opportunity for the girls to have some team bonding, which can help translate to success on the field.

Xavier, Arizona’s two-time defending 6A state champion, will open with a pair of matches on Thursday (Dec. 27).

The Gators will face Yorba Linda, Calif., at 4:45 p.m., Arizona time, on Thursday and play a second contest against Santa Margarita, Calif., at 8:45 p.m.

The event shifts to bracket play on Friday (Dec. 28). Xavier would play at either noon, Arizona time, 1:30 p.m, or 3 p.m. Bracket semifinals would be held later in the day, and finals would be staged on Saturday (Dec. 29) in three divisions – 11 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.

Xavier has four main goal-scorers (35 total goals). Three of them have six each – senior Lindsay Hubbard, junior Elizabeth Warren and freshman Keila Lopez Enriquez. Hubbard and Lopez Enriquez also have three assists, both with 15 points total. And freshman Olivia Castrichini has five goals.

The team also has 28 assists. Senior Caitlin Johnston has seven and sophomore Kendall Warner has five.

Sophomore goalkeeper Katie Harris has limited opponents to an average of 1.1 goals per game.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Volleyball's McKnight gets student-athlete award

Xavier Prep junior volleyball player Bri McKnight has been named a recipient of a 2019 Touching Hearts Through Athletics award. She is one of 13 athletes from Arizona to be so designated.

The award exists to honor and encourage student athletes of outstanding character, sportsmanship and community service.

Way to go, Bri! A well-deserved recognition!

Xavier's Bri McKnight (Xavier photo)

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Saucedo's substantial effort lifts Gators

Basketball players from Xavier Prep have brought many smiles to the face of coach Jennifer Gillom, but few were as enjoyable for her as in Monday night’s (Dec. 17) game at Peoria Liberty.

Gillom, who tries to get as much playing time as possible for her bench players outside of the outstanding starting five, got a great effort from sophomore guard Victoria Saucedo.

Saucedo entered the game in the second quarter and helped the Gators outscore Liberty 20-7 for a 39-13 halftime lead, and Xavier went on to post a 63-22 victory to remain unbeaten at 13-0.

She scored 11 points (including a 3-pointer), all in the second quarter, grabbed six rebounds, handed out a pair of assists and had two steals – a productive night’s work.

For her efforts, Saucedo was named as one of two players of the game, along with senior point guard Leilani McIntosh.

“What “Tori’ did tonight will help all of our bench players realize that on any given night, this is capable of happening. We need to have players to be able to step up,’’ Gillom said.

That could prove to be beneficial for the Gators as they move toward the state tournament in February, the coach added.

Another big piece of the puzzle against Liberty was Xavier’s defense. The team was given an opportunity to rest up with no practice over the weekend (no practice on Saturday), and it showed.

“Our defense was all over the place and we needed that,’’ Gillom said. “Our rotations, our execution . . . we looked like a team.’’

The Gators also were accurate from long range, converting five 3-pointers. Senior Guard Addie Putnam had two, while Saucedo, junior guard-forward Elysia Fleetwood and senior forward Truly Helton each had one.

Xavier players will focus on exams along with their fellow classmates this week, then return to the practice floor on Friday (Dec. 21) and Saturday (Dec. 22). Assistant coach Patrick Mangosing will run those sessions, with Gillom visiting her mother for Christmas.

The Gators will then be among 27 teams to participate in the Lady Titan Winter Hoops Classic at Phoenix Arcadia from Dec. 27-29. Xavier will play three games over the first two days, against Mesa Westwood, Tucson Ironwood Ridge and Phoenix Desert Vista, with possibly two more on the final day.

Xavier Prep 63, Peoria Liberty 22

XCP – Addie Putnam 21, Victoria Saucedo 11, Leilani McIntosh 10, Paris Rasheed-Moore 7, Rachel Orr 4, Elysia Fleetwood 3, Truly Helton 3, Bianca Nava 2, Sophie Sash 2.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Zone helps Gators defeat Chaparral

A basketball team never seems to get too much practice. Then again, it’s nice to get a break every once in awhile.

Playing three games a week in back-to-back weeks, Xavier Prep’s Gators deserved a little time off.

But to do so, they had to defeat host Scottsdale Chaparral on Friday night (Dec. 14).

It was not easy. Chaparral had a first-quarter lead and was up by a point at halftime. The Firebirds continued to battle after that, but Xavier gained the upper hand in the third quarter and went on to take a 58-41 victory.

Xavier remained unbeaten at 12-0 while Chaparral dropped to 5-7.

Coach Jennifer Gillom told her players afterward that they would not have to practice on Saturday (Dec. 15), much to the girls’ delight. Gillom wanted them to mentally prepare for Monday night’s (Dec. 17) game at Peoria Liberty and to start to get ready for exams that will begin on Tuesday (Dec. 18).

One of the biggest reasons why the Gators were able to assume control in the third quarter was their defense. They had attempted to use their pressing defense earlier, but the officials were making tight (and frequent) calls, resulting in a bit of foul trouble.

So the Gators backed off, and Gillom put them in a zone defense for the second time this season. The game on Dec. 11 at Phoenix Mountain Pointe was the first time, Gillom said.

“It (zone) enabled us to fight through, and we did a good job,’’ Gillom said.

Xavier at times was inconsistent with its shooting, but found its range later on.

“We struggled with our shooting, but now we have the maturity to overcome that. It didn’t always happen last year,’’ Gillom said.

The Gators, who have spread the wealth with their scoring this season, went with a group that was working, and only the starting five scored. Four were in double figures.

Gillom gave those four the Player of the Game designation – Paris Rasheed-Moore, Addie Putnam, Leilani McIntosh and Elysia Fleetwood.

In Liberty, the Gators will be playing a team that usually is fundamentally sound, similar to Chaparral. Xavier and Liberty also will be participating in the Lady Titan Winter Hoops Classic at Phoenix Arcadia from Dec. 27-29.

Xavier Prep 58, Scottsdale Chaparral 41

XCP – Addie Putnam 16, Leilani McIntosh 14, Elysia Fleetwood 13, Paris Rasheed-Moore 11, Truly Helton 4.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Another busy hoops week, another XCP win

You can’t say that Xavier Prep’s basketball team is not tested.

For the second straight week, the Gators are playing three games in the same week.

They have an 11-0 record after Thursday night’s (Dec. 13) 69-18 victory over visiting Phoenix North, and now turn their attention to a road contest against Scottsdale Chaparral (5-6) on Friday night (Dec. 14). Tipoff is 7 p.m.

Coach Jennifer Gillom said the team had been stressing with closer games at Phoenix Desert Vista and Phoenix Mountain Pointe, and her team’s shots were not falling with the same consistency in previous games.

Against North, the Gators returned to Gillom’s blueprint with three double-figure scorers and better accuracy with 3-point shots (they made eight).

Xavier outscored the Mustangs 23-0 in the first quarter, and the race was on. The Gators continued to employ their suffocating press, and North had no answer.

“We play hard “D’ (defense), and that takes a lot of intensity night-in and night-out,’’ Gillom said. “We had a little more of that tonight.’’

On offense, 10 Xavier players scored. Senior point guard Leilani McIntosh led the way with 18 points, followed by senior guards Addie Putnam (16) and Paris Rasheed-Moore (10).

Looking at Friday night’s game, Chaparral's record is somewhat deceptive.

Gillom said the Firebirds “are a disciplined team that shoots well and is able to execute. We have to make sure that we play our game, not theirs.''

Xavier Prep 69, Phoenix North 18

XCP – Leilani McIntosh 18, Addie Putnam 16, Paris Rasheed-Moore 10, Mackenzie Coder 9, Elysia Fleetwood 6, Truly Helton 2, Victoria Saucedo 2, Cara Coffman 2, Tanya Barakat 2, Ellie Higgins 2.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

All-Academic volleyball team is filled with Gators

Academics and athletics can be a delicate balancing act, and the recipe for success is particularly evident at Xavier Prep.

The Gators had six players named to the Arizona All-Academic Girls Volleyball Team for the Sport360 Arizona Web site as presented by Arrow Awards on Wednesday (Dec. 12). Seven players were listed as honorable mention.

Nominations for the honor were turned in by coaches, athletic directors, parents and even some players themselves.

Named to the 6A-5A Conference team were (weighted GPA in parentheses) were senior Ashley Yeung (4.58), junior Abby Converse (4.48), senior Jennelle Yarwood (4.46), sophomore Serena Turner(4.31), senior Hayley Nash (4.18) and sophomore Zaira Reyes (4.06).

Honorable mention choices were junior Jasmine Knight, junior Juli Westfall, sophomore Kaori Robertson, senior Kate Spellman, junior Tori Burton, junior Quinn Voorhees and senior Shannon Shields.

Congratulations to these honorees!

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Early Highland 2nd-half goal dooms Gators

Less than a minute into the second half, Xavier Prep’s soccer match against visiting Gilbert Highland turned into an uphill battle.

The scoreless tie had been broken with a Highland goal, and it remained the rest of the way, as the Hawks walked away with a 1-0 victory, knocking Xavier from the unbeaten ranks at 4-0-1. Highland is 7-3-1.

Xavier had several chances to score during the contest, but couldn’t quite put the ball in the net. A little bit wide here, a little bit high there, combined with Highland’s aggressive defense, and the deal was sealed.

The Gators didn’t seem to know what happened at the start of the second half when Highland’s Kaleigh Backlund took the ball directly down the middle of the field, veered slightly to the left, and scored.

Highland continued to apply the defensive pressure and was able to control the ball on its possessions.

Xavier seniors Lindsay Hubbard and Sadie Wintergalen did their best to try to find open teammates. Hubbard had a few shots turned away by the Highland goalkeeper, but these two players worked hard until the final horn.

The Gators now will take a break from the Arizona portion of their schedule. They will participate in the annual Excalibur Tournament in southern California from Dec. 27-29, then resume in-state play on Jan. 10 at Scottsdale Chaparral.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Reserves play key role in Xavier soccer win

As much as soccer players would like to play all 80 minutes of a match, even more with overtime, it probably isn’t a good idea for the sake of quality of play and endurance.

That makes it important for reserves to get their time, too. They can be an integral part of the mix.

One of the main concerns for coaches is to make sure this happens.

Xavier Prep coach Barb Chura got that opportunity in Friday night’s (Dec. 7) contest against visiting Yuma Kofa at Petznick Field.

She was able to utilize her reserves to a greater degree and it helped the Gators raise their record to 4-0-1 with an 8-0 victory over the Kings.

“Compared to our other games to now, the reserves got better minutes,’’ Chura said. “They looked a lot better and that made us look better overall. We are pleased.’’

Chura pointed to the efforts of five players who had expanded roles.

They were junior Brynn Lebel, sophomore Rian Mercado, junior Megan Onofrei, junior Liz Warren and junior Taylor Garman.

The coach also is encouraged by her team’s willing to make necessary adjustments from the first half to the second.

Xavier held a 3-0 lead at halftime, but Chura told her players that they could be more productive if they moved the ball wider to set up more opportunities than to have more of a logjam inside.

The result was a three-goal outburst within 2:32 early in the second half, doubling Xavier’s lead to 6-0.

“That was great for them to be able to do what we were telling them. It shows that they were listening,’’ Chura said.

Junior Lindsay Hubbard and freshman Keila Lopez Enriquez led the scoring parade with two goals apiece. Others with the magic scoring touch were freshman Ansley Burns, Warren, senior Caitlin Johnston and senior Kelli Rasmussen.

Johnston had three assists and Hubbard had two.

The Gators have one more match before the holidays kick in. That would be a home meeting on Tuesday (Dec. 11) with Gilbert Highland. After that, Xavier would not have any matches until it plays in the annual Excalibur Tournament in southern California from Dec. 27-29.

Shields, Bryant top XCP volleyball honorees

The outstanding Xavier Prep volleyball program reeled in some more recognition after winning its second straight 6A Conference championship.

Senior setter Shannon Shields was named the 6A Player of the Year and Gators coach Lamar-Renee Bryant was chosen as Coach of the Year in selections released by the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

Shields was named to the 6A First Team along with XCP junior middle blocker Jasmine Knight. Junior outside hitter Bri McKnight was listed on the Second Team.

Congratulations to all !!

Rasheed-Moore leads Gators over Desert Vista

Despite playing its third game in four nights, Xavier Prep’s basketball team was able to score a win on the road on Friday night (Dec. 7), 61-49 at Desert Vista in Ahwatukee.

Xavier raised its record to 9-0.

The Gators were led by senior guard Paris Rasheed-Moore, who tallied 19 points, 8 rebounds and 6 steals. Junior guard-forward Elysia Fleetwood had 12 points, 6 steals and 4 rebounds.

Senior point guard Leilani McIntosh was saddled with foul trouble and was limited to three quarters. She still managed important contributions with 14 pointss 4 rebounds and 3 steals.

Sophomore guard Mackenzie Coder picked up some of the slack off the bench with 5 points, 3 steals and a pair of rebounds.

Xavier will be back in Ahwatukee on Tuesday (Dec. 11) with a game against Phoenix Mountain Pointe. Tipoff is 7 p.m.

Friday, December 7, 2018

McIntosh shines brightly as XCP defeats Pinnacle

Xavier Prep’s Activity Center was illuminated by a thousand points of light on Thursday night (Dec. 6).

With 3:50 left in the second quarter of the Gators’ basketball game against visiting Phoenix Pinnacle, the game was stopped to recognize one of the top achievements in XCP sports history.

Senior point guard Leilani McIntosh became the first player in school history to score 1,000 points in her career. She went on to finish with a team-high 24 points as the Gators remained unbeaten with a resounding 64-40 triumph over the Pioneers, who also had been unbeaten entering the game.

Xavier is now 8-0, Pinnacle 9-1. Xavier plays again on Friday night (Dec. 7) on the road against Phoenix Desert Vista in Ahwatukee.

McIntosh hit the 1,000-point mark when she drove through the lane to score and was fouled, completing a three-point play. She raised her fist into the air and screamed, “Let’s go!’’

But the play that perhaps illustrated her drive to win even more occurred at the end of the first half, when she followed up a teammate’s missed 3-point attempt just before the buzzer sounded. It enabled the Gators to pull even at 30 in the highly contested first 16 minutes of the game.

McIntosh scored eight more in the third quarter, including a 3-pointer, to help Xavier outscore the visitors 22-5 for a 52-35 lead. Pinnacle could not do much better in the fourth, again scoring just five points.

About a minute into the fourth, McIntosh gingerly came off the floor with a leg injury. It resembled a similar scenario during the recent Scorpion Shootout when it appeared she had injured her knee. It turned out to be only a cramped hamstring.

This time, the problem was much lower on the leg, in the calf area. Athletic trainer Laurie White and assistant Hannah Gray made sure McIntosh got rehydrated and started massaging the calf, including using a roller to go back and forth over the leg.

She was OK, thankfully, but did not return as a precautionary measure. Coach Jennifer Gillom said McIntosh could have played if the game would have been more in doubt.

“It (cramping) seems to be moving down the leg. We have to take care of it,’’ McIntosh said after the game.

She got more treatment in the training room, then joined friends and family for photos that had a congratulatory message on posterboard.

Pinnacle and the Gators battled back and forth in the first half. The Gators jumped out quickly, but the Pioneers battled back. And Xavier was having difficulty finding an answer to the play of 6-foot-5 freshman Kennedy Basham. She finished with 18 points, signaling a career that should lead her to great heights. She appears to run the floor well and has a good court sense.

Pinnacle handled the Gators’ daunting full-court press, at least for much of the first half.

In the second half, it was a different story.

“I think we finally wore them down,’’ Gillom said. “When we start to click, we are hard to stop.’’

McIntosh got help at the offensive end with junior Elysia Fleetwood and senior Paris Rasheed-Moore each scoring 13 points.

Senior wing Addie Putnam had a tough night putting the ball in the basket (eight points, four free throws), but made her presence felt in other areas.

“Some players, when they struggle offensively, don’t do much of anything else,’’ Gillom said. “Not Addie. She kept right on going and game up with some big rebounds and steals. That just shows you what kind of player she is.’’

Xavier Prep 64, Phoenix Pinncale 40

XCP – Leilani McIntosh 24, Elysia Fleetwood 13, Paris Rasheed-Moore 13, Addie Putnam 8, Truly Helton 2, Mackenzie Coder 2, Tanya Barakat 2.

Gators' Shields is volleyball POY candidate

Xavier Prep senior setter Shannon Shields is being honored with seven other girls by The Arizona Republic/ with its annual All-Arizona Volleyball Team. The group is featured on the azcentral Web site in photos taken at Papago Park in Phoenix.

Shields also is a candidate for the Player of the Year after helping Xavier win its second straight 6A Conference championship. She will go on to play at the University of Louisville. The Player of the Year will be announced at the azcentral annual Sports Awards ceremony on June 9 at Arizona State University’s Grady Gammage Memorial Auditorium.

In addition, junior outside hitter Bri McKnight is an Honorable Mention selection.

Congratulations, Gators, on a great season!! 

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Xavier soccer keeps rolling, defeats Maryvale

Strong efforts by four players, including a pair of freshmen, were instrumental in Xavier Prep’s 11-1 soccer victory over host Phoenix Maryvale on Wednesday (Dec. 6).

Frosh Livi Castrichini had a three-goal hat trick and an assist and frosh Keila Lopez-Enriquez had two goals and an assist to lead the way.

Junior Elizabeth Warren also had a pair of goals and an assist and sophomore Kendall Warner had a goal and three assists.

Xavier (3-0-1) returns home to Petznick Field on Friday night at 6 to face Yuma Kofa, which has lost its only match thus far, to Tempe Corona del Sol.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

XCP hoops remains unbeaten at 7-0

Xavier Prep ran its basketball record to 7-0 on Tuesday night (Dec. 4) with a 60-28 victory over host Avondale Westview.

Senior guard Addie Putnam led the way with 19 points and three steals, and junior guard-forward Elysia Fleetwood was close behind with 18 points and seven steals.

Xavier is listed No. 2 on azcentral’s Dec. 4 version of its Super 10, lining up the top teams in the state regardless of class. Goodyear Millennium was No. 1.

The Gators will have perhaps their toughest test to date on Thursday night in the Activity Center against Phoenix Pinnacle (9-0). The Pioneers are ranked fourth, just behind two-time defending 6A Conference champion Surprise Valley Vista.

Soccer coach encouraged by team's effort

Tuesday night’s (Dec. 4) soccer match proved to be a sign of encouragement for coach Barb Chura and her Xavier Prep Gators.

Xavier broke away from visiting Chandler Basha with a pair of second-half goals for a 3-1 victory.

“I am really encouraged,’’ Chura said. “Basha is a good team and this could have gone in either direction. In our first three games, we’ve won two, lost none and tied one.’’

Xavier looks a lot different than a year ago, when the Gators won their second straight 6A Conference state championship.

There have been numerous adjustments. Some players returned from club or a developmental academy and others departed for the same reasons. And most of the players are young – with little or no experience. Chura has five freshmen, four of them starters.

So the good start is welcomed by Chura, who has a reputation of molding teams such as this into contenders.

It can be frustrating and rewarding at the same time.

“Sometimes I almost like the practices more than the games, watching these players learn and get better,’’ Chura said. “And we have a lot of practice time coming up, so I am looking forward to that.’’

Xavier will have three more matches before breaking for the holidays and its annual participation in the Excalibur Tournament in southern California.

Before practice gets into full swing, the Gators have a quick turnaround with a match at Phoenix Maryvale on Wednesday (Dec. 5), followed by a home match against Yuma Kofa on Friday (Dec. 7) and another home match against Gilbert Highland on Dec. 11. Start times are 6 p.m.

The Gators appear to be passing the ball better, moving better and utilizing their speed. There also is the issue of verbal communication, particularly when an opponent is moving the ball closer to scoring a goal.

Chura attributed Basha’s goal, which came with 4:40 left in the first half and tied the match at 1, as partly miscommunication on her players’ part and partly a good play by Basha.

“When you make the call that you have it (control of the ball), you have to make sure you really have it. That didn’t happen on that play. That’s one of the things we need to work on.’’

Senior forward Caitlin Johnston put Xavier on the board first with a goal that deflected off the Basha goalkeeper’s hand and into the net with 33:42 left in the first half.

Basha’s late first-half goal gave it some momentum going into the intermission.

The teams battled back and forth until Xavier freshman Ansley Burns scored off a deflection following a corner kick with 15:56 left. Her shot was nicely placed -- she booted the ball with her left foot high and deep into the back corner of the net where the keeper could not reach it. Burns also had an earlier assist.

And the decisive stamp was affixed to the match when senior forward Sadie Wintergalen set up senior Lindsay Hubbard with a sharp pass and Hubbard scored with 6:28 left.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Corona can't take a breath as Gators press

A complete suffocation.

Xavier Prep’s basketball team used its full-court press to squeeze every bit of air out of visiting Tempe Corona del Sol 91-16 on Friday night (Nov. 30) in the Gators’ second home game of the season.

Believe it or not, Corona del Sol actually had the lead by scoring the game’s first basket.

Then the tsunami came as Xavier (6-0) scored 35 straight points through the rest of the quarter.

Senior sharpshooter Addie Putnam scored 20 points in the quarter and would go on to nearly double that, finishing with 39 points. Four of her baskets were from 3-point range.

Senior point guard Leilani McIntosh scored 16 points and junior guard-forward Elysia Fleetwood tallied 10.

Xavier applied the pressure with the starters on the floor in the first quarter, eased up a bit when coach Jennifer Gillom brought in players off the bench in the second period and was back at it in the third when the starters returned.

This was after XCP had built a 50-7 lead at halftime. The Gators went on to outscore the Aztecs 32-4 in the third. The fourth period was played under a running clock.

Xavier will return to action on Tuesday (Dec. 4) with a road game at Avondale Westview. Tipoff is 7 p.m.

Xavier Prep 91, Tempe Corona del Sol 16

XCP – Addie Putnam 39, Leilani McIntosh 16, Elysia Fleetwood 10, Paris Rasheed-Moore 9, Tanya Barakat 4, Cara Coffman 4, Victoria Saucedo 4, Sophie Sash 3, Mackenzie Coder 2.

Gators, Desert Vista battle to soccer tie

Xavier Prep and Phoenix Desert Vista have one of the top soccer rivalries in Arizona, and Friday night’s (Nov. 30) home opener for the Gators was another example.

The two teams, who faced each other in the 2017 6A Conference title match won by Xavier, battled to a 2-2 tie at Petznick Field.

Each team scored once in the first half and one more in the second. No shots found the net after that in both 10-minute overtime periods.

Senior Caitlin Johnston and freshman Keila Lopez Enriquez scored for the Gators (1-0-1), and sophomore Katie Harris came up with a strong effort in goal.

Harris got help from freshman defender Jayme Brown, who was named Player of the Game by Gators coach Barb Chura.

“Playing with gutsy determination in a highly contested game showed that she can play against a high-level team such as Desert Vista,’’ Chura told the MaxPreps Web site. “Jayme kept tight marks against crafty and speedy forwards, allowing few shots on goal from her side. She also was involved in the Gator attack with quick and long throw-ins, taking goal kicks when needed, and attacking runs during corner kicks.’’

The Gators’ next contest will be on Tuesday (Dec. 4), another home match against Chandler Basha. Start time is 6 p.m.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Leilani Mac is back as Gators roll

Welcome home, Xavier Prep basketball team!

Especially you, Leilani McIntosh!

The Gators rode a big rollercoaster of emotions after McIntosh, the senior point guard, suffered what appeared to be a serious leg injury in the Scorpion Shootout tournament over the weekend in Goodyear.

Her right knee appeared to be the problem, but coach Jennifer Gillom surmised that the injury would not be too serious, instead of having it be something that would idle her for an extended period.

As coaches tend to be most of the time, Gillom was right. McIntosh was given the green light and returned to action on Thursday night (Nov. 29) when the team staged its 2018-19 home opener against Mesa Desert Ridge at the Activity Center.

McIntosh, hovering around the scorer’s table during the JV game before the varsity played, said she felt good and was ready to go.

And she played like it.

She led the Gators to their fifth win of the season without a loss, 64-15, scoring a team-high 18 points and contributing her normal list of other plays on offense and defense.

“I wasn’t too worried and the doctor said she was fine,’’ Gillom said. “Lei was back out there doing all of the things that Lei does. She’s fine. She practiced well.’’

McIntosh had plenty of help. Three other players scored in double figures – senior guards Addie Putnam and Paris Rasheed-Moore with 14 each and junior guard-forward Elysia Fleetwood with 12, including 10 in the first quarter that helped the Gators get away to a fast start.

Gillom was particularly pleased with the play of Rasheed-Moore and Fleetwood.

“Paris stepped up,’’ Gillom said. “She made better decisions and she’s starting to look for her jump shots, which we want her to do.

“ “E’ is coming into her own. She can do a lot of things out there and that only makes us better.’’

The Gators will be back at home on Friday night (Nov. 30) against Tempe Corona del Sol, then return to the road on Tuesday (Dec. 4) at Avondale Westview.

Xavier Prep 64, Mesa Desert Ridge 15

XCP – Leilani McIntosh 18, Addie Putnam 14, Paris Rasheed-Moore 14, Elysia Fleetwood 12, Tanya Barakat 4, Toni Garcia 2.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

XCP soccer routs Tolleson, is a work in progress

After an 11-0 rout of host Tolleson High in its season opener on Tuesday night (Nov. 27), there is reason for optimism regarding Xavier Prep’s soccer team. But the Gators are far from being ready to be fitted for their third straight 6A Conference state championship crown.

It will be difficult for head coach Barb Chura and assistant Rafael Rios to get a good read after this one. Xavier was a bigger, stronger team than Tolleson and the Wolverines seldom got close to a goal opportunity, with sophomores Katie Harris and Jaden Campbell sharing the Xavier goalkeeper duties.

Xavier led 4-0 at halftime and Chura was constructive in her comments without yelling at the players. She told them she wanted them to play faster and pass the ball better by limiting the number of touches of the ball and making the ones they have with better quality.

The team responded with seven goals in the second half. Tolleson looked fatigued by the end.

“From the first to the second half, we improved with some of our decision-making and we made the adjustment by playing quicker,’’ Chura said.

However . . .

“We are a long, long way off from being the final product,’’ she said. “We have a lot to work on.

“Literally, just about every player we have is brand-new. Some are back after sitting out the last two years and we have younger ones. It’s going to take some time for everybody to start playing together, but time is not something we have a lot of since the high school season is so short.’’

As far as goal production was concerned, the Gators spread the wealth around a bit.

Junior Elizabeth Warren had a three-goal hat trick. Senior Caitlin Johnston and freshmen Keila Lopez Enriquez and Olivia Castrichini had two each. And senior Lindsay Hubbard and sophomore Kendall Warner each had one.

Lopez Enriquez, who scored the first goal of the match, looks to have potential with many of her skills. And Castrichini gives the Gators an element of speed to complement that of Johnston.

Xavier will be at Petznick Field for its home opener against Phoenix Desert Vista on Friday (Nov. 30) at 6 p.m. That will be preceded by the junior-varsity match at 4.

Monday, November 26, 2018

All-Region teams loaded with Gators

Winning a state championship often is accompanied by athletes listed on all-region teams, and that certainly was true for Xavier Prep’s Gators this fall.

Xavier’s Division I golf state title team featured the Division I Premier Region Player and Coach of the Year. The school’s cross-country team had the Coach of the Year and several other honorees.

Junior Ashley Menne was named Region Player of the Year after winning the state individual golf title for the third straight year. The Gators’ Tui Selvaratnam was Coach of the Year.

Xavier won the 36th state title in school history and its ninth in a row.

All-Region First Team selections were junior Breyana Matthews, sophomore Lauren Garcia, freshman Ivy Song and sophomore Bailee Tayles. Listed as Honorable Mention were seniors Eve Worden and Emily Cons.

Dave Van Sickle was the Premier’s Coach of the Year after guiding the Gators to their 10th state title.

First Team choices were junior Mia Olsen, sophomore Jamie Stelnik and junior Grace Valandra. On the Second Team were seniors Karina Hawkins, Karina Smith and Helen Innes and sophomore Sammy Braun. Senior Karli Baker was Honorable Mention.

Congratulations to all of these great Gator athletes and coaches. The Xavier community is very proud of your accomplishments!

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Injury shrouds Gators' hoops title triumph

It was as if the basketball game were being played in a library instead of a gymnasium.

It was that quiet.

That scenario usually exists when a player appears to be badly injured and the fans are waiting on the edge of their seats to learn the outcome.

For Xavier Prep’s Gators, those moments hit very close to home.

Sprawled on the floor at Goodyear Desert Edge was senior guard Leilani McIntosh, the team’s heart and soul who had begun the season with a full-throttle effort in the Scorpion Shootout.

With 4:37 left in the second quarter of the tourney title game on Saturday night (Nov. 24) against Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor, McIntosh went down after making a steal and providing an assist for teammate Addie Putnam.

Coaches and the Desert Edge team trainer worked on McIntosh’s right knee, got her up and escorted her to the bench as she winced in pain. More work was done with ice and wraps, and she remained with her teammates on the bench and stood for timeouts. She even smiled a few times.

Followers hope this may have been an indication of a diminished severity. She will be evaluated over the next several days, and coach Jennifer Gillom and the Gators will see where they go from there.

For now, XCP reigns as the tournament champion after a hard-fought 53-49 victory. The Gators, who had easy wins in their first three games, had to gut this one out.

McIntosh still manged to earn the tournament’s MVP award, and she was joined by Putnam on the All-Tournament Team.

In the Gators’ 72-37 semifinal win over Tucson High earlier in the day, some late-arriving fans squeezed into the packed auxiliary gym and were told, “You missed it. No. 30 (McIntosh) is putting on a show.’’

McIntosh means more to the team than just her ball-handling skills. She can hit the 3-pointer when necessary, drive through traffic and with fellow senior guard Paris Rasheed-Moore steals the ball from opponents with regularity.

After the injury, Rasheed-Moore stepped up. She had been struggling on offense in the earlier games, but came on to score 16 of her 18 points. Putnam led the Gators with 20 points after scoring a team-high 24 against Tucson, letting her trademark treys fly.

Sandra Day O’Connor kept the pressure on over the final three quarters, outscoring Xavier 40-32. The Gators managed to play decent defense at just the right times to maintain their lead.

“That (injury) was a scary moment,’’ said Gillom, breathing (sort of) a fingers-crossed sigh of relief. “That just lets you know what this team is about, that we are able to handle adversity. We did it in the summer league (when McIntosh had an injury) and we did it again here.

“I’m proud of the poise they showed. It definitely was not our best game. There was a lot of miscommunication, which is somewhat expected early in the season. We still have a lot of work to do, but I am happy with where we’re at.’’

The Gators now have a few days to rest a bit and hit the practice floor before playing back-to-back games at home on Thursday (Nov. 29) against Mesa Desert Ridge and Friday (Nov. 30) against Tempe Corona del Sol.

Saturday’s scores

Xavier Prep 53, Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor 49 (championship)

XCP – Addie Putnam 20, Paris Rasheed-Moore 18, Leilani McIntosh 7, Victoria Saucedo 2, Truly Helton 2, Cara Coffman 2, Elysia Fleetwood 1, Mackenzie Coder 1.

Xavier Prep 72, Tucson High 37 (semifinals)

XCP – Putnam 24, McIntosh 17, Fleetwood 8, Rasheed-Moore 8, Coder 8, Helton 5, Bianca Nava 2.

Friday’s scores

Xavier Prep 72, Flagstaff Coconino 29

XCP – McIntosh 20, Putnam 13, Rasheed-Moore 12, Coder 6, Saucedo 6, Helton 4, Fleetwood 4, Sophie Sash 3, Coffman 2, Toni Garcia 2.

Xavier Prep 100, Phoenix Trevor Browne 17

XCP – McIntosh 31, Putnam 25, Fleetwood 9, Sash 7, Rasheed-Moore 6, Coffman 6, Coder 5, Tanya Barakat 4, Saucedo 3, Helton 2, Nava 2.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Hitting century mark launches Gators' season

Xavier Prep’s Gators are off to a very good start in the 2018-19 basketball season.

Playing this weekend in the Scorpion Shootout at Goodyear Desert Edge, XCP reached the century mark in its first Game on Friday (Nov. 23) against Phoenix Trevor Browne, 100-17, and followed that up with a 72-29 win over Flagstaff Coconino in a Friday evening encounter.

That puts the Gators in the 4:30 p.m. semifinals on Saturday (Nov. 24) against Tucson High. A victory there would give Xavier a championship game spot at 7:30.

Facing Tucson should be more of a challenge for XCP. Tucson is 3-0 and has combined for a 100-17 record in its previous four seasons. Tucson reached the 6A quarterfinals before falling to Goodyear Millennium, which in turn fell to Xavier in the semifinals.

Xavier coach Jennifer Gillom was understandably pleased with her team’s effort in the first day.

“Not a bad day . . . not a bad day at all,’’ she said.

The team’s defense was off the charts – 35 steals in the first game, 39 in the second. Senior guard Leilani McIntosh had 12 steals in the first game, and senior guard Paris Rasheed-Moore had 16 in the second game.

Gillom also was encouraged by the Gators’ play off the bench.

“I didn’t think we would be able to go that deep at this point of the season, with that many contributing,’’ she said. “In the past, our score diminished a little when the bench players went in, but now we appear to be maintaining our advantage or even giving ourselves a boost.’’

Xavier had 11 players score in the first game and 10 in the second.

McIntosh was the top scorer in both games – 31 in the opener and 20 in the second game.

Senior guard Addie Putnam also was a prominent scorer – 25 in the opener and 13 in the second game. She combined to hit six 3-pointers in both games.

Senior Cara Coffman started in the post in both games and held her ground. Sophomore point guard MacKenzie Coder combined for 11 points in both games, including three 3-pointers.

Friday’s scores

Xavier Prep 100, Phoenix Trevor Browne 17

XCP – Leilani McIntosh 31, Addie Putnam 25, Elysia Fleetwood 9, Sophie Sash 7, Paris Rasheed-Moore 6, Cara Coffman 6, MacKenzie Coder 5, Tanya Barakat 4, Victoria Saucedo 3, Truly Helton 2, Bianca Nava 2.

Xavier Prep 72, Flagstaff Coconino 29

XCP – McIntosh 20, Putnam 13, Rasheed-Moore 12, Coder 6, Saucedo 6, Helton 4, Fleetwood 4, Sash 3, Coffman 2, Toni Garcia 2.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Senior guards give Gators get up and go

Three senior guards will have their work cut out for them on the basketball floor in their final seasons for Xavier Prep.

But that’s OK. As team captains, they are more than willing to do whatever is needed to get back to the 6A Conference state championship game.

Leilani McIntosh, Paris Rasheed-Moore and Addie Putnam will be counted on again for their point production, but since the team’s two tallest players have graduated, you might see these three crashing the boards more often and maybe slipping inside the paint to help the defense against opponents’ bigger players.

 “Our six seniors, and these three in particular, want to take this team back to the state finals,’’ said head coach Jennifer Gillom, whose team finished as runner-up to Surprise Valley Vista and had a 27-6 overall record.

“These three girls have good basketball IQs. They are smart and they play with a lot of confidence.’’

The 5-foot-5 McIntosh has been among the state’s top point guards in the last few years. She had some of her best games in the tournament, and recently signed a letter of intent to play collegiately at Pepperdine in Malibu, Calif.

As a junior, she averaged 12.4 points, 4.6 assists, 5.2 steals and shot 45 percent on her field-goal attempts.

“They (Pepperdine) were down for awhile, but they started to turn things around and I want to be a part of that, be a part of history, just like I want to do here,’’ McIntosh said.

McIntosh can be a feisty player and does not shy away from mixing it up inside with the bigger people.

“We lost a lot of height, but in a way, that might be to our advantage because other teams aren’t always going to know what we are going to do,’’ she said.

She is ready to knock the ball away, along with Rasheed-Moore, from opponents and get the fast break moving.

“We definitely should be more run and gun,’’ McIntosh said. “We will have a fast transition, turn defense into offense.’’

Late last season and continuing over the summer through now, Gillom has urged the guards not to hesitate much on their shot selection, including 3-pointers.

“After practice or before, we are shooting, sometimes with a machine,’’ McIntosh said. “A lot of teams play zone against us, but we don’t want to make it easy for them. The better we shoot, the harder it is for them to guard us.’’

As for the 3-pointers, McIntosh said the girls “are shooting NBA 3s in practice. We want to extend our range as much as we can.’’

The 5-9 Rasheed-Moore admits the team “is pretty guard-heavy, but that’s OK. We feel we are pretty versatile, including defense, where people like myself, Addison and “E’’ (junior Elysia Fleetwood) can go down inside and defend the post.’’

The Gators will have quite a few young players, and Rasheed-Moore said they are picking up things fast.

She said the team’s speed and endurance will be better, the latter due to running a mile once a week. Rasheed-Moore has participated in track and field in the past.

She admitted that she might have been a bit bashful with her shooting in the past, but much of that has changed.

“I wasn’t as confident, but I am a lot more now,’’ said Rasheed-Moore, who averaged 7.1 points along with 2.1 assists, 3.6 steals and shot 36 percent from the floor. “I have been in the gym every single day. My alignment and my footwork are better, my 2s are better and my 3s are better.

“We know most of the things each other does well, but we also need to make sure we communicate.’’

Rasheed-Moore has not signed with a college program, but is leaning toward the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio.

If she does, she likely will be close to Putnam, who is taking a serious look at Trinity University, also in San Antonio.

Gillom said Putnam appears to be in better shape this time around.

“The others see how hard she has worked, and that can only be a motivation for them,’’ Gillom said.

Putnam said she picked up endurance by playing club ball and with Xavier’s entry in the Thunderbird Summer League.

The ability to run will help the team be faster and pick up the pace, according to Putnam.

She likes to escape her defenders and spread out on the wing for her high-arcing long-range shots. It’s a good thing the gym ceilings are high. The 5-9 Putnam averaged 9.3 points, shot 40 percent from the floor and 35 percent on 3-pointers (65 made).

The Gators’ 2018-19 season begins the day after Thanksgiving, on Friday (Nov. 23) and continues on Saturday (Nov. 24) with the Scorpion Shootout at Goodyear Desert Edge. The team is due to play two games each day.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Getting a three-peat in soccer is no easy task

Winning two state championships in a row made Xavier Prep soccer players feel good. What would make the Gators feel even better would be a third straight crown and 11th overall.

The players have been very busy over the last few weeks trying to impress head coach Barb Chura and assistant Rafael Rios.

Although Xavier is ranked No. 1 in azcentral’s Super 10 teams in the preseason, a three-peat will not be easy. The Gators have 17 new players with little experience, but have a few others returning after missing the last couple of years while playing club ball.

They will be missing senior forward Emily Chiao, who signed this week with Stanford, with a significant knee injury that will keep her out for about four months. That’s basically the whole season. She was expected to be an integral part of the team after sitting out the two previous years.

And senior Kyla Ferry, who was the Gatorade Player of the Year and azcentral’s Player of the Year, will be reduced to a team manager role due to her affiliation with a developmental academy tied to U.S. Soccer.

Arizona Interscholastic Association rules prohibit a player double-dipping with both. A few players (such has Chiao) have had that same issue in the past and some others who were here last year will be out for the season.

Ferry, a forward who has signed with Colorado, will be missed. She had 20 goals and 12 assists a year ago and has 46 goals for her career.

Xavier will have three seniors return to the program after sitting out early in their prep careers.

They are forward Caitlin Johnston, forward Sadie Wintergalen and midfield/forward Lindsay Hubbard, whose older sister, Abby, graduated after proving to be a key contributor. All three girls participated in club ball.

Karla Alvarado, a midfielder who earned state recognition last year, is back. Chura said she is good with ball control, helps keep it away from opponents and disrupts them when they do get the ball.

“She does a lot of the dirty work. She is always grinding. Has a great work ethic,’’ Chura said.

Another key player is defender Katie McGee. She missed most of last season after breaking a leg in the season opener, but returned in time to play in the 1-0 win over Gilbert Perry for the championship.

McGee likely will be in the same middle spot along the back line that was occupied by star defender Nicole Hook, who graduated. And Hook scored the only goal for Xavier in the title match against Perry.

The back line will have to step up on defense, and junior Kaitlyn Lauck and sophomore Rian Mercado are expected to help.

An extremely important piece of the puzzle that can’t be overlooked is what will happen with the goalies. Multi-year star Kinsey Ehmann graduated and now is at Pepperdine. She was a great athlete (also in track and field) who made too many key saves to count.

Due to fires in southern California, Ehmann has been back in the Valley and is helping Chura with the goalies until she returns to Pepperdine. Hopefully she will impart as much advice as she can.

At this point, the starting role will be decided after competition between sophomores Jaden Campbell and Katie Harris. Both are decent athletes, but their lack of game experience, particularly in pressure situations, will need to be closely evaluated.

“We hope the process (sharpening skills and improving the mindset) will come together for everyone over time,’’ Chura said. “We need to sell them on what we are trying to do. We are cautiously optimistic.’’

The top teams in 6A this season are expected to include Xavier, Perry, Chandler Hamilton, Gilbert Highland, Phoenix Desert Vista and Scottsdale Chaparral, which moves up to 6A after winning the last two titles in 5A.

Xavier will open the season on Nov. 27 at Tolleson High, and the Gators’ first home match at Petznick Field will be Nov. 30 against Desert Vista.

Xavier 2018-19 soccer roster

Jaden Campbell, So., GK

Katie Harris, So., GK

Ansley Burns, Fr., MF

Lindsay Hubbard, Sr., MF

Kendall Warner, So., F

Rian Mercado, So., D

Brynn Lebel, Jr., MF/F

*Emily Chiao, Sr., MF

Elizabeth Warren, Jr., FB

Tatum Molina, Sr., F

Caitlin Johnston, Sr., F

Megan Zacher, Jr., FB

Katie McGee, Sr., D

Kaitlyn Lauck, Jr., D

Keila Lopez Enriquez, Fr., MF

Sadie Wintergalen, Sr., F

Brooke Bream, So., F

Karla Alvarado, Sr., MF

Kaya Vega, Fr., D

Kelli Rasmussen, Sr., D

Olivia Castrichini, Fr., F

Taylor Garman, Jr., MF

Megan Onofrei, Jr., D

Jayme Brown, Fr., D