DON KETCHUM is a native of Phoenix. He was a sportswriter for The Arizona Republic/The Phoenix Gazette for nearly four decades. He covered high school sports on several occasions as well as the Arizona Diamondbacks, Arizona Cardinals and Arizona State sports. From 2008-14, he was a staff writer for, the web site of the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Free trip to finals doesn't help Gator doubles

Xavier Prep’s third-seeded doubles team of Erica Stutz and Emily Even were preparing to meet second-seeded Grace Koester and Anya Ramras of Scottsdale Chaparral in the semifinals of the Division I state tennis tournament on Saturday (April 28) when Xavier coach Laurie Martin received a phone call from a Chaparral coach.

Koester and Ramras would not be able to play in the semifinals because one of them was ill, according to Martin, thereby defaulting and allowing the Xavier duo to advance to the championship match.

So instead of playing at approximately 11:30 a.m., the Xavier girls had to wait close to two more hours until the other semifinal had been completed.

The winner of that other semi, top-seeded Josie Frazier and McKenna Koenig of Scottsdale Desert Mountain, defeated fourth-seeded Lindsey Pesqueira and Sophie Lopez of Tucson Rincon/University.

 Even though the temperature was in the mid-90s, the Desert Mountain girls didn’t need a whole lot of time to replenish themselves afterward. Frazier grabbed a cold bottle of water and Koenig munched on a small piece of citrus before going back out.

They made a quick turnaround and had plenty of energy left, rolling to a 6-1, 6-0 victory over Stutz and Even at the Paseo Racquet Center in Glendale.

“There is a reason why they were seeded No. 1,’’ said Xavier coach Laurie Martin. “They are both among the top 100 players in the country.’’

Some might think it is more beneficial to sit out, strategize and conserve energy as the Xavier girls did. Others think it is better to pretty much go directly from one match to another.

Martin did not think the scenario was that much of an issue.

“Most of these girls play in a lot of different kinds (non-school in the summer) tournaments, so they are adaptive,’’ she said.

Stutz and Even are sophomores and are a bit ahead of the curve, experience- and skill-wise.

“It’s still kind of hard trying to warm up and then sitting and waiting,’’ said Stutz, who finished as the consolation champion in singles as a freshman last season.

Even admitted that “it was kind of a shocker. We were both preparing mentally and then you have to pull it back a little bit.

“Still, even if we had played and won in the semi, we knew the team we would play in the final would be very difficult.’’

It seemed that Frazier and Koening were all over the court. Wherever the Gators tried to place the ball, one of them was there for the return, often where the Xavier-ites couldn’t reach it.

“It was great for our players to play a team like that. They (Desert Mountain girls) are both strong players,’’ Martin said. “Wherever they go, whatever kind of shot they take, they don’t miss much.’’

The team portion of the state tournament resumes on Tuesday (May 1) and Desert Mountain, the defending state champion, is seeded No. 1. The Wolves will play host to No. 8 Chandler Basha. Xavier, meanwhile, is seeded third and will have a home match against No. 6 Chaparral. Start time is 3 p.m. for both.

Friday, April 27, 2018

All-Gator tennis match sends Stutz, Even to semis

The circumstances of this particular Division I tennis quarterfinal double match were a bit unusual.

The two teams broke bread together at lunch and after the match was over, they embraced instead of simply shaking hands, not what you might expect from teams that battled in the heat for more than 90 minutes.

There was good reason for this.

These two teams represented the same school – Xavier Prep – and represented it well.

The third-seeded Gator team of sophomores Erica Stutz and Emily Even defeated sixth-seeded senior Kate Straneva and sophomore Lorelei Glidden, 6-2, 6-4, at the Paseo Racquet Center in Glendale on Friday (April 27).

Stutz and Even will play a semifinal match at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday (April 28) at Paseo, meeting No. 2 seed Grace Koester and Anya Ramras of Scottsdale Chaparral. That also could be a preview of the team portion of the tournament when Chaparral visits Xavier on Tuesday (May 1).

Win or lose, Stutz and Even will have a second match on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. That will be the starting time of the state championship match as well as the consolation championship match.

Stutz and Even met Straneva and Glidden at a restaurant near the Xavier campus. Chances are that neither team learned anything new that could help them in the match. Stutz kept things simple with a grilled cheese.

She and Even had enough energy to take the match, but it might have been a little tougher than they expected. Stutz assured that she would have enough energy left for Saturday.

“The heat doesn’t bother me that much,’’ she said.

Even said her goal was to “relax and have fun.’’

She and her teammate complimented Straneva and Glidden for their competitiveness, and that Straneva showed good strength at the net.

“It was really fun out there,’’ Straneva said.

Said Glidden: “We were excited to play our own team. We were both seeded and that doesn’t happen very often.’’

Straneva added that she and Glidden didn’t think they would get this far, but was pleased that they played well.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Softball shut out in play-in, lacrosse also falls

Xavier Prep’s softball team, playing Tucson High in Tucson as a “play-in’’ game leading up to the actual Division VI state tournament finished its season with a 4-0 defeat to the Badgers on Wednesday (April 25).

Xavier, seeded No. 23 out of 24 teams, had a 4-17-2 record. Tucson was seeded 10th and now at 19-12 advances to the first round of the state tournament on Saturday (April 28).

Tucson’s Alyssa Carpio tossed a five-hitter against the Gators. Sophomore Katie Donahey had two hits, while senior Jordan Bassett, freshman Macy Lee and sophomore Cameron Martin each had one hit.

Tucson scored twice in the first inning against XCP pitcher Abby Rascon, and the Gators tried to play catch-up the rest of the way.

Lacrosse – Xavier’s club lacrosse team finished its regular season on Wednesday night with a 12-11 loss to visiting Chandler Hamilton.

Xavier posted a 6-10 record and has a remote chance to be the sixth and final team to reach the playoffs. Pairings have yet to be announced.

Tennis – The individual singles and doubles portion of the Division I state tournament resumes on Friday (April 27) at the Paseo Racquet Center in Glendale.

Xavier has two doubles teams remaining, and they will play each other in a quarterfinal match at approximately 3:30 p.m. The two teams are No. 3 seed Erica Stutz and Emily Even, both sophomores, and No. 6 Kate Straneva (senior) and sophomore Lorelei Glidden.

The winner advances to a semifinal match on Saturday at approximately 11:30 a.m.

Beach volleyball joy ride comes to an end

When Tim McHale agreed to begin a beach volleyball program at Xavier Prep about seven years ago, he worked, worked, and worked some more to make the Gators as strong in the sand as they had been in the gym when he coached the school’s indoor team.

Xavier became the class of the sport in short order. In fact, the Gators won the first six state titles in the sport’s existence in Arizona.

It is doubtful he would admit it, but in the back of his mind, he probably knew that at some point, the joy ride would come to an end. More and more schools were starting programs and the players were learning the game at a faster rate.

Title try No. 7 was not a lucky number for the Gators. Seeded fifth, they were eliminated by No. 4 Gilbert Perry on Wednesday (April 25) in a quarterfinal match at the Seville Country Club in Gilbert. Perry left little doubt which was the better team, at least on this day, taking a decisive 4-1 victory.

Xavier finished the season at 10-3. The Gators had defeated Perry 3-2 at Xavier on April 13, but could not muster up much of anything this time around.

Perry continues to have its chance to replace the Gators in the champion’s chair, but first would have to defeat top-seeded Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor in the semifinals on Tuesday (May 1) and either No. 3 Goodyear Millennium or No. 7 Tempe Corona del Sol in the finals on May 3. All remaining games are at Gilbert Mesquite.

“Deep down, it’s hard to face a reality like this,’’ McHale said. “You fight and you claw and you try to keep it going, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out.’’

Part of the Gators’ plan on Wednesday was to “make them (Perry) uncomfortable in their own home, but we didn’t do that,’’ McHale said.

Every Xavier team fell short except for the No. 3 team of freshman Serena Turner and sophomore Abby Converse.

“We are humbled, and we need to be hungry (for next season),’’ McHale said. “It’s back to the chess board.’’

An encouraging note is that the team loses just two seniors to graduation, meaning 14 players, some with significant experience, will return.

“We bonded as a team, but we need to find a way to become a little more driven,’’ McHale said. “At times during the season, we seemed a little adrift.’’

The coach addressed the team at length afterward, and assistants Sue Contreras and Kristen Preach also passed along their observations.

“We’re going to have to do some soul-searching and think about what we can do better,’’ McHale told the Gators. “It’s all about team.

“We will have to be focused even though we did not win. There is still an “X’’ on our backs because we have been consistent and teams still want to beat us because we are Xavier.’’

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Beach volleyball earns sweep in first round

It was a suh-weet suh-weep for Xavier Prep’s beach volleyball team.

The fifth-seeded Gators won both games in all of their five matches on Tuesday (April 24), advancing in the Division I state tournament with a 5-0 win over No. 12 Gilbert Mesquite at the Cavanaugh Courts.

Xavier, which has won all six state titles in the history of the sport in Arizona, will face No. 4 seed Gilbert Perry in a quarterfinal match at the Seville Country Club in Gilbert on Wednesday (April 25) at 4:30 p.m.

The winner of the quarterfinal match will move on to the semifinals on May 1 at Mesquite and will meet either top-seeded Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor or No. 8 Tucson Ironwood Ridge.

Xavier played one of its best matches of the season against Mesquite.

Each team won by a substantial margin in all of its games except for one, when the No. 2 team of junior Shannon Shields and senior Kailey Klein came back for a narrow 23-21 win in their second game to keep the streak intact.

Note – Sophomore Abby Converse has been selected by the Arizona Interscholastic Association to represent Xavier at the National Federation Student Leadership Conference to be held in Indianapolis this summer.

First-round results

Xavier Prep 5, Gilbert Mesquite 0

No. 5 – Analy Carbine-Lauren Lykins def. Mesquite 21-10, 21-15.

No. 4 – Lydia Rush-Grace Lincoln def. Mesquite 21-11, 21-14.

No. 3 – Serena Turner-Abby Converse def. Mesquite 21-13, 21-12.

No. 2 – Shannon Shields-Kailey Klein def. Mesquite 21-14, 23-21.

No. 1 – Trinity Cavanaugh-Taylor Lopez def. Mesquite 21-8, 21-15.

Xavier tennis, lacrosse score victories

Third-seeded Xavier Prep didn’t waste much time in dispensing No. 14 Yuma Cibola in a 5-0 opening-round victory in the Division I state team tennis tournament on Tuesday (April 24) at Xavier.

Singles players Erica Stutz, Emily Even, Maddy Corley, Lorelei Glidden and Kate Straneva all won handily in their matches.

Xavier now advances to the quarterfinals and will meet No. 4 seed Scottsdale Chaparral on Tuesday (May 1) at Xavier. Xavier edged Chaparral 5-4 in a match at XCP on March 7.

Lacrosse – The XCP club team defeated visiting Tempe Corona del Sol 17-9 on Tuesday (April 24) and will play its final regular-season match on Wednesday (April 25) at home against Chandler Hamilton. Xavier’s record is 6-9.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

XCP softball earns trip to Tucson

Despite falling 5-2 to visiting Gilbert Perry in its regular season finale on Monday (April 23), Xavier Prep’s softball team lives to fight another day.

The Gators qualified for the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s “play-in’’ round on Wednesday (April 25) as the No. 23 team (out of 24). They will play at No. 10 Tucson High. Xavier is 4-16-2, Tucson 18-12.

The winner would qualify for the final bracket of 16 teams and the first round that begins Saturday (April 28) at the sites of the highest seeds.

So anything can happen.

The Gators struggled for much of the early season, but played much better down the stretch.

“The way we have played the last couple of weeks, we have made significant improvements,’’ said XCP coach Carrie Markham. “We were a young team going in, but the younger players have shown that they don’t think they are young players anymore.’’

Xavier seems to be hitting the ball better, as evidenced by a 9-1 win over Chandler High on April 20, a triumph that essentially got them to the No. 23 spot. They collected seven hits against Perry.

Against Tucson, Markham will choose between seniors Mercedes Silva and Abby Rascon as her pitcher, or a combination of the two.

On Monday, Perry scored a run in the top of the first inning on a disputed call.

With two outs, the Pumas’ Piper Lujan hit an opposite-field shot to right. Xavier right fielder Kristiann Ferreira went back near the fence and raised her arms to signal that the ball bounced over the fence for a ground-rule double rather than going over on the fly for a home run.

The field umpire ruled that the ball went over on the fly, but Xavier coaches contended that the ball bounced through an opening in the Fiberglas-type fence.

Perry scored again in the top of the second, and the Gators looked as though they might have a chance to tie in the bottom of the second. With one out, they had runners at first and third, but they were left stranded.

Xavier did manage to score its first run in the third inning, cutting Perry’s lead to 2-1.

Lizzie Marino led off with a double and scored on Jordan Bassett’s two-out single.

In the fifth, Perry had a runner at third that appeared would be an out after she strayed too far off the bag. Bassett, the catcher, threw to third baseman Macy Lee, who made the tag. But the same umpire who earlier ruled on the Perry home run called Lee for obstruction on the baseline and the runner was allowed to remain at third. Xavier again protested, but to no avail.

Silva, however, bailed her team out by striking out three straight batters with runners at third and second.

Perry took a 5-1 lead in the top of the sixth on a solo home run and a two-run shot.

Silva provided Xavier’s final run in the sixth with an RBI groundout that scored Melissa Fedorka, who began the inning with an opposite-field triple to left.

“Play-in’’ softball games

(Seedings in parentheses)

All games on Wednesday (April 25) at 4 p.m.

Phoenix Alhambra (24) at Chandler Basha (9), Chandler High (17) at Gilbert Highland (16), Phoenix Desert Vista (18) at Gilbert High (15), Yuma Kofa (21) at Phoenix Mountain Pointe (12), Glendale Mountain Ridge (22) at Mesa Desert Ridge (11), Avondale Westview (20) at Anthem Boulder Creek (13), Tucson Sunnyside (19) at Tucson Rincon/University (14), Xavier Prep (23) at Tucson High (10).

Sunday, April 22, 2018

"Flo'' fights, is true inspiration for everyone

Her hair is back. The smile, however, never left Kylie Rodgers, nor did her will to survive.

As the sun sets Monday (April 23) on a long, arduous season for her Xavier Prep softball teammates, it is rising for Rodgers. The junior is resuming her life that was tragically turned upside down by a 14-month duel with Ewing’s sarcoma, a form of cancer.

The disease primarily affects teens and people in their early 20s. Unlike many tumors that attach themselves to the outside of the bones and/or tissue, this particular tumor grew inside Kylie’s bone in her right femur and hip. Treatment involved chemotherapy as well as surgery to replace the affected bones with titanium.

Kylie first noticed some pain in her leg in January of 2017, about a month or so before her sophomore season at Xavier was supposed to start. With two key older pitchers graduated from her freshman season, she had a good chance to see a lot of time in the circle for the Gators.

“I thought it was just some tendinitis or something, nothing too serious. I was on crutches, but I didn’t think it would be very long, maybe six weeks at the most,’’ Kylie said.

Kylie had stopped most of her softball activity because she still had pain that included some discomfort in her back.

“Three months of not really getting any better,’’ she said.

She had MRIs and finally a biopsy.

She went on a trip to Washington D.C. with her family during spring break.

Her mother, Mary Kay, received a call with bad news.


“The whole thing seemed like an out-of-body experience,’’ Kylie said.

From April until the surgery in late July at Phoenix Childrens Hospital, there were all sorts of tests and evaluations and chemotherapy.

In an interview on FOXSPORTSAZ, her mother said there was no hesitation for Kylie, that she told her mother and father, Blake, “that she was going to beat this thing.’’

“My (Xavier) coaches and teammates were the first ones there for me, and have been there ever since. They have all been great,’’ Kylie said.

Kylie Rodgers: "I have been given a new lease on life and I don't take anything for granted.'' (Photo by Don Ketchum).

Because some of her treatments affected her immune system, Kylie could not return to Xavier out of fear she would pick up the flu or cold or something that would set her back. Her mother, who has been a teacher, helped her with her studies, and Kylie said she also was helped by suggestions from her XCP teachers.

Kylie moved to Arizona from Jacksonville, Fla., in between her eighth grade and freshman years.

In Florida, she lived in a big cul de sac that had as many as 40 kids also living there, she said.
Coming to Arizona was a big adjustment, particularly to new students. Before the move, she acquired the nickname of “Flo,’’ a reference to Florida, and that later would become part of her rallying cry – “Fight Like Flo.’’

It is printed on T-shirts, and she and her family are working on a “Fight Like Flo Foundation,’’ in which she wants to help raise funds and provide assistance to young people who experience similar obstacles.

According to Kylie, there only are about 137 people her age nationally who have this form of the disease.

Even before getting cancer, she had the idea of working in the field of medicine, and now will increase the focus to pediatric oncology, “where I can help kids who go through this and maybe even save some lives.’’

She returned to school after spring break, completing a year cycle since the diagnosis. She helps out the softball program as a team manager and does all sorts of things such as shag balls during practice and pre-game warm-ups and runs errands. She still has a slight limp, but it is barely noticeable. She also does laundry for some of the seniors (“my mom has been having me do laundry since I was 8’’) and provided water and hair ties to those players who might have forgotten them.

“I want to help them the way they have helped me,’’ Kylie said.

The ultimate goal is to return to the pitching circle next season. She knows it will be a long road, but her parents told FOXSPORTSAZ that if anyone is capable of such a comeback, it is her. Her dad said he would not want to be the batter to step in the box and face Kylie for the first time since the surgery.

She is looking forward to what the future will bring.

She will continue to have rehabilitation at least twice a week. She wants to follow her younger brother, Noah, who will be a freshman at neighboring Brophy Prep and hopes to play baseball.

Maintaining good grades as a senior will be another goal. Although she still has another year before graduating, Kylie also is evaluating college possibilities. She said it likely will be somewhere on the West Coast, perhaps a place such as Stanford, California (Berkeley) or Washington. She wants to stay close to Arizona because she will have to return to Phoenix every three months for scans to make sure she is clear.

Staying in good shape should help.

“I can still ride a bike, swim and do yoga,’’ Kylie said.

Looking at the entire picture, she said, “I have been given a new lease on life and I don’t take anything for granted.

“I definitely want to play again. It depends on how my leg responds to the therapy. I’m not allowed to run yet. If I don’t get to play, I still will be supporting my teammates. But I’m going to do everything in my power to get back out there.’’

Fifth-seeded Gators host 1st-round beach contest

Xavier Prep’s beach volleyball team, which has won state championships in each of the six seasons of the sport’s existence in Arizona, begins quest for No. 7 when the Division I state tournament begins on Tuesday (April 24).

The Gators (9-2 overall) are seeded fifth and will play host to 12th-seeded Gilbert Mesquite at 4:30 p.m. at the Cavanaugh Family Courts just south across Meadowbrook Avenue from Petznick Field.

The winner will face the winner of a first-round match between No. 13 Chandler High and No. 4 Gilbert Perry on Wednesday (April 25). If it is Xavier vs. Chandler, the second round would be at Xavier. If it is Xavier vs. Perry, the contest would be at Perry.

The first-round Division I schedule . . .

No. 16 Chandler Hamilton at No. 1 Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor, No. 9 Glendale Deer Valley at No. 8 Tucson Ironwood Ridge, No. 12 Gilbert Mesquite at No. 5 Xavier Prep, No. 13 Chandler High at No. 4 Gilbert Perry, No. 14 Glendale Mountain Ridge at No. 3 Goodyear Millennium, No. 11 Phoenix Arcadia at No. 6 Phoenix Sunnyslope, No. 10 Flagstaff Coconino at No. 7 Tempe Corona del Sol, No. 15 Surprise Valley Vista at No. 2 Tucson Salpointe Catholic.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

State tennis doubles like looking in a mirror

Sophomore Lorelei Glidden was excited that she and her Xavier Prep doubles teammate, senior Kate Straneva, won their third-round match in the Division I state tournament on Saturday (April 21) at Gene Autry Park in Mesa, earning a spot in next Friday’s (April 27) quarterfinals.

Glidden and Straneva are the sixth-seeded team, and they will play the No. 3 seed in the next round.

If the opponent looks familiar, they should.

In a strange twist of fate, Glidden and Straneva will face none other than their Xavier teammates, sophomores Erica Stutz and Emily Even, at approximately 3:30 p.m. on Friday at the Paseo Racquet Center in Glendale.

The winner would advance to the semifinals next Saturday morning (April 28) at Paseo. Semifinal winners meet for the title later that afternoon.

“We are excited for the chance,’’ Glidden said.

Said Straneva: “At first, we didn’t even think we were going to be in the tournament, then we got the six seed. Now this is the next step.’’

The two Xavier teams played a bit against each other back at Xavier on Saturday morning as they prepared for their mid-day matches across town.

Glidden and Straneva defeated Melia Menke and Alexis Markan of Phoenix Pinnacle, 6-1, 6-2. Stutz and Even defeated Elly Klages and Jordan Witter of Chandler Basha, 6-0, 6-2.

“Being the No. 6 seed means Lorelei and Kate would have had to play a tough match, anyway, but it’s kind of unfortunate that it has to be their own team,’’ said Xavier coach Laurie Martin.

So will the teams do some “trash talking’’ this coming week?

“Yes, probably, the whole nine yards,’’ Even said. “It’s going to be fun.’’

Martin said Glidden and Straneva complement each other well.

“It will be tough for them,’’ Martin said. “There are some things that they do very well. Lorelei sets up good shots when she’s working along the baseline, and Kate does a good job of finishing out shots near the net.’’

Straneva and Even also have a good working relationship.  They have been playing together for quite some time and did so at the Junior Team Tennis national tournament in Orlando in September. Stutz also played singles. Even earned a sportsmanship award that included the whole country.

While both players are well-rounded, Even looked good at the net and Stutz along the baseline with a strong power game. Even said she had been working with some of the Xavier coaches, having them hit higher shots toward the middle of the court while she attempted to get in position to return them.

The things that help them set the tone for the match, according to Stutz, are strong serves.

“If you get your serves in from the beginning, you have a good chance to win,’’ she said.

Softball seniors get lovely parting gift -- a win!

On senior night Friday (April 20), Xavier Prep’s softball team came up with one of its best all-around efforts of the season in a 9-1 victory over visiting Chandler High at Petznick Field.

The Gators turned around and defeated a Chandler team that had defeated Xavier 8-5 the day before on a three-run walk-off home run in the seventh inning.

With its win on Friday, Xavier is now 4-15-1 with one game remaining in the regular season – on Monday at home against Gilbert Perry.
One out to go for a big Xavier win (Photos by Sr. Lynn Winsor).
The seniors honored were outfielder Kristiann Ferreira, pitcher-infielder Mercedes Silva, catcher Jordan Bassett, pitcher-outfielder Abby Rascon and first baseman Melissa Fedorka.

During ceremonies after the game, the seniors received gift baskets and posed for photos with their families.

Xavier's five softball seniors and their families. From left, Kristiann Ferreira, Melissa Fedorka, Jordan Bassett, Abby Rascon and Mercedes Silva.

Bassett drove in three runs with a two-run home run and a double, Fedorka had a pair of doubles and an RBI, and Rascon gave up just four hits while striking out three.

Xavier scored its first two runs in the opening inning on a two-run double by freshman Macy Lee.

The Gators’ big inning was the fifth, when they scored five times.

Fedorka, Bassett and Cameron Martin each drove in a run and the other two came across on a wild pitch and a passed ball.

Bassett’s home run came in the sixth, a shot to center after Fedorka hit a double off the shortstop’s glove.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Gators seeded No. 3 in state team tennis

Xavier Prep’s tennis team will be the No. 3 seed in the Division I state team tournament that begins Tuesday (April 24).

The Gators will open with a home match, against 14th-seeded Yuma Cibola at 3 p.m. The winner will advance to the quarterfinals on May 1 against either No. 11 Tempe Corona del Sol or No. 6 Scottsdale Chaparral.

Semifinals are May 4 at Scottsdale Ranch Park and finals are May 5 at the Paseo Racquet Center in Glendale.

Defending state champion Scottsdale Desert Mountain is seeded No. 1 and Chandler Hamilton is No. 2.

The individual singles and doubles portion of the state tournament begins Friday (April 20) and continues on Saturday (April 21) at the Gene Autry Park in northeast Mesa.

Gilbert lacrosse tops Gators with big 2nd half

Xavier Prep’s club lacrosse team scored the tying goal against visiting Gilbert High less than a minute into the second half on Wednesday night (April 18), but things fell apart after that as Gilbert rolled to a 12-5 victory.

Gilbert (8-5) outscored the Gators 8-2 in the second half to defeat XCP (5-8) for the second time this season.

Now the Gators have their toughest challenge of the season, traveling to face No. 1 unbeaten Chaparral (14-0) on Thursday night (April 19). Chaparral defeated Xavier 16-4 on March 19.

Five different players scored goals for Xavier against Gilbert.

Caylie Wagner was the first, netting her team-leading 38th of the season. Kit Blouin was next, followed by Sarah Minton (25th of the season), Emma Tawney and Grace Martinez.

After facing Chaparral, Xavier will finish the regular season with two home games, against Tempe Corona del Sol on Tuesday (April 24) and against Chandler Hamilton on Wednesday (April 25).

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Near triple play for XCP softball, but Hamilton rules

Xavier Prep’s softball team on Tuesday (April 17) saw why Chandler Hamilton has won two straight Division I state championships and is a strong favorite to win a third.

Hamilton flexed its muscles, hitting four home runs, and got a solid pitching effort from freshman Loganne Stepp in a 12-1 victory at Petznick Field.

Hamilton, which also defeated the Gators 11-0 on Feb. 27, climbed to 27-1, while the Gators dropped to 3-14-2.

Hamilton scored its first run in the opening inning, but Xavier prevented more with what was the top defensive play of the game.

With no outs and runners at first and second, here is how the play unfolded . . .

Left-handed hitter Abigail Andersen hit a line drive to Gators first baseman Melissa Fedorka. She caught the ball, stepped on first for the second out and threw to shortstop Katie Donahey at second to try to catch the runner there. The throw and tag were just a fraction of a second late in the base umpire’s view – otherwise, Xavier would have had a triple play.

In the bottom of the fourth inning, Xavier cut the Huskies’ lead to 3-1 when catcher Jordan Bassett slugged a home run to center field on the first pitch she saw.

The Huskies made it 6-1 with three in the fifth and put the game out of reach with six more in the seventh.

Stepp showed she will be a force for Hamilton for quite some time, limiting the Gators to four hits in six innings while striking out 11. Katelyn Woodard worked the seventh inning.

Catcher Macy Simmons led the home run parade for Hamilton, sending two balls over the fence. Taylor Gindlesperger and Adhya Tandon also connected.

Xavier will play back-to-back games against Chandler High on Thursday (April 19) and Friday (April 20), the first at Chandler and the second at Xavier. The Gators will finish their season on Monday (April 23) with a home game against Gilbert Perry.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Gator Gabby earns spot on IU Cheer Team

Gabrielle “Gabby’’ Leier is now an Xavier Gator, but she soon will become an Indiana Hoosier!!

The senior cheerleader recently received word that she has made the Indiana University Competitive and nationally ranked Cheer Team.

She was selected from among hundreds of students and has scholarships to IU for academics.

And you just might see Leier in the Olympics one day because Cheer is now recognized as an Olympic sport. Indiana’s coaches also coach the Olympic and Team USA teams.

Congratulations, Gabby!!
Xavier's Gabby Leier.

Corona del Sol gets Gators' attention

No time is a good time to lose, but there are certain points in the season that might be better than others for such an outcome.

Take Monday (April 16), for instance.

It was the final regular season match for Xavier Prep’s beach volleyball team. The opponent was Tempe Corona del Sol, the Gators’ rivals on the sand and in traditional indoor volleyball.

The result was a 3-2 Corona del Sol victory, but if Xavier had to be saddled with a setback, this was the time and not in the Division I state tournament that begins April 24.

Losing to a team with the caliber of Corona del Sol is something that might be beneficial for the Gators, keep them on their toes, not allowing for complacency to set in.

“I was walking past Ben (Maxfield, Corona del Sol beach and indoor coach) between sets and we said, “Another barn-burner,’ ’’ said Xavier coach Tim McHale.

Each team split the first four matches, meaning that the deciding game would come down to Xavier’s Trinity Cavanaugh and Taylor Lopez and Corona del Sol’s Brooke Nuneviller and Maddy Noble.

The games were about as close as one could get. Corona won both, 23-21 and 22-20. A player such as Nuneviller is tough to stop. She was the Beach Player of the Year as a junior in 2017 and was an outstanding indoor player, headed to the University of Oregon.

“We didn’t have any major faults,’’ McHale said. “You could roll the ball out on the sand 10 times and get 10 different outcomes. Both teams are that close.’’

Now the Gators (9-2) must wait to learn where they will be seeded. They have won the state title in each of the six years the sport has been in existence in Arizona.

As of Tuesday morning (April 17), the Arizona Interscholastic Association listed Xavier as the No. 5 team, one spot ahead of Corona del Sol but behind Goodyear Millennium, Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor, Tucson Salpointe Catholic and Gilbert Perry. Xavier’s other loss was to Salpointe.

As one of the top eight seeds, Xavier would host a first-round game and, if it wins, a second-round game. Semifinals are May 1 and finals on May 3, both at Gilbert Mesquite.

Monday, April 16, 2018

XCP has two seeded doubles teams in tourney

The Division I state tennis singles and doubles tournament will begin on Friday (April 20) and continue on Saturday (April 21) at the Gene Autry Sports Complex in northeast Mesa, and Xavier Prep has two seeded doubles teams.

Both singles and doubles players could have two matches on Friday.

Sophomores Erica Stutz and Emily Even are seeded third in doubles and senior Kate Straneva and sophomore Lorelei Glidden are seeded sixth. Senior Maddy Corley will represent Xavier in the singles bracket and is not seeded.

The first-round singles matches begin on Friday at 10:30 a.m. First-round doubles begin at 1:30 p.m. Second-round singles are at 4:30 p.m., second-round doubles at 5:30 p.m.

Corley opens against Erika Garcia of Laveen Cesar Chavez. If Corley wins that one, she would move on to the second round against either Jaidyn Snitker of Chandler High or Ana Badulescu of Chandler Hamilton.

Stutz and Even will face Casa Grande Vista Grande’s Giulia Conigiu and Maria Garcia. A Xavier win would set up a match against either Elizabeth Lopez and Kimberly Magana of Glendale Copper Canyon or Caroline Eaton and Clare Hodgins of Phoenix Sunnyslope.

Straneva and Glidden will play their first match against Khanh Nguyen and Fernanda Rojas of Glendale Independence. The winner will advance to the second round and will meet either Skyllar Rose and Stephanie Liu of Mesa Dobson or Hannah Mason and Annika Reimers of Mesa Westwood.

The team portion of the state tournament will begin on April 24 at the sites of the highest seeds. Tournament seeds will be announced later this week. As of Monday morning (April 16), Xavier was listed at No. 3 behind Scottsdale Desert Mountain and Hamilton.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Xavier tennis hitting its stride, state next

Xavier Prep’s tennis team played its final regular-season home match on Thursday (April 12) in a wind so strong that seemed as if it would require the players to be tethered to a stationary object such as the chain-link fence that surrounds the Stark Tennis Center.

With a 9-0 victory over Mesa Westwood in the books, the Gators now can unleash themselves in the Division I state tournament. The individual portion of the tournament begins April 20, and the team competition begins April 24. Seedings for both events are expected to be announced soon.

Xavier finished the regular season with a 12-2 record and the No. 3 spot in the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s rankings, behind No. 1 defending champion Scottsdale Desert Mountain and No. 2 Chandler Hamilton.

“All of our kids stepped up and did a great job,’’ said Xavier coach Laurie Martin. “It seemed like we played about half our season within one two-week period, didn’t get much practice, but that evened out and we have showed a lot of improvement.’’

Martin will have to move some of her players around for the individual tournament.

No. 1 player Tristanne Dechoux has been sidelined with a nagging injury of late and likely won’t be available. That normally would mean the spot would be taken by sophomore Erica Stutz. However, Stutz is expected to team with sophomore Emily Even in doubles and senior Maddy Corley would be entered in singles.

“Erica and Emily have had a good doubles season,’’ Martin said. “They are very coachable and they want to get better.’’

Martin thinks the team title will come down to one of the top three teams or nos. 4 through 6 – Tucson Rincon University, Mesa Mountain View or Scottsdale Chaparral.

Here are the results of Xavier’s final 3 regular-season matches . . .

Xavier 6, Phoenix Desert Vista 3


Desert Vista def. Erica Stutz (score unavailable)

Desert Vista def. Emily Even 6-3, 6-4

Maddy Corley def. Desert Vista 6-1, 6-2

Lorelei Glidden def. Desert Vista 6-0, 6-4

Kate Stegman def. Desert Vista 6-1, 6-2

Emily Good def. Desert Vista 6-3, 6-4


Desert Vista def. Stutz-Even 8-6

Gildden-Kate Straneva def. Desert Vista 8-3

Corley-Stegman def. Desert Vista 8-1

Xavier 8, Tempe Corona del Sol 1


Erica Stutz def. Corona del Sol 6-4, 6-2

Corona del Sol def. Emily Even 3-6, 6-2, 8-10

Maddy Corley def. Corona del Sol 6-3, 6-0

Lorelei Glidden def. Corona del Sol 6-2, 6-2

Kate Stegman def. Corona del Sol 6-1, 6-4

Emily Good def. Corona del Sol 6-4, 3-6, 10-3


Stutz-Even def. Corona del Sol 8-5

Glidden-Straneva def. Corona del Sol (score unavailable)

Corley-Stegman def. Corona del Sol 8-5

Xavier 9, Mesa Westwood 0


Lorelei Glidden def. Westwood 6-0, 6-0

Kate Stegman def. Westwood 6-0, 6-1

Emily Good def. Westwood 6-0, 6-1

Kate Straneva def. Westwood 6-0, 6-1

Phoebe Ransco def. Westwood 6-0, 6-1

Kate Greene def. Westwood 6-0, 6-0


Glidden-Straneva def. Westwood 8-1

Stegman-Good def. Westwood 8-1

Ransco-Greene def. Westwood 8-0

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Gator softball washed away by Queen Creek

Queen Creek’s balanced hitting proved to be too much to overcome for Xavier Prep’s softball team on Wednesday (April 11) as the visiting Gators dropped an 11-1 decision in a game shortened to five innings by the 10-run rule.

Xavier fell to 3-13-2.

Queen Creek’s big inning came in the third, when the Bulldogs scored five runs on just one hit, an error and six walks. The Bulldogs also left three runners on base.

Xavier scored its lone run in the top of the fifth. Macy Lee led off with a double and came all the way around when the next hitter, Cameron Martin, hit a short fly ball to right field that got past the Queen Creek diving right fielder for a triple.

Xavier faces a big challenge next week when it plays host to two-time defending 6A champion Chandler Hamilton on Tuesday (April 17) and then has a two-game series against Chandler High on Thursday (April 19) and Friday (April 20), the first at Chandler and the second at Xavier.

Lacrosse to make up game on Friday

The Xavier club lacrosse team’s match against Phoenix Desert Vista will be played on Friday (April 13) at 6 p.m.

The contest is a make-up from a March 23 match that was due to be played in Casa Grande.

Xavier will have two matches next week, a home contest against Gilbert High on Wednesday (April 18) and a road duel against Scottsdale Chaparral on Thursday (April 19).

Beach volleyball seniors, teammates defeat 'Slope

Taylor Lopez, left center and Kailey Klein, right center, display bouquets as part of the Senior Day celebration with their Xavier beach volleyball teammates on Wednesday. The Gators defeated Sunnyslope 5-0. (Xavier photo).

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Sign in, please -- big day for our senior athletes

Xavier Prep's latest college signees: Front row, from left, Mercedes Silva, Kyle Gunzy, Jordan Bassett, Caylie Wagner. Top row, Ericka Snopko, Caroline McClelland, Alex Diaz-Infante and Lanie Wagner (Xavier photo).

All that good penmanship finally came in handy.

It allowed eight Xavier Prep senior athletes to sign college letters of intent on Wednesday (April 11).

They are volleyball’s Ericka Snopko (Cal State-Bakersfield), cross country’s Caroline McClelland (Boston College), volleyball’s Alexis Diaz-Infante (Scottsdale Community College), volleyball’s Lanie Wagner (Lipscomb, Nashville, Tenn.), softball’s Mercedes Silva (Mississippi Valley State), swimming’s Kyle Gunzy (Loyola, Baltimore), softball’s Jordan Bassett (Claremont McKenna, Calif.), and lacrosse’s Caylie Wagner (Colorado State-Pueblo).

Congrats to all of these great Gators! We know you will do us proud at the next level!

Petznick becomes water park for lacrosse

With the temperature hitting triple digits for the first time this year, Xavier Prep school officials allowed the school’s club lacrosse team and the one from Phoenix Horizon to frolic briefly under the water “cannon’’ at halftime of their match at Petznick Field on Tuesday night (April 10).

In the second half, the Gators heated right back up. They outscored the Huskies 14-0 after intermission and went on to record their season-best offensive output in a 24-3 win.

Xavier inched closer to sea level (.500), putting its record at 5-6. Horizon slipped to 3-9.

The Gators had defeated the Huskies 10-6 in a match at Horizon on March 9. Xavier coach Rachael D’Angelo expected a similar type of game in this one, but her team took control early and did not let up.

“We made our cuts (moving toward the goal without the ball) very well, and we played very well as a team,’’ D’Angelo said.

She was very pleased about the play of her two captains, Sarah Minton and Caylie Wagner.

Minton scored eight goals and Wagner six.

Wagner provided what possibly was the play of the game when she won the draw to start the second half, scooped the ball up and headed directly toward the Horizon goal, scoring in the first 11 seconds.

Additional scorers for XCP were Emma Tawney (three), Tara Kobierowski and Kit Blouin (two each) and Grace Martinez, Caroline Andreen and Nina Mackey (one each).

Goalie Tanya Barakat played well, although Horizon did not get too close to her.

“It was a nice, quiet night for her,’’ D’Angelo said.

The Gators are due to face Phoenix Desert Vista in a make-up game on Friday (April 13). Starting time has yet to be determined.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Gators back in beach volleyball groove

After a week off for Easter Break, Xavier Prep beach volleyball coach Tim McHale wasn’t completely sure what he was going to get from his team when it played host to Phoenix Arcadia on Monday (April 9).

As anticipated, the match had its competitive moments. But Xavier managed to survive on another increasingly warm day 4-1.

Xavier raised its record to 8-1.

McHale issues the same reminder to his players during and after each match – that though the No. 1 pair often controls the team destiny, it isn’t going to happen every time out, that the 2s, 3s, 4s and 5s will have to make their presence felt.

One of those instances occurred against Arcadia. The Titans’ No. 1 team played very well in its defeat of XCP, and the Gators’ other four teams came through.

“It took awhile for us to shake off the rust (after the layoff), but we managed to take care of things,’’ McHale said. “We knew Arcadia would be a strong opponent, and they gave us a good fight.’’

McHale applauded the No. 2 pair of senior Taylor Lopez and junior Shannon Shields, who won 21-12, 21-9.

And even though the No. 1 team of junior Trinity Cavanaugh and senior Kailey Klein fell in two close games, 21-17 and 21-18, McHale said they have improved greatly since the middle of the season.

“So the final result wasn’t a true indication of what they have been doing, but you can see it out there in how they play,’’ he said.

He still is assessing which girls work the best together.

“We have 16 girls who can play, and we still want to see what they can do,’’ he said.

The Gators have three matches remaining in the regular season – all at home. They are Wednesday (April 11) against Phoenix Sunnyslope, Thursday (April 12) against Gilbert Perry and April 16 against Tempe Corona del Sol.

The Sunnyslope match will be intriguing because the Vikings are in their first beach season. The school has a traditionally strong indoor program and coach Amber LeTarte leads the beach team, “so they will be another challenge for us,’’ McHale said.

Sunnyslope is ranked fifth in Division I by the Arizona Interscholastic Association, one spot ahead of the Gators. Perry is third.

The match against Perry originally was to be held on Friday, but has been moved up one day to allow players from both sides to attend a funeral service on Friday for Alex DePriest, an indoor player from Phoenix Desert Vista who played with many of the Perry and Xavier players at the club level.

Monday’s results

Xavier 4, Arcadia 1

Arcadia def. Kailey Klein-Trinity Cavanaugh 21-17, 21-18

Taylor Lopez-Shannon Shields def. Arcadia 21-12, 21-9

Lydia Rush-Analy Carbine def. Arcadia 21-18, 21-10

Lauren Lykins-Grace Lincoln def. Arcadia 17-21, 21-15, 15-4

Serena Turner-Zaira Reyes def. Arcadia 21-12, 16-21, 15-7

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Versatility main ingredient for track and field's Sims

It’s not just track. It’s not just field. It’s track and field.

And Xavier Prep junior Jada Sims has and continues to put her mark on numerous events for the Gators.

She has established automatic state qualifying times/distances in the 100-meter hurdles (15.21 seconds) and the high jump (5 feet, 5 inches) – the latter a school record. And she has provisional state qualifying efforts in two other events – the long jump (17-9 ½) and the 300-meter hurdles (48.75).

On Friday (April 6) and Saturday (April 7), she will be competing in the annual Arcadia Invitational in Arcadia, Calif. She will be entered in the high jump and the 100 hurdles. She joined some of her Xavier teammates for practice on Tuesday (April 3) and Wednesday (April 4).

Meanwhile, a large contingent of Xavier athletes will invade Arizona State’s facility on Thursday (April 5) and Saturday for the annual Sun Angel Invitational.

Sims is excited about her improvements over the season and hopes for more in the weeks leading up to the Division I state meet on May 2, 4 and 5 at Mesa Community College.

Where does Jada Sims want to finish in her events? This photo says it all. (Photo by Don Ketchum).
Sims stands 6 feet tall. Her father, Jerome, was a college basketball player (6-7) at Youngstown State in the early 1990s and her older brother, Jerome III (6-1), recently completed his senior basketball season at Brophy Prep.

She really enjoys it when she hits her stride in the hurdles and negotiates her way over the high-jump bar and lands in the big, pillowy cushion.

“I’ve been doing the hurdles for a long time and I’ve always liked them,’’ she said. “In the high jump, when you make it over, there’s no other feeling like it.’’

The thought process is part of the equation. You must stay focused when you are involved in so many events, as Sims is.

“You want to make sure you are prepared, getting ready for each event, making sure your legs have recovered from the last event and make sure you do your stretching,’’ she said.

Having the proper footwork on the approaches in the high jump and long jump is essential.

Sims achieves a rarity of sorts with those events. She takes off from her left foot in the high jump and her right foot in the long jump.

She is thankful for the assistance she receives from the Xavier event coaches as well as the support of her family. Sometimes her dad will tape her meets and they will sit down and go over the results.

Although her senior year is a year away, Sims already is starting to think about reaching her goal of competing in college. She knows that academics also are a key factor. She said she has a 4.0 grade-point average at XCP. She is taking an advanced computer science course and is aiming toward that area to pursue at the next level.

“I enjoy all of it,’’ she said. “I know that track and field might be considered as individual sports by some people, but there is a lot of team things that are involved. It’s fun to be out here working with my teammates.’’