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.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Xavier sizzles in summer, captures hoops title

Xavier Prep basketball players were happy to add to their summer wardrobe on Monday night (June 25).

The Gators were presented T-shirts by coach Jennifer Gillom, signifying the team’s 48-39 victory over Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor for the Blue Bracket championship in the Thunderbird High summer league in north Phoenix.
Xavier Prep basketball coach Jennifer Gillom hands out championship T-shirts after a win over Sandra Day O'Connor in the Thunderbird High summer league (photo by Don Ketchum).
Xavier had earned a trip to the final earlier in the day with a 51-40 victory over Phoenix Pinnacle.

“They (Sandra Day O’Connor) were a scrappy team. They gave us a run for our money,’’ Gillom said.

While Xavier probably played better overall against Pinnacle, you could not discount the effort put into this game. The Gators did what they were supposed to do at the right time and kept Sandra Day O’Connor’s offense off balance for most of the game.

Senior guard Paris Moore had one of her best all-around games of the summer, finishing with 13 points and several steals and rebounds. With point guard Leilani McIntosh unavailable due to club-team commitments, Gillom kept urging Moore, a defensive specialist, to be more aggressive on offense.

“She was really attacking the basket,’’ Gillom said.

Moore drew numerous fouls on her journey through the lane.

McIntosh was on the bench for the finale but did not suit up, due to a tweaked ankle.

Another Gator who had missed weekend play because of club commitments was junior Elysia Fleetwood. She returned to action and brought an added presence in the rebounding department and provided another option with ball-handling if her teammates needed to get out of trouble.

Gillom was understandably happy after the win.

“I’ve been seeing a lot of great things out here, and I can only imagine what we will be capable of doing when we start practice and playing games for real,’’ she said. “This makes all of us very optimistic.

“Our entire roster . . . the girls really believe they can win.’’

Xavier’s JV team also participated in the league and fell to Sandra Day O’Connor 51-33 in the semifinals of the JV White Bracket. The Gators claimed third place.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Menne wins state junior golf title No. 3

The story of Xavier Prep’s Ashley Menne continues to grow and grow.

The junior-to-be added another significant chapter on June 19 and 20 when she became the first person to win three consecutive Arizona State Junior Golf Championships at the Talking Rock Golf Club in Prescott.

About a week after earning her second straight Golfer of the Year award, Menne went out and put together back-to-back 6-under-par 66s, with no bogeys. That allowed her to win this tournament by 11 strokes.

Xavier also was well represented elsewhere on the leader board.

Junior Breyana Matthews and sophomore  Bailee Tayles tied for 11th. Junior Millburn Ho tied for the 15th spot. Senior Eve Worden tied for 21st, and senior Emily Cons tied for 34th.

Defense takes over for Gators in playoffs

When the offense is sputtering like a car engine on a cold morning, there is still a remedy that can keep a basketball team in the game.

It is called defense.

“What I tell the team is, defense can make up for a lot of things. It helps everything,’’ said Xavier Prep coach Jennifer Gillom.

On Sunday (June 24), it helped Gillom’s Gators defeat Phoenix Sunnyslope 38-23 in a Blue Bracket playoff game for the Thunderbird High Summer Girls Basketball League in north Phoenix.

Xavier (6-3) advanced to Monday’s (June 25) semifinals against Phoenix Pinnacle. Tipoff is 3 p.m. The semifinal winner will move on to the championship game at 8 p.m.

Xavier also remains alive in the JV White Bracket. The Gators defeated Phoenix Greenway 33-23 on Sunday and will play a semifinal game at 10 a.m. on Monday against Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor. If Xavier wins that one, it will play for the bracket championship at 5 p.m.

The Xavier varsity trailed early 6-2 against Sunnyslope before going on a 12-0 run. The Gators’ offense did not operate as smoothly as it did during a win over Glendale Cactus in Saturday’s (June 23) opening round.

The Gators were hit and miss in the second half, but their pressure defense kept the Sunnyslope offense out of the passing lanes and forced the Vikings into higher-percentage shots.

Addison Putnam hit three 3-pointers for Xavier in the game, and Mackenzie Coder added another from long range.

Still, the Gators did not have quite the same offensive spark as when senior point guard Leilani McIntosh runs the show. She was unavailable on Saturday and again Sunday, as was junior forward Elysia Fleetwood.

Gillom has been running more of a basic offense during McIntosh’s absence, as to not have the guards who remain attempt to do too much.

“They’re learning,’’ she said. “We are glad they are able to get some experience.

“Overall, I’d say I am happy with the way we are playing. I don’t look at the shots so much as I look at the intensity, how they play generally and the execution. We are working on it.’’

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Winning mentality key for Gator hoops

The development of their basketball skills has been coming along nicely for Xavier Prep’s Gators in the Thunderbird High girls’ summer league over the last few weeks.

Now they are in the tournament, and it is time for them to develop a winning mentality.

For much of the first half against Glendale Cactus on Saturday (June 23), the Gators did not show that trait very much. They trailed by five points at halftime.

The second half was a different story. Xavier outscored the Cobras 36-18 in the next 20 minutes to earn a 55-42 victory. And the Gators did it without two of their top players, senior point guard Leilani McIntosh and junior forward-guard Elysia Fleetwood, who were not available.

Xavier heads to the next round, on Sunday (June 24) with a 4 p.m. game against either Phoenix Sunnyslope or Laveen Cesar Chavez. Semifinals and finals are Monday (June 25).

Gators coach Jennifer Gillom said her team learned to play without a key player last season when star forward Montana Oltrogge had to sit out for a few weeks with shin splints. They are facing a similar scenario now.

“You have to keep playing, rely on what you do best,’’ Gillom said.

One player who stepped up in a big way on Saturday was senior guard Addie Putnam. When McIntosh is in the lineup, Putnam sits out on the wing much of the time, letting the ball fly on her trademark 3-point shot.

Against Cactus, her role expanded to ball-handling in addition to shooting, and playing defense. She appears to be in much better shape than last season, with more quickness and agility, and Gillom said part of that can be attributed to Putnam’s desire to earn a college scholarship.

Putnam finished with 29 points.

Another player making an impact was sophomore Tori Saucedo. She scored eight points, all in the second half.

“She was a big contributor out there. She is kind of quiet, but she does some good stuff,’’ Gillom said. “She is another option for us, and that’s what we need.’’

The coach wants her players to continue to be aggressive, just like they were in the second half.

“The players made up their minds that they were going to attack the basket,’’ she said.

They will need improvement with their rebounding by keeping their opponents away from the basket as much as possible. Cactus often put up second and third shots in the first half, but that didn’t occur nearly as much in the second half as Xavier came back.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Beach volleyball fun is within reach

What a difference a year makes.

When Xavier Prep held its first beach volleyball summer camp in 2017 on the school’s new Cavanaugh Courts, it had eight participants.

In 2018, those girls are back and brought a full contingent of players with them – 35 in all – as the (hopefully) future Gators stick their toes in the sand this week.

The camp began Monday (June 18) and runs through Thursday (June 21) and is led by XCP beach coach Tim McHale, assistant Kristen Preach and a handful of varsity players who will lead the team next spring.

Each day focuses on certain skills. During the first day, for example, it was passing the ball with consistency. The second day, service. The third day, hitting, along with photos and commemorative T-shirts. The last day was due to feature brief competitive matches.

“It’s a credit to these girls to wake up early (camp runs from 7-9:30 a.m.) and make sure they are hydrated,’’ said Preach, a former indoor player at Xavier and Grand Canyon University in Phoenix who also assists with Xavier’s indoor team.

“There are a lot of younger players (beginning with fifth graders to be in the next school year) and it’s cool to see. The game is growing so much.’’

There are a few players with club experience, but beach is a whole new game. Instead of six players on the court at a time, there only are two. There is a significant difference when it comes to strategy, where to move and being more athletic.

“It’s how you move in the sand, and the surface is an issue in itself instead of the wood floor,’’ Preach said. “The (beach) court is a bit smaller. You have to adjust your swing and there definitely are more contacts (with the ball). There’s not much standing around. And you find out that it’s still a game of momentum.’’

As the temperature rises, players are instructed to take frequent breaks and take on more fluid while resting in the shade of the fence that surrounds the courts as well as sitting under the blue Xavier canopies.

The smaller players are not as big or strong as their older sisters, but they did not shy away from the activity. They were there, diving in the sand and trying to get as much power on their swings and distance on their serves.

Good communication is essential for beach players. Calling for the ball – “mine, mine, mine’’ – and talking about which player is going where helps in achieving success.

McHale, who coached Xavier to six straight beach titles from 2012-17, explained terminology and had his varsity players demonstrate the differences in positioning for beach in contrast to indoor.

He said one of the most important things about setting is to try to position yourself by facing in the direction you want the ball to go. Your teammate knows where the ball is going, but the opponent might be a step or two behind.
Great job, campers and coaches !!

Gators get their share of time in summer hoops

In basketball summer leagues, winning is a goal but not the only goal.

There is the aspect of giving as many players as much playing time as possible, trying to balance the minutes.

Xavier Prep coaches have been doing just that in the Thunderbird High summer league, and Tuesday’s (June 19) game against Scottsdale Chaparral was a prime example.

The Gators feature about 15 players and doing the math, means three waves shuttling in and out of the lineup.

Against Chaparral, the defending 5A Conference champion, the defending 6A runner-up Gators looked good at times, not as much at others. Some of the girls got limited experience on the varsity last season, others will be up from the junior varsity this winter, along with a key transfer.

Xavier had leads at various points but were unable to hold on, falling 43-38.

The Gators are 4-2 entering their “regular season’’ finale against Cave Creek Cactus Shadows on Thursday (4 p.m.). The focus then shifts to a playoff over the weekend. It will be a “one (loss) and done’’ format, and Xavier’s first game will be Saturday (June 23) against Glendale Cactus at 11 a.m.

Xavier scored the game’s first basket off a steal and layup by guard Paris Moore, a senior to be. By the time that XCP scored again, it trailed 13-4. Nine of Chaparral’s first 13 points came on 3-pointers.

The Gators managed to get back into it, pulling to within 19-17 at the half (games are played in 20-minute halves with a running clock).

Senior point guard Leilani McIntosh went to work early in the second half, scoring seven of Xavier’s nine points in a 9-0 run, with Moore scoring the other bucket on another steal.

The well nearly went dry for the Gators as Chaparral responded with a 17-2 run. Xavier made another challenge, pulling to within 39-35 with 1:34 on two free throws by McIntosh. Chaparral then converted four of its own foul shots to maintain its advantage.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Girls have a (basket) ball at summer camp

It’s amazing what a trip to the 6A Conference championship game can do for a basketball program.

All you have to do is take a quick peek inside Xavier Prep’s Activity Center this week, at the swarm of girls attending the annual basketball camp.

Xavier coach Jennifer Gillom said she has 37 campers here probably one of the most attended camps in recent memory.

The daily sessions run from 2-4 p.m. and feature a wide range of drills to discover and enhance skills at various “stations,’’ as well as brief 3-on-3 games.

Gillom is assisted by junior-varsity head coach Laura Forbes and freshman coach Wendy Woudenberg. There also are close to 10 of Gillom’s current players who will return this winter, as well as the recently graduated power forward Katie Hassett.

Gillom surveys the beehive buzzing with activity and smiles.

“You can see it (enthusiasm) out there. You always have that with a new bunch, but this one seems to have even more. We are really happy for the interest. When you start winning, people notice.’’

Monday’s (June 18) first day started off with a game that Gillom called “Pac-Man.’’

It featured dribbling along the lines of the court, with the campers being followed by those wearing yellow jerseys chasing after them, much like the Pac-Man video game. If a camper is touched by the yellow jersey, they have to sit out.

There is more dribbling after, then shooting, starting with the proper way to place the ball in the hand before releasing it. Agility and hand-eye coordination were tested with a three-player “weave’’ up and down the floor.

Work at the stations then took over. Hassett, one of the state’s top rebounders last season, showed the younger ones how it’s done, not standing directly under the basket because rebounds would be few. She suggested taking a few steps back.

Gillom planned to add a few new drills each day and review the ones previously introduced.

“Some girls have played on a team, but we are still giving them a ton of new stuff, how we do things here at Xavier,’’ she said.

Among the group are about 15 girls who will be freshmen this fall, all eager for a chance to try out for the freshman team.

“Everybody is learning how to communicate, learn about leadership. We are excited to see how far they can go,’’ Gillom said.

Notes – After camp on Monday, Gillom traveled to Thunderbird High in north Phoenix to lead the varsity team in a summer-league game.

Xavier defeated Phoenix Horizon 53-43 to run its record to 4-1. The Gators were due to play again on Tuesday (June 19) at 5 p.m. against Scottsdale Chaparral. Their final “regular season’’ game will be played on Thursday (June 21) at 4 p.m. against Cave Creek Cactus Shadows.

Xavier will play a “playoff’’ game on Saturday (June 23) at 11 a.m. against Glendale Cactus. The playoffs are in a “one and done’’ format. If the Gators win, they would play again on Sunday (June 24) at 4 p.m. against either Laveen Cesar Chavez or Phoenix Sunnyslope. Semis and finals are on Monday (June 25).

**The Thunderbird league also has a JV division. Xavier was 2-3 after Monday’s play.

The JV division also will have a “playoff,’’ with the first game on Sunday at 11 a.m. against either Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep or Phoenix Greenway.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Gators' Ferry is Gatorade's Arizona Soccer POY

Another Gator earns another Gatorade award.

Senior-to-be Kyla Ferry joins an impressive list of Xavier athletes from across all sports over the years to earn the prestigious Gatorade Girls Soccer Player of the Year award for Arizona.

The award is presented to the candidate judged best for her athletic accomplishments, her work in the classroom and her character and community involvement.

Ferry now is under consideration for the Gatorade National Player of the Year, which will be announced soon.

Ferry, a forward and midfielder, helped Xavier capture its second straight 6A state championship as a junior by leading the team with 20 goals and 12 assists. She has 46 goals and 20 assists for her career and figures to build on those numbers in her senior season.

She also has a 4.14 weighted grade-point average. And she works in the community as a tutor and youth soccer coach. And she is a volunteer for an organization that helps victims of domestic violence.

Both the player and the school will receive a trophy signifying the accomplishment and the school will receive a large banner to put on display. Gatorade also will donate $1,000 in Ferry’s name to a sport-based youth community organization of her choice.

Ferry also was the azcentral Player of the Year and has committed to study and play in college at the University of Colorado.

The Xavier community is proud of Kyla and looks forward to watching her play in 2018-19.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Valley Vista hoops still has upper hand vs. XCP

Xavier Prep’s basketball team carried a 3-0 record into its game against Surprise Valley Vista on Monday night (June 11) in the Thunderbird Summer League, a rematch of last season’s 6A Conference state championship game.

Unfortunately for the Gators, the result was pretty much the same. Valley Vista picked up a 57-47 victory, similar to the 68-55 defeat of XCP in the title game.

Xavier (3-1) now has the rest of this week off before finishing the summer league “regular season’’ with three games next week, on Monday (June 18) vs. Phoenix Horizon at 9 p.m., on Tuesday (June 19) vs. Scottsdale Chaparral at 5 p.m. and Thursday (June 21) vs. Cave Creek Cactus Shadows at 4 p.m.

Coach Jennifer Gillom also will be leading a week-long summer camp next week at Xavier.

Girls fine-tune their softball skills during camp

Girls with a fondness for softball are getting a first-hand look at what the sport is all about as they participate in Xavier Prep’s annual summer softball camp this week.

The camp began on Monday (June 11) and wraps up on Thursday (June 14). Workouts ran from 8-11 a.m. each day. Fundamental instruction was held on XCP’s Petznick Field, and the second half of the day featured a game in the cooler climate of Vestar Hall.

Most  of the camp was led by varsity assistant Joe Bogart, JV coach Raul Vega and freshman coach Denise Macrina. Also helping out were two seniors-to-be for 2018-19, first baseman Makynlee Schmidt and second baseman Analisa Roman. The Xavier varsity will have a new head coach next spring, Brad Downes.

The daily agenda featured different elements every day. Throwing, fielding and hitting off tees.

One of the most important aspects to learn, according to Bogart, is baserunning. There is the decision whether to tag up on a fly ball, or be able to quickly return to the original base.

There were between 15-20 attendees, ranging from upper elementary school levels to incoming freshmen.

“In past years, we’ve been overloaded with one group or another, but this year we are pretty balanced and the younger players have been mixing well with the older ones,’’  Bogart said.

“They have all come in here with pretty good attitudes. It’s a chance to learn and have fun at the same time.’’

Bogart said that some of the players who have been in past summer camps eventually reached the varsity level.

A couple of catcher candidates received behind-the-plate instruction from Bogart.

“We want them to learn to become a “pitcher’s catcher,’ ’’ Bogart said. “You want to help your pitcher out in any way you can, including strike calls.’’

The final day on Thursday was to have a brief workout, followed by cooling off on the field with a Slip ‘n Slide water-slide device.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Menne, Ferry highlight XCP award winners

Being recognized with an award for all of the hard work you put in as an athlete or a coach never really gets old.

And at Xavier Prep, with every year brings another opportunity and the Gators don’t disappoint.

The third annual azcentral high school sports awards was held Sunday night (June 10), and Xavier was well represented at Arizona State’s Grady Gammage Auditorium in Tempe.

XCP had three repeat winners from 2017 – Golfer of the Year Ashley Menne, Golf Co-Coaches of the Year Sr. Lynn Winsor and Tui Selvaratnam and Soccer Coach of the Year Barb Chura.

The newcomer to the group was Soccer Player of the Year Kyla Ferry.

Recent XCP graduates Lanie Wagner (volleyball) and Kaitlyn McCoy (swimming) were among the three finalists for their respective sports. And sophomore Erica Stutz was in the final eight for tennis.

The best thing about Menne and Ferry is that they will be back at Xavier in 2018-19 for another chance to do it again. Menne will be a junior and Ferry a senior.

Both players and their coaches led their respective teams to state championships. Menne was state tournament medalist for the second straight year as Xavier won its seventh straight state crown and 35th overall. Menne also is one of the top junior golfers in the nation and state and already has committed to study and play at ASU.

The soccer team won its second straight state title. Ferry was the leading scorer with 20 goals and 12 assists. After she graduates in 2019, she will move on to study and play for the University of Colorado.

Xavier also had two other finalists for Soccer Player of the Year – senior goalkeeper Kinsey Ehmann and defender Nicole Hook. Hook scored the only goal of the game in a 1-0 win over Gilbert Perry for the state title.

Congratulations to all of these Gators !!

Monday, June 11, 2018

Hand-eye drills important for badminton campers

Learning how to play badminton is not as easy as one might think. It involves a great deal of hand-eye coordination and good footwork.

So you have to start somewhere, and Xavier Prep is putting a group of about eight young players (grades 6-8) through basic drills at its annual summer camp at the XCP gymnasium. The camp is being held in the middle of the afternoons. Instruction began Monday (June 11) and continues through Friday (June 15).

This year’s camp is being led by former Xavier coach Nancy Meyer, with assistance from Gators soccer coach Barb Chura.

Some of the introductory work involved using a grip on the racket that has positioning similar to shaking hands with another person. The players hit the bird back and forth without a net at first, then graduated to the courts with nets.

Also on the agenda was the thought process of where to send the bird over the net after making initial contact on the serve.

Perhaps we will see some, if not all of these girls, play for Xavier in future years.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Gators' Silva makes her pitches in All-Star Game

New Xavier Prep alumnus Mercedes Silva played a key role in Wednesday night’s (June 6) 6A Conference Senior All-Star Game at Scottsdale Community College.

Silva was one of five pitchers who helped the Red team defeat the Blue 6-3.

Way to go, Mercedes !!

Promising players participate in volleyball camp

Indoor volleyball is a fall sport for high school players in the state of Arizona, but it also extends through club ball as well as summer camps for younger girls, such as the one this week at Xavier Prep.

XCP coach Lamar-Renee Bryant and freshman coach Jamie Itule put the incoming freshman group of 32 through their paces in the afternoons and 51 seventh and eighth graders in the mornings at the Activity Center.

Several of Bryant’s returning varsity players were on hand to assist with various drills. The girls concentrated on different aspect of the game each day (on this day, it was defense), with scrimmaging set for the final day on Friday (June 8).

“It’s good for the younger girls to interact with some of the varsity girls that they have come to watch during the season,’’ Bryant said.

Many of the older camp attendees have experience in club ball for at least one year and as many as three.

“They have the experience, which helps,’’ Bryant said.

The coaches stressed the importance of fundamentals, playing with other girls who you don’t know much about and developing a team mentality, “and the way we do things here at Xavier,’’ Bryant said.

On this day, the girls worked on positioning for receiving a serve, bending slightly at the knees with fists together in front of them. If the ball comes over the net at them with a low trajectory, they are instructed “to just get the ball in the air,’’ i.e., keep it alive to allow a teammate to get to it.

Freshman campers are ready for the ball to descend while another awaits its turn (Photo by Don Ketchum).

Two girls who showed some promise and expect to try out for the freshman team this fall are Alexa Shiner and Emma Soderstrom. Both have club experience, but they were eager to learn.

Like some of the other girls in camp, Shiner’s schedule also includes summer school.

“You want to come in here so you can get used to the coaches’ coaching style,’’ Shiner said. “We expected a lot of drills and fundamentals.’’

Said Soderstrom: “You want to get a feel for things and how you might fit in the program.’’

Shiner added that working on improving the skills will help lead to a better future.

Soderstrom said it’s about playing as steady as possible, “having the right approach and playing the game when it’s 0-0 at the beginning or 25-24 late in the game.’’

Both girls appear to have the strength and some of the jumping ability that could lead to roles as outside hitters. They said Bryant told them of trying to land on both feet after jumping, which will help them with their balance and lessen the chances of rolling over on an ankle.

They said they have been to a few of the varsity matches, watching the Xavier team that was on the way to winning the state championship last season, and agreed that it helped to create even more energy in the gym for the camp.

XCP basketball takes shape in summer

Coming off what likely can be considered as the best season in school history, the 6A state runner-up Xavier Gators are back at it on the basketball court.

The team is participating in the 21st annual Thunderbird Summer League at Thunderbird High in north Phoenix.

Through Thursday (June 6), the Gators were 3-0 with a state title game rematch against Surprise Valley Vista just around the corner on June 11 at 9 p.m. The team plays its final three “regular season’’ games the following week, against Phoenix Horizon (June 18), Scottsdale Chaparral (June 19) and Cave Creek Cactus Shadows (June 21). Playoffs will follow.

The latest triumph came on Thursday, a 47-44 nail-biting win in overtime over Scottsdale Desert Mountain.

Games are played with two 20-minute halves and a running clock. There are no free throws until the last minute of the game and if there is a foul on a shot before that, the team that is fouled is awarded a point and another possession. If the basket is made, the team that is fouled gets the two points plus a bonus point.

Xavier head coach Jennifer Gillom, assistants Patrick Mangosing and Nikki Mulloy are trying to figure out which players fit best in which spots.

“Players will be playing a ton of different positions,’’ Gillom said.

One of the main objectives is finding girls who can play under the basket on a regular basis.

Xavier lost its two big players, Montana Oltrogge and Katie Hassett (both over 6 feet) to graduation.

Gillom had junior-to-be Elysia Fleetwood playing the middle on defense in the early going, due in part to the fact that she is one of the strongest players and has good agility.

Xavier probably should have won in regulation, but was ice-cold on free throws in the final moments.

“We need to work on those,’’ Gillom said.

Sophomore to-be Mackenzie Coder hit one free throw in overtime and senior Addison Putnam converted four. The last two gave Xavier a six-point lead with 11.3 seconds left, until Desert Mountain hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Seniors Leilani McIntosh and Paris Rasheed-Moore will be in their familiar backcourt spots, with Putnam on the wing launching those 3-pointers.

Gillom should get a lift from transfer wing/forward Kailey Appel, a sophomore who comes over from Mesa Red Mountain. She appears to have good court sense and knows where to be at the proper time, and there is a reason for that – her father, Martin, was the head girls coach at Red Mountain for about 20 years before resigning at the end of last season, in February.

Also, junior Tanya Barakat should provide a physical presence underneath. She played well for the junior varsity last season and was the goalkeeper for Xavier’s club lacrosse team.

Gillom wants to shuttle as many players as she can in and out of the lineup.

“That’s what these games are for,’’ she said. “It’s all a learning experience for us. I know I probably could win all of the games, but we need to learn what to do and when. We are going to make plenty of mistakes, and we need to continue to try and cut back on those.’’

Xavier Prep roster for

Thunderbird Summer League

(Listed alphabetically)

Kailey Appel So.

Tanya Barakat Jr.

Ireland Blim So.

Channing Coates So.

Mackenzie Coder So.

Cara Coffman Sr.

Elysia Fleetwood Jr.

Nadia Gonzalez So.

Truly Helton Sr.

Leilani McIntosh Sr.

Bianca Nava Sr.

Addison Putnam Sr.

Paris Rasheed-Moore Sr.

Sophie Sash So.

Tori Saucedo So.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Xavier tennis camp focuses on the basics

A group of 15 players ranging from grades 5 through 9 took to the Stark tennis courts on Monday (June 4) for the start of an Xavier Prep-hosted weeklong camp that emphasized the basics and above all, having fun.

XCP head coach Laurie Martin and some of her assistants guided the players through the session, which began at approximately 7 a.m. to avoid the hottest part of the day. The activity will continue daily through Friday (June 8).

“It is fun to be able to work with the younger girls and help get them started on what we hope will be a lifetime involvement with the game,’’ Martin said.

Some of these players eventually could wear the Xavier Royal blue, Kelly green and white. They would start by playing freshman tennis, which Martin oversees during the fall. She has a no-cut policy, which allows upwards of 70-80 to participate on a regular basis.

Martin said the players have various skill levels and at least have some exposure to the game rather than starting from scratch.

The players are placed in two groups. The courts are sometimes divided off and shortened and the tennis balls are color coded, with some easier to handle (i.e., not as much speed).

One of the most important starting points is the grip of the racket. The most basic grip is the Continental, almost like shaking hands or grabbing the handle of a hammer.

“To some, it doesn’t feel real comfortable at first. It kind of takes awhile to get used to,’’ Martin said. “It can affect the movement of the ball, with topspin, and makes it harder for the opponent to set up for the return.’’

The coach expects to see some improvement by the end of the week, but emphasizes to the players to continue to develop their skills with some additional coaching assistance from individuals who give lessons.

“They are going to get better. It just takes time,’’ Martin said.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Annual coaches meeting again proves productive

The Xavier Prep coaching staff, from freshman all the way up through varsity, had its annual meeting on Saturday (June 2). Coaches from all sports attended the eight-hour session at Founders Hall.

Athletic director Sr. Lynn Winsor opened the proceedings with a prayer and overview of her successful and well-respected stable of teams.

Winsor and her staff, including associate AD Tui Selvaratnam, Susan Contreras and Ronna Layne, went over a number of subjects in the school’s Coaches Handbook. Some coaches stepped to the podium to update colleagues on details of their sport.

Some subjects that drew attention were the sports philosophies of the Diocese of Phoenix, online education for coaches, such as fundamentals of coaching and concussions, the concussion-related Brainbook video, the importance of physicals, and working with parents.

Coaches listened to a report by beach volleyball athlete Abby Converse, who recently was named as XCP’s representative on the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s Student Leadership Committee.

Sports Web site guru Chris Pfaff spoke in regard to the team pages on the school’s athletic Web site and outlined efforts to refine/improve the pages. He also urged the coaches to do as much as possible to help promote athletes and the school. And he said he would like to add a feature page dedicated to Alumni on what graduated former athletes are doing.

Dean of Students Denise Macrina discussed possible discipline issues and uniform regulations.  Club sports and the non-athletic competitive sports were recognized, and use of the school’s facilities was reviewed.

Xavier’s outstanding athletic trainer, Laurie White, played a video on bloodborne pathogens and outlined her duties and those of her staff members. She also led a post-lunch refresher course on CPR with assistance from husband Chris White, the head athletic trainer at Brophy Prep, and Xavier assistants Hannah Gray and Katie Kendall.

A representative from the Positive Coaching Alliance had an in-depth presentation on various issues the coaches must deal with, in terms of motivation of athletes, and ways to guide them with a positive approach.

All of these pieces of the puzzle will be put into motion soon as the 2018-19 school year begins, so let’s continue to build on the school’s history of excellence!!

Friday, June 1, 2018

Brad Downes takes over XCP softball program

Xavier Prep’s softball program has a new boss.

He is Brad Downes, an assistant coach for the Gators in 2018 who takes over Carrie Markham.

Markham resigned after three seasons to return to her pitching instruction business full-time. She was 20-5 in her first season in 2016, was 8-15 in 2017 and 4-17-2 in the team’s most recent season.

Downes also is a coach for the Arizona Hotshots club team and serves as president of Hotshots Softball of Arizona, Inc. From 2009-17, he also was the softball and baseball coach at Horizon Honors High School in Ahwatukee.

According to Xavier athletic director Sr. Lynn Winsor, “Mr. Downes brings to Xavier’s softball program high school coaching experience and softball club involvement. We see Mr. Downes building on the foundation laid by Xavier’s former coaches and we anticipate an increase in interest and participation in the Xavier softball program.’’

Crew athletes establish role in growth of rowing

Interest in the sport of rowing (crew) has been embedded in the eastern U.S. for quite some time. The West is a different story, with not as many teams/schools involved, due in part to a wider geographical area.

There is growth, however, and the crew club program at Xavier Prep is doing its part to increase exposure to the sport in this region. Xavier is coached by Tonia Sackett and Peter Figgins.

The Gators have won five state championships and excelled in national competition over Memorial Day weekend in the Scholastic Rowing of America (SRAA) National Championship regatta on the Cooper River in Camden, N.J.
Memorial Day weekend was memorable for the Xavier Crew athletes. Above, coaches Tonia Sackett, left, and Peter Figgins, right, join bronze-medal celebration with the JV+4 group. (Photos courtesy of Xavier Crew).

Coach Tonia Sackett, right, goes over strategy with her girls.

Xavier (front boat) was in a fight to the finish.

Varsity and JV rowers were all smiles and ready to head home.

Ten athletes were on the trip. Five competed in the JV+4 and the other five were in the lightweight varsity+4.

The JV+4 is open to everyone who is not a senior. The seniors must row in a varsity category.

Xavier’s JV+4 was made up of Makenzie Ashton-Borrego (sophomore in 2017-18), Rachel Chung (junior), Tayler Killoren (sophomore), Lizzie Paddison (sophomore) and Maddie Wickers (junior).

Xavier earned the bronze medal in that event, finishing third out of 23 teams.

The Xavier boat beat its best time three times out of three races, getting faster with every race. The final two races were on Saturday (May 26).

“That is an incredible accomplishment,’’ Sackett said.

The lightweight varsity+4 reached the semifinals and were among the top 12 out of 21 entries.

That group consisted of Grace Driscoll (sophomore in 2017-18), Gia Magnoni (sophomore), Olivia Petrine (sophomore), Maddy Schwartz (sophomore) and Zoe Wasson (sophomore).

In addition, another rower, Elliana Steely-Judice, competed in singles. Sackett said she will transfer to Xavier for the coming school year and will be a sophomore.

“We are excited to have her joining us on campus and on the water this fall,’’ Sackett said.

Crew is a year-round endeavor for the Xavier girls. Regatta races are held in the fall and in the spring. There usually is at least one race in California each “season’’ and the team’s Tempe Town Lake home also has a race or two.

“It looks very promising for us, having a team so young that has gained valuable experience like this latest event,’’ said Sackett, who rowed collegiately at Duke and is an Oregon native.

Crew is a club sport, where the athletes receive their varsity letter (there also is a novice group). It is considered a non-profit organization and is a separate entity from the other sports at Xavier. The school does not fund the club’s expenses. Neighboring Brophy Prep also has a crew team.

Practices usually run from 4-6:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, also Saturday mornings. The team has conditioning and strength workouts at Xavier. Schedules are adjusted to accommodate final exams and holidays.

“The girls are very motivated, and the last month especially has been a lot of fun,’’ Sackett said. “It’s been great to see them work hard and apply themselves. It is a huge step up.’’

Xavier's Stutz is finalist for tennis award

Xavier Prep’s Erica Stutz has been selected as one of eight finalists for azcentral’s Girls High School Tennis Player of the Year.

The list will be trimmed to three at the annual azcentral Sports Awards event, which will be held June 10 at Arizona State’s Grady Gammage auditorium.

Stutz played in the Gators’ No. 1 slot for much of the season and teamed with fellow sophomore Emily Even to become one of the top doubles teams in the state, finishing as state runner-up in the Division I state tournament.