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.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

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.

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