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, September 13, 2018

Gator volleyball, 5-0, heads for Vegas tourney

A relaxing bus ride to Las Vegas, including a stop at an In-N-Out burger joint, is a lot better for a volleyball team after a sweep than the other way around.

Xavier Prep’s Gators, who departed campus on Thursday afternoon (Sept. 13), are ready for another year in the prestigious Durango Classic, on Friday (Sept. 14) and Saturday (Sept. 15).

Their most recent conquest came on Wednesday night (Sept. 12) when they swept host Scottsdale Chaparral, 25-21, 25-14 and 25-16.

Xavier is now 5-0 heading into the Durango.

The Gators, who had swept Tempe Corona del Sol the night before, began the first game by giving up the first three points and later trailing 6-2.

Coach Lamar-Renee Bryant attributed some of that to players’ concerns in regard to a teammate’s injury during warm-ups.

“Once we settled down, we were able to play better,’’ Bryant said.

Xavier took its first lead at 14-13 and was able to hang on the rest of the way.

The more familiar version of the Gators showed up for the second game and had things well in hand.

The third game featured a battle within a battle. Xavier senior setter Shannon Shields, perhaps the best passer in the state, showed she also can play the power game with three key kills in a five-point stretch in the middle of the game.

The reason? Standing on the other side of the net was Chaparral outside hitter Amber Stivrins, Shields’ club teammate with the Arizona Storm and a future teammate when both athletes play at the University of Louisville starting next year.

Bragging rights?

“I guess you could say that,’’ Bryant said.

The coach added that senior outside hitter Hayley Nash “did a great job in the middle’’ on both offense and defense, as did junior middle blocker Jasmine Knight. And sophomore outside hitter Serena Turner continues to develop into a go-to presence.

Xavier begins play in the 64-team Durango with three matches on Friday at Coronado High in the suburb of Henderson, Nev. The Gators are in Pool 8 along with La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad, Calif.), Beckman (Irvine, Calif.) and Centennial (Las Vegas).

Bracket and championship play will be held Saturday at Durango High.

Four other Arizona teams are entered in the event – Gilbert Campo Verde, Tucson Ironwood Ridge, Queen Creek and Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor.

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