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.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Shields, Gators can rest easier after big win

Xavier Prep volleyball senior setter Shannon Shields was spotted sitting at the scorer’s table for Thursday’s (Sept. 6) freshman game and taking a quick nap.

She could use the extra rest. First of all, she had been under the weather, according to Gators varsity coach Lamar-Renee Bryant. And the Gators were going to be playing Phoenix Mountain Pointe, one of their top rivals over the last few seasons.

Shields and the Gators needed all the energy they could muster for this one. They jumped off to a 2-0 lead, only to have the Pride fight back to win the next two and force a fifth set.

Xavier regained its composure and played a solid fifth, earning a 15-7 win and a 3-2 match win overall at the Activity Center. The Gators are now 3-0 to begin the season, while Mountain Pointe dropped its first match after winning its first four. The match against Xavier was its second five-set encounter in as many nights.

Bryant was happy to escape with the win.

In the two losses, serving deserted the Gators and they did not seem as aggressive as they had earlier.

“We didn’t serve well. That’s not who we are,’’ Bryant said.

One thing was certain – the Gators played strong defense, led by senior libero Ashley Yeung and junior Bri McKnight on the back line and Shields and junior Jasmine Knight at the net.

Yeung, in particular, was a major factor. She brought her shovel and came up with dig after dig after dig. She even got one while sitting on the floor and finished with 23. Fans probably won’t see a better game from a libero.

Shields had 13 digs and McKnight had 12. Knight had 13 kills and several key blocks.

Yeung said it was important that the Gators “keep a positive mindset’’ in the wake of Mountain Pointe’s comeback.

“They were gaining more confidence and we were giving it to them,’’ Yeung said. “In the last game, we seemed to have a lot more energy. We celebrated every point, but we were focused on what we had to do to get the next one.

“We also were happy about all of the support we got from our fans.’’

During the break between the fourth and fifth games, Bryant said she told her players to stay disciplined.

“We were a little better with our serves,’’ she said. “We can be trouble for teams with our serves. We also needed for them to communicate with each other throughout the points, and they were able to do that.’’

Xavier has back-to-back road matches on Tuesday (Sept. 11) and Wednesday (Sept. 12), against Tempe Corona del Sol and Scottsdale Chaparral, respectively. Next weekend, on Friday (Sept. 14) and Saturday (Sept. 15), the Gators will be in Las Vegas for the annual Durango Classic, which features 64 teams from across the nation. Xavier won the Silver Division a year ago, winning six of seven matches.

The JV and freshman matches also went the distance (three sets each). The JV won, 22-25, 25-19 and 15-7, and the frosh won, 25-17, 21-25 and 15-7.

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