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.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Volleyball energy good, but execution . . .

It depends on which lens you look through.

A second-seeded volleyball team sweeps its first-round opponent in the state tournament, as Xavier Prep did with No. 15 Mesa Skyline on Tuesday night (Oct. 30) at Xavier.

Take one look, and it would seem a bit disconcerting because Xavier escaped with 26-24 wins in the first two games before finishing off the Coyotes with a 25-17 victory in Game 3. If a No. 2 team barely gets by against a No. 15, what will happen as the competition gets tougher over the remainder of the tournament?

A second look would have an optimistic focus. If the team has enough resolve to come back and win those two games instead of the opposite, it shows the team still has the motivation and the drive to succeed.

So where does that put the Gators?

Probably somewhere in between.

Xavier (30-9) moves on to the quarterfinals on Thursday night (Nov. 1) at home against No. 10 seed Phoenix Pinnacle. First serve is at 6:30 p.m. The winner will advance to a 6A Conference semifinal match on Monday (Nov. 5) at Gilbert Highland against either No. 6 Phoenix Mountain Pointe or No. 3 Chandler Hamilton.

“I am glad that we were able to get out by winning those three,’’ said Xavier coach Lamar-Renee Bryant. They (Skyline) played lights out, but you have to find a way to win. At this point, you’re talking about ending someone’s season each time out.’’

Bryant was not pleased with the fact that her team missed nine serves.

“We will have to do better with that,’’ she said.

And there’s always other things to work on.

“Our energy was good, but our execution was suspect,’’ Bryant said.

Game 1 went back and forth. Xavier had a 24-22 lead, but Skyline battled back to tie it with a kill and a block. The Gators responded with a kill of their own and then got help from the Coyotes, who sent a return shot beyond the back line.

Game 2 was a virtual replica of the first encounter. Back and forth. Xavier held a 24-22 lead, and Skyline again tied it at 24. Junior Bri McKnight then took over for the Gators, making it 25-24 on a kill and getting the final point on a well-placed return shot.

Xavier jumped to a quick lead in Game 3, but Skyline hung in there and managed a 13-13 tie midway through. The Gators opened things up after that and got the win in a much more comfortable fashion than the first two.

Junior Jasmine Knight led the Gators with 12 kills, and McKnight had 11.

“They carried us,’’ Bryant said.

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