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, March 7, 2019

Day turns to night, XCP wins beach classic

Did you hear that?

It sounded like the rooster was clearing his throat in anticipation of crowing the entrance of a new day.

At least that’s the way it seemed on Wednesday (March 6).

Darkness had descended on Xavier Prep’s Cavanaugh Courts as the beach volleyball teams of Xavier and Gilbert Perry staged a match for the ages. The contest lasted a full three hours, so long that people might have wondered if it would last until dawn instead of dusk.

Xavier won the Nos. 5 and 4 matches, but Perry, the defending state Division I champion, rebounded for wins in the Nos. 3 and 2 matches. Perry had defeated Xavier in the state quarterfinals last year.

A battle for supremacy was next between the No. 1s, Xavier’s Trinity Cavanaugh and Shannon Shields, and Perry’s Noelle Weintraub and Erin Myers.

The first game was a classic in itself, going back and forth, pendulum-like. It went beyond the 21-point mark before Perry emerged with a 27-25 victory. All the Pumas had to do was win one more game to secure the match.

Cavanaugh and Shields came back to pull even with a 21-17 victory in the second game. It was on to the 15-point third game. The sun was disappearing quickly and the clock was moving toward 7 p.m.

There was more back and forth to start the game, but the Xavier duo began to establish itself. The Gators were on the verge of winning when Shields, the Gatorade Player of the Year last fall for indoor, made a great save and Xavier earned the point for a 14-9 lead.

Perry wasn’t done yet. The Pumas scored two more points, but the Gators finally got point No. 15 for a 3-2 match win. Xavier players just barely saw well enough to locate their triumphant teammates and swarmed them.

“That was the longest game in Xavier beach volleyball history (now in its eighth year). We’ve had a couple of matches run long before, but nothing like this,’’ said Xavier coach Tim McHale.

“Everyone did a great job,’’ he said. “The 4s (Grace Lincoln, Shea Sciarappo) and 5s (Ania Hiler, Katie Anthony) pulled through, and this last one was an epic battle.’’

He said that Cavanaugh and Shields, both seniors, “are still learning to play together. In the last game, they were able to control their emotions. In the times that things didn’t go their way, they just said, “Let’s just put it behind us and move on.’ ’’

Shields said, “Playing in the dark was so hard. It was hard to judge what the ball was doing, or if it was floating on the serves.’’

Cavanaugh agreed.

“I was late to a few balls because it was tough to get a good look at their (Perry) arm speed,’’ she said. “We were aggressive with our serves, and getting the early lead helped.

“It was a great win for us.’’

Xavier, which already has one trip to Tucson, will make another drive south for its next match on March 13, against Tucson Salpointe Catholic at the Tucson Racquet and Fitness facility. First serve is 4 p.m.

Xavier Prep 3, Perry 2

No. 1 – Shannon Shields-Trinity Cavanaugh, X, def. Noelle Weintraub-Erin Myers, P, 25-27, 21-17, 15-11. No. 2 – Matea Suan-Canon Bongard, P, def. Serena Turner-Lydia Rush, X, 21-7, 21-15. No. 3 – Kylee Brinkerhoff-Morgan Seibel, P, def. Zaira Reyes-Tori Burton, X, 21-16, 16-21, 16-14.

No. 4 – Grace Lincoln-Shea Sciarappo, X, def. Ella Rud-Alyssa Montoya, P, 21-18, 21-19. No. 5 – Ania Hiler-Katie Anthony, X, def. Tatum Stall-Jillian Hatch, P, 21-15, 19-21, 15-9.

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