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, May 3, 2019

Gators rise from depths to claim 7th beach crown

Somehow, some way, Xavier Prep’s Gators got the job done.

They won the Division I state beach volleyball championship for the seventh time in eight tries on Thursday night (May 2) at Casteel High in Queen Creek, defeating Gilbert Perry 3-2 in a battle between the top two seeds.

That’s the way it should be.

It almost didn’t happen.

Xavier’s No. 5 duo of Analy Carbine and Katie Anthony won, the No. 4 team of Grace Lincoln and Shea Sciarappo  lost, as did the No. 3 team of Lydia Rush and Tori Burton.

Shift to the No. 2 match between Xavier’s Abby Converse and Serena Turner, who faced Perry’s Morgan Mann and Matea Suan. Xavier won the first game 21-19 and was trounced in the second game 21-7. That meant that all the Perry team had to do was win the third game and the title would be theirs, winning three matches as a team.

Converse and Turner held firm and won 15-7, putting the match even at 2-2 with the No. 1’s, Xavier seniors Trinity Cavanaugh and Shannon Shields and Perry’s Erin Myers and Noelle Weintraub, going after the big prize.

Perry won the first game, 21-18, Xavier the second, 21-17. One last race to 15 points in the third game, winner take all.

Cavanaugh and Shields maintained their composure and won Game 3, 15-8, allowing the Gators to atone for a loss to Perry in last year’s quarterfinals, before Perry went on to earn the title.

This time, the Gators were able to climb back to the top.

They finished 15-0, Perry 14-2, with both losses to Xavier.

Xavier's Gators are back as the beach volleyball state champs!! (Photo by Don Ketchum).
“It was a great ride,’’ said Xavier coach Tim McHale, who was assisted by Kristen Jones.

He gathered the players together before the title trophy was presented and said, “I am unbelievably proud of this team. Everybody thought we were dead tonight, but we dodged the Grim Reaper.’’

He acknowledged that Converse and Turner had the most important win of the night.

“If they don’t come back and win that, Shannon and Trinity would not have had the chance to do what they did,’’ he said.

Said Shields, “That win by the No. 2’s motivated us. Before our game, we (Shields and Cavanaugh) talked about just going out and having fun, giving it everything we had and not worrying about making mistakes.’’

Shields also won an indoor volleyball title for Xavier in the fall. Which was better?

She grimaced a bit, then smiled and said, “Ooh, don’t ask me that question. The two titles are equally amazing.’’

McHale called the win “really rewarding. This match could have gone either way.’’

Cavanaugh said that taking the trophy “was a total team win. We worked hard all year and we weren’t about to quit. That is our sand mentality.’’

Shields and Cavanaugh and Converse and Turner will be back at Casteel next week, starting on Tuesday (May 7) for the pairs tournament. Shields and Cavanaugh are seeded No. 4.


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