Bio

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 AIA365.com, the web site of the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Gators finally have something to smile about

It had been awhile since you could hear laughter coming from Xavier Prep’s post-game basketball huddle.

But the Gators could finally relax a bit on Sunday (June 23) after having completed their salvage mission.

After two rough games against Surprise Valley Vista in the Section 7 “Team Camp’’ and a third loss to Tucson Sabino, Xavier earned a seventh-place finish in the eight-team event with a 50-33 victory over Phoenix Horizon at the Activity Center.

The win was considered a bit higher on the noteworthy scale, given the fact that four XCP players sat out the contest with some nagging injuries as a precautionary measure, including promising freshman Mia Davis.

That meant that some of their teammates had to step it up, and they did so in impressive fashion.

Junior guard Victoria Saucedo led the way with 20 points. Senior post player Tanya Barakat scored six points, grabbed several key rebounds and played solid defense. And junior Channing Kehoe helped the Gators maintain their advantage in the second half with a pair of 3-pointers.

“It was great that those players stepped up,’’ said assistant coach Patrick Mangosing, filling in himself for head coach Jennifer Gillom.

“The ones that had injuries – they will be able to rest for at least a few weeks, maybe play some club ball and be ready for us when we start preseason practices,’’ Mangosing said.

Xavier had begun the Team Camp with a 29-point loss to Valley Vista in its opening game on Saturday (June 22), lost by eight to Tucson Sabino on Saturday to drop into the loser’s bracket, and had a 32-point setback to Valley Vista again on Sunday morning before turning things around in the afternoon against Horizon. Xavier had defeated Horizon 54-37 on June 6 in the recently completed Thunderbird (High) Summer League.

“We have a lot of youth and have made a lot of mistakes,’’ Mangosing said. “But we’re going to get better and do everything we can to get back in that arena (for the 6A Conference state tournament at Arizona State).

“Today (Horizon), we did not worry about who we were playing. We just went out and worked hard and were focused on ourselves.’’

Sunday’s Section 7 Women’s Team Camp Results

Championship – Gilbert Perry 67, Tucson Sabino 51

Third Place – Chandler Seton Catholic 53, Phoenix Pinnacle 47

Fifth Place – Surprise Valley Vista 60, Chandler Hamilton 32

Seventh Place – Xavier Prep 50, Phoenix Horizon 33

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Host Xavier hoops drops two in "Team Camp''

There’s really no other way to put it.

Xavier Prep’s basketball team needs a lot of work before the 2019-20 season begins.

The Gators opened the new Section 7 “Team Camp’’ on Saturday (June 22) with a lopsided loss to Surprise Valley Vista (66-37) and faded in the second half against Tucson Sabino (46-38) to fall into the loser’s bracket in the eight-team event at XCP’s Activity Center.

Xavier had a respectable 5-3 record in the Thunderbird (High) Summer League that wrapped up its regular season just a few days before.

But it was no secret that the competition in the Section 7 would be much better. The teams were selected by the Arizona Basketball Coaches Association.

Valley Vista, Xavier’s nemesis in recent years in 6A Conference state tournament play, jumped to a quick 5-0 lead over the Gators and never was seriously challenged after that.

The Monsoon made sure they had the upper hand most of the time by employing a stifling full-court press. Xavier knew how opponents felt the last few seasons when it used a similar defense. It often had trouble getting the ball past midcourt.

Freshman Mia Davis scored 14 points to lead the Gators, including a pair of 3-pointers.

The game against Sabino appeared it might be a different story as Xavier had a seven-point lead late in the first half. Xavier led by two at the break.

Xavier still led by two about midway through the second half (the teams played 16-minute halves), but Sabino went on a 10-0 run to lead by eight with 6:40 left.

Kamryn Doty, a junior-to-be at Sabino, had an outstanding effort from her guard spot. Xavier could not stop her as she drove and dished, often getting fouled in the process. She finished with 15 points, including 10 free throws.

Davis again led the Gators with 15 points, including three 3-pointers.

Now, less than 24 hours after its loss to Valley Vista, Xavier must play the Monsoon again in the loser’s bracket on Sunday (June 23) at 10:30 a.m. Valley Vista dropped into that spot with a narrow two-point loss to Chandler Seton Catholic. Depending on the outcome against Valley Vista, Xavier would play another game, at either 2:15 or 3:30 p.m.

Seton will meet Sabino in a winner’s bracket game at 8 a.m. Gilbert Perry will face Phoenix Pinnacle in the other winner’s bracket game at 9:15 a.m.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Gators 5-3 in summer hoops, higher level awaits

Xavier Prep basketball players are getting plenty of experience in the Thunderbird (High) Summer League.

They have faced decent competition in the league, but this weekend will move on to a higher level of play with a summer Section 7 “Team Camp’’ on Saturday (June 22) and Sunday (June 23) at Xavier.

The showcase event is overseen by the Arizona Basketball Coaches Association (AZBCA), and is sanctioned by the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA). There are eight girls’ teams from Arizona, chosen by the coaches’ association, and the boys’ list is expansive, including some out of state teams. The AIA is providing game assignments for officials.

There have been showcases in other areas of the country, usually in late June. This is the first year of such an event in Arizona. Xavier is the only site for the girls, at least for this year, while the boys will play in 10 gyms across the Valley. Boys sites are Xavier (on Friday), Brophy Prep, Phoenix Washington, Phoenix Central, Phoenix Moon Valley, Phoenix Sunnyslope, Glendale Apollo, Phoenix College (juco), Laveen Betty Fairfax and Phoenix Camelback.

The showcase is designed to allow college coaches to watch some of the area’s top players. For this year, only boys’ college coaches will view the competition and the AZBCA continues to advocate for the same parameters for the girls, according to AZBCA Executive Director Matt King, the former boys’ coach at Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor.

“David Hines (AIA Executive Director) and I said we didn’t want to do this without a girls’ presence,’’ King said. “Hopefully, this will lead to more involvement for them down the road.’’

The eight girls’ teams are Xavier, Tucson Sabino, defending 6A Conference champion Chandler Hamilton, Gilbert Perry, 2018 champion Surprise Valley Vista, Phoenix Pinnacle, Phoenix Horizon and Chandler Seton Catholic.

Xavier lost three key senior guards to graduation, but now has three freshmen to help fill in the gaps. One of the new players worth watching is Mia Davis, a forward who is a good shooter and has good ball-handling skills.

Davis scored 12 points, including a pair of 3-pointers, to help the Xavier “A’’ team defeat Glendale Cactus 72-22 in summer league play on Tuesday (June 18). The team had 12 players score in the contest.

The A team, one of two Xavier squads in the Thunderbird league, wrapped up its eighth and final game on Thursday (June 20) with a 46-31 win over Glendale Ironwood to finish 5-3. Xavier A will not play in the league’s postseason tournament, but its other team, Xavier “B,” will.  The “B’’ team finished its summer regular season at 2-5 with a 38-32 win over Phoenix Cortez on Wednesday (June 19).


X-Treme Apparel Women’s Bracket

Games at Xavier, unless noted.

Saturday

Tucson Sabino vs. Phoenix Pinnacle, 9:15 a.m. Chandler Hamilton vs. Phoenix Horizon, 10:30 a.m. Gilbert Perry vs. Chandler Seton Catholic, 11:45 a.m. Surprise Valley Vista vs. Xavier Prep, 1 p.m. Hamilton vs. Pinnacle, 2:15 p.m. Valley Vista vs. Seton, 3:30 p.m. Perry vs. Horizon, 4:45 p.m. Sabino vs. Xavier Prep, 6 p.m.

Sunday

Sabino-Xavier winner vs. Valley Vista-Seton winner, 8 a.m. Perry-Horizon winner vs. Hamilton-Pinnacle winner, 9:15 a.m. Sabino-Xavier loser vs. Valley Vista-Seton loser, 10:30 a.m. Third-place game, 1 p.m. Winner’s bracket championship, 2:15 p.m. (at Brophy). Seventh-place game (at Xavier), 2:15 p.m. Fifth-place game (at Xavier), 3:30 p.m.

Valuable experience gained at beach camp

Early on a recent morning, Tim McHale pulled his truck in front of Xavier Prep’s Cavanaugh Courts and checked the temperature.

77 degrees.

Come on, really? Isn’t this supposed to be summer in the desert?

Great weather, but just as important to the nearly three dozen players attending  Xavier’s annual beach volleyball camp is the quality of instruction they receive from McHale, the Gators’ head coach, and Kristen Jones, his assistant.
It's a great day for Xavier beach volleyball camp attendees. (photo by Kristen Jones)
Winning seven state championships in the eight years of the sport’s existence in Arizona also helps.

The four-day camp, which wrapped up on Thursday (June 20), featured 2 ½ hours of instruction each day.

The 6:30 a.m. start was indeed early (to avoid the heat), but the players didn’t mind, not with the weather the way it has been.

“They have all been here on time. They are chipper (energetic) and working hard,’’ McHale said.

When the summer camps started three years ago, McHale said there were 10 girls who showed up. This year, the number was 34. Most of the players were incoming ninth-graders.

Some of the girls have been out each year and some are daughters and sisters of Xavier graduates. Neighboring Brophy Prep also is in the mix, with the daughter of former Broncos and University of Arizona golfer Ted Purdy.

“The level of play is better than where we started. Some play year-round in beach or indoor. Some have played other sports,’’ said McHale, the Beach Volleyball 2019 Coach of the Year by azcentral.com.

One of the main elements on the last day was serving, the traditional form along with the “skyball,’’ where the server sends the ball high into the heavens, making opponents wonder if it will ever come down. McHale and Jones were assisted by a handful of players on the Xavier roster who are expected to return next spring.

Emphasis also was placed on the nuances of the game, along with ball control and strategy. Moving all over the court on the uneven sand surface also can be a challenge to the novice.

“There are good athletes out here,’’ McHale said. “We like to put them in situations that will make them successful, not make it so difficult so they become frustrated and find they don’t like this. We want it to be fun.’’

McHale said he gets the most enjoyment out of “just watching the kids play, see how they learn things. That’s what it’s all about.’’

And should some of the girls become Gators and help the school win another championship or two along the way, that’s not a bad thing, either.

Young basketball players thirsty for knowledge

Is  there a lot of interest for girls to participate in Xavier Prep’s summer basketball camp?

To find the answer, all you have to do is look on the top level of the retracted bleachers in the Activity Center.

There are water bottles of every size and color. According to Xavier coach Jennifer Gillom, there have been 50 girls in the camp that runs from Jan. 17-21 for girls in fifth through ninth grades.
A lot of water bottles for a lot of young ladies participating in Xavier Prep's annual summer basketball camp in the Activity Center (photos by Don Ketchum).

Xavier coach Jennifer Gillom is surrounded by young basketball players wanting to soak up every bit of information that they can about the game.
It’s almost difficult to believe, unless you count what the Gators have done in the last several seasons under Gillom, including back-to-back appearances in the 6A Conference state championship game.

Gillom said she expected 25 or 30 players, but when she discovered that the number had ballooned to 50, she was ecstatic.

“It was really, really a surprise,’’ she said.

“It’s great to see all these girls out here. I’d say the talent level is better than some that we’ve had in recent years.’’

With the sessions lasting two hours each day, it doesn’t leave a lot of time to dive deep into a lot of subjects, but Gillom believes the players can establish a good base.

“We put these girls at various stations, give them passing drills, running, screening, rebounding, defense and teamwork in game situations,’’ Gillom said. “Setting screens is interesting, because you probably won’t see that much in camps like this. We want them all to be better by the end of the week.’’

The sessions start with fun drills to create energy for the girls.

“We do that to get them focused, and we want to make sure they work hard,’’ she said.

Gillom is assisted by varsity assistant Patrick Mangosing, junior varsity coach Laura Forbes and about 15 players from the combined varsity and JV teams who will be returning to XCP this coming winter.

Players come from all over the area. Gillom isn’t sure whether any of them will wear Xavier blue – she just wants them to develop their skills so they can play somewhere.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

"Teardrops,' smiles part of badminton camp

The 10 girls participating in Xavier Prep’s annual summer badminton camp wrap up a full week’s worth of work on Friday (June 14), and are much the better for what they have learned.

Longtime XCP assistant coach Francis Hartojo, who will assume head-coaching duties this fall, put the campers through their paces in XCP’s Activity Center.

Helping Hartojo were his two assistant coaches this fall, Karina Magana and Laura Forbes, as well as a handful of team players who were juniors last year.

The girls had varying skill levels, but all showed some promise.

Hitting the bird and moving about the court were among the basic fundamentals that Hartojo tried to pass on.

Quite a bit of time was spent on “teardrop’’ volleys, where players hit the bird as high and seep as close to the back line as possible.

Having a good grip on the racket and good footwork (particularly on backpedaling) also were emphasized.

“We have some girls who have been picking things up pretty well. They are starting to get the idea,’’ said Hartojo, who also is an instructor at a facility in Mesa. “Some of the players go into this not really realizing all that is involved, that badminton can be a physical game. There can be a lot to learn.

“We are watching the footwork, the overhead shots, the “tears’ and “smashes,’ also a few finesse-type shots. There also is the competitive aspect.’’
                                                                                                      .

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Fleetwood helps stabilize Gator hoops

Xavier Prep’s basketball team will have three talented freshmen to the mix this coming winter, but the player the Gators might rely on the most will be senior guard-forward Elysia Fleetwood.

She has a great deal of experience, and it shows.

Another example came on Monday (June 10) in the Thunderbird (High) Summer League, when she scored a team-high 13 points to lead the XCP “A’’ team to a 50-33 victory over Scottsdale Saguaro.

The A team now is 2-2 after dropping its first two, and the Xavier “B’’ team is 1-3 after a 66-32 setback to Phoenix North Canyon on Monday.

Affectionately known to her coaches and teammates as “E,’’ Fleetwood is valuable as a scorer, rebounder and defender and maybe most of all, as a leader.

“E is looking really good for us,’’ said Xavier coach Jennifer Gillom. “She is setting a really great example. She works hard, and her teammates might find that it’s not easy to keep up with her.’’

Xavier, which has long relied on the 3-point shot, did so again against Saguaro, connecting for five of them, including one by Fleetwood.

Gillom said that Fleetwood and some of the other returnees are starting to resemble the group that played a key role in last season’s drive to the 6A Conference state championship game.

“You can just tell that they have that connection,’’ Gillom said. “That’s what I love about this team, particularly with the things they do defensively. And when the bench players come in, they are bringing a lot of energy.’’

One of Xavier’s top freshmen, Mia Davis, sat this one out with a minor injury. Another freshman inside player, Hannah Young, helped pick up some of the slack with aggressive play on defense and on the boards. And senior post Tanya Barakat joined the team for the first time this summer and scored six points.

“Hannah already has good defensive and reboundin skills,’’ Gillom said. “She will be working on her post moves and once she gets that down, she will be an even better player. Tanya played well last year in the second half of the season and she should be able to continue that. She knows what she has to do.’’

The A team will be back in action on Wednesday (June 12) with an 8 p.m. game against Goodyear Desert Edge in T-Bird’s auxiliary gym. The B team will take the floor again on Thursday (June 13) with a game against Phoenix Christian in the main gym at 7 p.m.

Fun and fundamentals for softball campers

There is a lot of information for softball players to digest this week in Xavier Prep’s summer camp, but Gators head coach Brad Downes and assistant Deryk Sexton are doing all they can to provide the 19 campers with a well-rounded experience.

The daily sessions (Monday June 10 through Thursday June 13) begin at 7 a.m. and run until 10 a.m. The first part of the time is spent on the field at XCP’s Petznick Field, and when the weather starts to heat up, the action moves inside to Vestar Hall.

Downes said the players range from fifth through ninth grades. A few ninth graders could wind up playing for Xavier’s frosh team next spring. Some players are more experienced, including club/summer play, others not as much.

“We want to give them a mix of everything, and for them to have fun doing it,’’ he said.

Fundamentals are very important, and the girls compete in various categories, putting their defensive skills to work.

There are two teams, the Swamp Gators and the Avocado Toast.

Once Tuesday’s (June 11) session moved to Vestar, the players took their swings with their favorite bats at wiffle balls. The floor was littered with the yellow and white wiffles, and part of the players duties included picking them back up.

Baserunning and more defense are on the agenda for Wednesday (June 12).

The coaches are assisted by a handful of players from Xavier’s team that finished with a 17-5 record in the spring of 2019, Downes’ first as head coach.

“If there is something we can see the campers do that would be helpful to their swing or any other part of the game (adjustments), we do that. We want them to feel like they have improved,’’ Downes said.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Xavier Prep graduates keep on running

A pair of former Xavier Prep distance runners are still making headlines after moving beyond the school’s hallowed halls.

They are 2002 graduate Stephanie Rothstein and 2010 product Jessica Tonn, who were among 28 of the nation’s elite runners who competed in the USATF New York Mini USA 10K Race held in New York City’s Central Park on June 8.

Rothstein finished second and Tonn eighth in the event.  The two former Gators continue to participate in similar USATF showcases throughout the year, with great success.

Way to go, Stephanie and Jessica! Keep it going!


Monday, June 10, 2019

Menne is Golfer of the Year for third time

Three. Count them, three.

For the third time in as many years, Xavier Prep’s Ashley Menne has been named the azcentral.com Golfer of the Year for Arizona.

The award was presented on Sunday night (June 9) at the media outlet’s Arizona Sports Awards program at Arizona State’s Grady Gammage Auditorium.

This fall, Menne will be a senior and will have a chance to be the state tournament medalist for the fourth time in a row.

After graduating from Xavier in 2020, Menne will move on to study and play golf at ASU.

Menne and fellow golfer Breyana Matthews were chosen as All-Arizona athletes, as well as Xavier's Tristanne Dechoux (tennis), Leilani McIntosh (basketball), beach volleyball (Shannon Shields and Trinity Cavanaugh) and indoor volleyball (Shields).



"Xavier is very proud of all the nominees and congratulates these student-athletes, their coaches and their parents,'' said XCP Athletic Director Sr. Lynn Winsor.


Saturday, June 8, 2019

Softball honor goes to XCP's Bridget Donahey

The azcentral.com media outlet announced its annual All-Arizona Softball Team on Saturday (June 8), and one Xavier Prep player received Honorable Mention recognition.

She is Bridget Donahey, a freshman infielder (shortstop) who had an excellent first varsity season.

She hit .581 with 43 hits, 34 runs scored, 36 RBIs, 13 home runs, 13 doubles and a team-leading five stolen bases. She also found time to pitch two innings for a Xavier team that finished with a 17-5 record. The Gators reached the 6A Conference state tournament, where they lost to Mesa Red Mountain in an elimination game.

Like Donahey, the majority of Xavier’s softball players were underclassmen and project to have an even better team in the spring of 2020 under second-year coach Brad Downes.

Congratulations to Bridget!

Friday, June 7, 2019

azcentral honors McHale, Cavanaugh, Shields

There are many reasons why Xavier Prep has won seven beach volleyball state championships in eight seasons and has an 83-4 overall record during that time.

It is because of people such as head coach Tim McHale and players such as recently graduated seniors Trinity Cavanaugh and Shannon Shields, and because of the support has received from the school and its fans along the way.

McHale, Cavanaugh and Shields will be recognized for their efforts on Sunday (June 6) at the azcentral Sports Awards program. Site of the event is Arizona State University’s Grady Gammage Auditorium with a red-carpet session at 6 p.m. and the awards beginning at 7.

McHale has been selected as Coach of the Year and Cavanaugh and Shields are among eight candidates for Player of the Year and are on the media outlet’s All-Arizona Team.

A victory by Cavanaugh and Shields in the decisive match between No. 1 duos gave Xavier the state title over Gilbert Perry 3-2. The two worked very well over the course of the season. Communication was one of the key elements.

Cavanaugh is moving on to Texas Christian University to join its beach volleyball program. Shields was an All-Arizona selection for indoor volleyball after helping Xavier claim that state crown last fall. She was the Gatorade Player of the Year for Arizona in indoor and will continue with indoor at the University of Louisville.

Xavier athletes from other sports also will be honored at the awards program, and the featured speaker will be Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson.

XCP hoops teams win, still have work to do

Xavier Prep’s two teams in the annual Thunderbird (High) Summer Basketball League finally got into the win column, the “B” team on Wednesday (June 5) and the “A’’ team on Thursday (June 6).

The B team defeated Peoria Centennial 25-20 and the A team rolled to a big 54-37 win over Phoenix Horizon, a game in which the Gators made nine 3-point baskets. The B team played again Thursday night, falling to the Phoenix North “B’’ team.

Both the Xavier A and B teams are 1-2.

The A team looked more comfortable than it did in losses to Cave Creek Cactus Shadows and Anthem Boulder Creek.

The Gators had a much better shot selection and were more aggressive on the boards.

“We try to take something from every game,’’ said Xavier assistant coach Patrick Mangosing. “We have a lot of younger players and they are eager to learn.

“Because of that, they sometimes take shots that they are not accustomed to, but we were much better in this game. They will start settling into their roles.

“Come September and October as we get closer to the (regular) season, they will play even better together. They will see each other at school every day and be more familiar with each other.’’

Senior Elysia Fleetwood had a solid game against Horizon, and freshmen Mia Davis and Sienna Cherwinski appear that they will have key roles, Davis underneath the basket and Cherwinski in the backcourt.

Both the A and B teams return to action on Monday (June 10). The A team will face Scottsdale Saguaro at 5 p.m. in the main gym and the B team will meet Phoenix North Canyon at 7 p.m. in the main gym.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Summer volleyball sessions draw crowds

The shine from Xavier Prep’s latest indoor volleyball state championship trophy in the 2018-19 season serves as a beacon of success for young players to possibly become a part of that heritage.

Gators coach Lamar-Renee Bryant has one of her largest summer camp turnouts at the Activity Center. Sessions began Monday (June 3) and run through Thursday (June 6).

There are 55 seventh and eighth graders working hard in the earliest daily session, from 11:30-1:30 p.m., and 40 ninth graders on hand later in the day, from 2-4 p.m. And there will be a camp for the youngest players (fifth and sixth grade) from June 17-30 at XCP.

All the freshmen are headed to Xavier this fall and most will try out for the freshman team beginning Aug. 12 (school starts Aug. 7). There could be a few who reach the junior-varsity level or perhaps even the varsity as some have done in years past.

There are many girls to keep track of and Bryant is assisted by Kristen Jones, Jamie Itule and a half-dozen Xavier players who will be returning this fall – Abby Converse, Jasmine Knight, Bri McKnight, Kaori Robinson, Quinn Voorhees and Juli Westfall.

For the seventh and eighth graders, the emphasis is on the basics.

“Fundamentals are the key to success and the young players need that,’’ Bryant said.

One of those younger players is Lauren Ragan, who will be an eighth grader at St. Thomas the Apostle School in Phoenix this fall. She said she has been at previous XCP summer camps.

Ragan said she knows about a dozen or so other players in this camp and that she and some of them have played on club teams such as the Storm.

“I learn a lot of stuff here every year, make some friends and that’s what keeps me coming back,’’ Ragan said.

She said that next year at this time, coming to Xavier will be one of her options. She is aware of the success that Bryant’s program has had.

“I would like to be part of a program like that, be part of a team that works hard and grows close,’’ Ragan said.

One thing that she has learned is keeping her hands relaxed. That has helped her when playing most of the positions on the floor, and especially at libero, where she hopes to place her focus as she reaches the higher levels.

“Setting, hitting, passing, the hands are a big part of all of it,’’ she said. “I like the passing the best.’’

More layers of fundamentals are added for the ninth graders, and go at a faster pace.

“We play more game-like scenarios,’’ Bryant said.

Tennis campers part of new net generation

It’s the next generation of the net generation.

Some of the area’s young tennis players (fifth through ninth graders) are taking some early steps toward building their game with their participation in Xavier Prep’s annual summer camp  that began on Monday (June 3) and runs through Friday (June 7) at XCP’s Stark Tennis Center.

Xavier head coach Laurie Martin and assistant Ann Coover are implementing many of the aspects of the United States Tennis Association’s Net Generation program that was begun a few years ago.

The coaches, along with current Xavier player and volunteer Lorelei Glidden, give the eight  campers a few things to learn each day, stimulating their thought process, making the drills fun, meeting friends and becoming more familiar with the game.

There are four players who have had previous tennis instruction and four who have limited experience. The more experienced players use more pressurized traditional tennis balls while the others get more acclimated to slower tennis balls with hopes that will lead to more normalcy.

“The space for the (less experienced) girls is not as large, so that helps them until they can get used to the faster pace,’’ Martin said.

Sessions run from 7-9 a.m. to escape much of the heat. There are frequent water breaks.

A few of the girls are freshmen, and they might become part of Martin’s no-cut freshman program in the fall.

At the close of the session each day, Martin gathers the players in a circle and asked what they learned. They are given a different thing to focus on each day.

On this day, the subject was “play fair.’’

Another subject is resiliency.

“You have to be resilient because things aren’t always going to go your way,’’ Martin said.

Others are listening and respecting opponents as well as the game in general.

“These camps are kind of like our version of Pop Warner (football) and Little League (baseball),’’ Martin said. “We like to make it a good learning environment and give the girls things they can use as they get older and grow with the game.’’

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

XCP hoops teams try to find summer cure

Xavier Prep’s first day of play for its two teams in the Thunderbird (High) Summer League was not what the Gators had hoped for, but they are not going to let it turn their world upside down.

The XCP “A’’ team, featuring most of the returnees from its second straight 6A Conference state runner-up finish and a handful of promising newcomers, lost a pair of two-point games (to Cave Creek Cactus Shadows 30-28 and Anthem Boulder Creek 37-35) on Monday (June 3).

The “B’’ team, consisting of younger players from last season’s freshman and junior-varsity teams, suffered a lop-sided loss to the Thunderbird Orange team (68-26).

Xavier head coach Jennifer Gillom, who was guiding the A team, liked a lot of what she saw in the game against Cactus Shadows.

“That (Cactus Shadows) was a good team out there,’’ she said. “We played everybody (she often substituted five players at a time). You obviously like to win, but it’s not about winning right now. It’s about learning how to play together – learning about each other.’’

If there was one glaring issue in this one, it was that the Gators often were caught flat-footed as Cactus Shadows used its aggressive rebounding to get second and third chances to score. The Falcons also seemed to control things when Xavier shots were off the mark at the other end.

“When we get back to practice, you can be sure we will be working on boxing out (under the basket),’’ she said.

The bright spot was the play of three incoming freshmen –- Mia Davis, Hannah Young and Sienna Cherwinski.

The 6-foot-1 Davis, in particular, created a buzz. She scored 17 points against Cactus Shadows, including three 3-pointers, and had the court presence of an older player.

Her offense might pick up some of the slack created by the graduation of three guards.

The Gators’ current crop of guards, at least those who started, have some work to do, but that is to be expected for the first game of the summer.

The three main guards were junior-to-be Mackenzie Coder, junior Victoria Saucedo and junior Kailey Appel, along with insiders Davis and senior Elysia Fleetwood, who can switch between guard and forward.

The B team returns to action on Wednesday (June 5) against Peoria Centennial in the main gym at 9 p.m. The A team will play next on Thursday (June 6) against Phoenix Horizon at 4 p.m. in the main gym, and the B team also will play on Thursday against the Phoenix North “B’’ team in the main gym at 8 p.m.