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, 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.

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