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, November 29, 2019

Xavier turns things around in hoops tourney

Xavier Prep’s Gators began their appearance on Friday (Nov. 29) in the annual Scorpion Shootout at Goodyear Desert Edge with a bright and early basketball game at 9 a.m., followed shortly thereafter by another at lunch time.

And the experience certainly was more enjoyable than Tuesday’s (Nov. 26) season-opening loss to Phoenix Mountain Pointe.

Xavier defeated Surprise Shadow Ridge 58-26 in the first game and outdueled a scrappy Buckeye Verrado squad 51-42 in the second contest to advance to Saturday’s (Nov. 30) semifinal round. Xavier will play that contest at 4:30 p.m. A win would put the Gators in the tournament championship game at 7:30, and a loss would put them in the third-place game, also at 7:30.

Xavier coach Jennifer Gillom knows she likely will have to endure a rollercoaster ride, at least in the early going, until her young team can play with more consistency.

“It’s gonna take time,’’ she said. “This (Saturday) was a lot better than that first game.’’

Following the 19-point loss to Mountain Pointe, Gillom searched her brain to try and find the best way to prioritize what to cover in practice, and especially how much to avoid overload. Xavier has only two seniors, nine juniors, one sophomore and three freshmen. Virtually all of them had little or no experience as starters last season.

“I wrote down some things and I was thinking, was I asking too much too early?’’ she said. “It comes down to that I believe in this team, and they are going to “get it.’ ’’

Xavier got a strong effort from senior post player Tanya Barakat in the first game with several key baskets, and senior guard-forward Elysia Fleetwood scored 11 of her game-high 15 points in the third quarter of the second game to give the Gators the edge against Verrado.

Fleetwood had been slowed by foul trouble in the first half, but in the second half, “played a lot smarter and that enabled her to stay in the game," Gillom said.

Xavier connected on seven 3-point shots, three by Fleetwood, two by freshman Mia Davis and two by junior wing Kailey Appel. And freshman Hannah Young helped Davis and Barakat with some timely rebounding in the second game.

“They (Verrado) were a tough team and made us work hard,’’ Gillom said. “That’s just what we needed. In the second half, we had better execution and better poise.’’

Xavier Prep 51, Verrado 42

Xavier scoring – Elysia Fleetwood 15, Mia Davis 13, Mackenzie Coder 7, Kailey Appel 6, Hannah Young 4, Tanya Barakat 3, Victoria Saucedo 2, Sienna Cherwinski 1.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Gators' hoops opener is open and shut case

Sometimes a basketball team will have successful practices leading up to the start of the season, but when the team plays a real game against a real opponent, the vibe can be quite different.

That reality took a swipe at Xavier Prep’s Gators in their season-opener against visiting Phoenix Mountain Pointe on Tuesday night (Nov. 26), the Pride coasting to a 59-40 victory.

The Gators dug themselves into a 15-3 hole at the close of the first quarter, and it was apparent that they would be in an uphill climb all evening.

Xavier got a bit closer in the second quarter, cutting the deficit to nine by halftime, but Mountain Pointe pulled away again in the third quarter.

The Gators showed glimpses of stability here and there, but had trouble with the Pride’s occasional press. Xavier’s shooting touch was chilly and rebounding was a challenge against its bigger opponent.

Xavier coach Jennifer Gillom admitted that “the first quarter hurt us.’’

XCP is a young team, no doubt about it. It has just two seniors, nine juniors, one sophomore and three freshmen.

“We have a lot of young players and we are still learning. I saw some things I liked out there. But we are fine,’’ Gillom said.

Freshman forward Mia Davis led Xavier with 10 points, including a 3-pointer. Senior guard-forward Elysia Fleetwood had 9, and junior point guard Mackenzie Coder had seven, all from the free-throw line.

Freshman guard Sienna Cherwinski found her shooting touch to hit a pair of long-range shots, and junior guard Victoria Saucedo showed good quickness and hustle.

After taking a Thanksgiving Day break, the Gators will head to the southwest Valley for the Scorpion Shootout on Friday (Nov. 29) and Saturday (Nov. 30) at Goodyear Desert Edge.

Xavier will play two games on Friday. The first is at 9 a.m. against Surprise Shadow Ridge and the second is at noon against the winner of an early game between Buckeye Verrado and Phoenix Trevor Browne.

The Gators will play two and possibly three more times on Saturday.

Mountain Pointe 59, Xavier Prep 40

Mountain Pointe – 15 16 12 16 – 59

Xavier Prep – 3 19 8 10 – 40

Xavier scoring – Mia Davis 10, Elysia Fleetwood 9, Mackenzie Coder 7, Sienna Cherwinski 6, Victoria Sucedo 6, Hannah Young 2.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Soccer: "Everything looks promising for us"

The slate is clean, and Xavier Prep’s soccer team is ready to embark on what the players, coaches and fans hope will be a successful run that includes a strong showing in the 6A Conference state tournament.

Gators coach Barb Chura is optimistic about the 2019-20 season.

“We will be better than last year, I do know that,’’ she said.

Xavier won back-to-back state titles in 2017 and 2018 and reached the quarterfinals a year ago.

The team is listed No. 6 among 6A teams by entering the regular-season opener on Dec. 3 against Tolleson High at Petznick Field. Another home match follows the next night against Phoenix Maryvale. Start time is 6 p.m. vs. both opponents.

Xavier had tryouts on Nov. 4 and has been preparing for the season since.

The process, both before the season and during, includes “team-building activities’’ such as lunches on Friday where the team is broken down into groups of four to allow the players to get to know each other better.

It helps on the field and off, Chura said.

Xavier’s improvement should be tied to greater depth at virtually all positions.

Among the team’s top players this year are senior forward Elizabeth Warren, senior defender Megan Onofrei and junior forward Kendall Warner.

Warren and Onofrei will rely on their experience. Warren is in her fourth year on the varsity. Onofrei recently signed a letter of intent to study and further her soccer journey at Roanoke College in Salem, Va. And Warner continues to use her growing maturity and confidence to her advantage.

“Everything looks promising for us so far,’’ said Warner. “I think we are deeper and even quicker than we have been.’’

Said Onofrei: “Our work ethic has been consistent and we are learning to communicate better.’’

That especially includes during the matches, warning teammates of an opponent nearby or perhaps directing passes to open Gators.

Warner is stationed primarily at the left front. She wants to be more aggressive and even be more creative with the ball to avoid being surrounded.

Said Onofrei: “We should get even better as the season goes along. We want to bring the best out in each other.’’

The Gators aren’t about to back down from anyone, according to Chura.

“At Xavier, all the sports are competitive in everything we do,’’ she said. “That helps create a great environment, and that’s why we want to keep it going.’’



(Listed alphabetically)

Eva Allen, Fr.; Savannah Angell, Fr.; Brooke Bream, Fr.; Jayme Brown, So.; Taylor Brown, Sr.; Ansley Burns, So.; Jaden Campbell, Jr.; Olivia Castrichini, So.; Delaney DeBusk, So.; Collins Entz, Fr.; Annalise Gong, Sr.; Katherine Harris, Jr.; Sophia Healy, Jr.; Kaitlyn Lauck, Sr.; Brynn Lebel, Sr.; Clara Lynch, Sr.; Tessa Montanile, Fr.; Megan Onofrei, Sr.; Emmie Paulson, Jr.; Hennessy Perez, So.; Taylor Rife, So.; Kendall Warner, Jr.; Elizabeth Warren, Sr.; Bailey Wolcott, Fr.; Megan Zacher, Sr.

Head coach – Barb Chura.

Assistant – Rafael Rios.



Dec. 3 -- Tolleson High. Dec. 4 – Phoenix Maryvale. Dec. 6 -- @ Phoenix Desert Vista. Dec. 13 -- @ Yuma Kofa. Dec. 26-27 – Excalibur Tournament, Norco, Calif.


Jan. 8 – Scottsdale Chaparral. Jan. 10 -- @ Gilbert Highland. Jan. 17 – Tempe Corona del Sol. Jan. 21 -- @ Phoenix Pinnacle. Jan. 24 -- @ Chandler Basha. Jan. 31 – Chandler High.


Feb. 4 -- @ Gilbert Perry. Feb. 7 – Chandler Hamilton.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Gators create a mystery with plenty of depth

Xavier Prep’s basketball team lost three key seniors to graduation, so that will create a bit of mystery when the Gators take the floor for the 2019-20 season.

“We are going to be a surprise some nights,’’ said coach Jennifer Gillom. “So who is going to be that player who will step up and help us the most? We are going to have a lot of balance and depth, so that means it could be anyone. We (coaches) aren’t always going to be able to figure that out. So if we aren’t able to, the opponents won’t be able to, either. They’re not going to be sure who to focus on.’’

The Gators are wrapping up their second week of pre-season practice in preparation for their season opener at home against Phoenix Mountain Pointe on Tuesday (Nov. 26). They will follow that up with the two-day Scorpion Shootout on Nov. 29-30 at Goodyear Desert Edge.

Xavier, which has finished as state runner-up the last two seasons (28-5 last season, 27-6 in 2017-18), is the sixth-ranked team in the 6A Conference entering the season, according to

Gillom isn’t really sure where her team should line up, “but I don’t think it should be lower than that (sixth),’’ she said. “Being at the top at this point isn’t really accurate, either. This way, it will give our players something to shoot for.’’

The top returnees include seniors Elysia “E’’ Fleetwood, Tanya Barakat, junior Mackenzie Coder and junior Kailey Appel.

Fleetwood is perhaps the team’s most versatile player, fitting in where she’s needed at virtually any spot. Barakat will have to work hard under the basket to produce rebounds and play strong defense at the post. Coder is in her third season on the varsity and will be counted on to sink some long-range shots in the role previously occupied by the graduated Addie Putnam. And Appel brings an aggressive style of play to the backcourt and frontcourt.

Junior Victoria Saucedo also is a quick, long-range shooter. And the Gators will have three freshmen to add to the mix – point guard Sienna Cherwinski, forward-post Mia Davis and forward Hannah Young.

The added depth allows Gillom to have more varied lineups and rest players when needed, which she was not able to do as often in the past.

Gillom will look to the 5-foot-11 Fleetwood for defense, scoring and rebounding. And for leadership.

“I want to be a more positive influence,’’ Fleetwood said. “Lei (Leilani McIntosh) and Montana (Montana Oltrogge, former team leaders) helped shape me, and I feel it is my duty to do the same for the younger players. I know I will be counted on to show up every game – there will be no days off for me.’’

Barakat, who has played goalie for Xavier’s club lacrosse team, also is 5-11 but “plays taller.’’

“As team captains, Elysia and I are looked up to by the players, so we want to prove we can do it,’’ she said. “Each year always is a bit new as far as people getting to know each other, but we are getting there quickly.’’

She admits that she hasn’t always been the most aggressive player, but knows “I will have to be more aggressive and be a player that my teammates can rely on.’’

In her third season on the varsity, the 5-7 Coder said she and the Gators “are excited. We have looked pretty good so far and have some good freshmen, but we still have work to do.’’

Coder’s work in games includes hitting the three-point shots and driving to the basket, where she will have the option of shooting or dishing the ball off.

As far as shooting the threes, she said, “I love it. I started doing more of it last year and it just clicked. I also like to play good defense. I think I am quicker on my feet. It’s fun to be a part of this team. We have a lot of energy and there is a lot of sharing the ball. Everyone has a voice, and we help each other.’’

The 5-6 Cherwinski will follow McIntosh in the role of the point guard.

“I enjoy helping to control the tempo of the game,’’ she said. “Even though I’m a freshman, I am trying not to play scared. That includes offense. I am not going to back off on my shot. I will do it if I am open. And on defense, I am learning what the opponent is trying to do. I have to be quick.’’

Davis is the team’s tallest player at 6-1. She can shoot well from the outside and is quick and strong inside.


2019-20 Basketball Roster

(Listed alphabetically)

Sophia Alameddin, Jr.; Kailey Appel, Jr.; Tanya Barakat, Sr.; Ireland Blim, Jr.; Sienna Cherwinski, Fr.; Mackenzie Coder, Jr.; Mia Davis, Fr.; Lauren Etsitty, Jr.; Elysia Fleetwood, Sr.; Toni Garcia, So.; Channing Kehoe, Jr.; Rachel Orr, Jr.; Sophia Sash, Jr.; Victoria Saucedo, Jr.; Hannah Young, Fr.

Head coach – Jennifer Gillom.

Assistant coaches – Patrick Mangosing, Rikki Mulloy.

Regular-season schedule


Nov. 26 – Phoenix Mountain Pointe. Nov. 29-30 – Scorpion Shootout @ Goodyear Desert Edge.


Dec. 5 -- @ Mesa Desert Ridge. Dec. 6 -- @ Tempe Corona del Sol. Dec. 10 – Avondale Westview. Dec. 13 – Phoenix Desert Vista. Dec. 16 -- @ Phoenix North. Dec. 26-28 – Lady Titan Winter Hoops Classic @ Phoenix Arcadia.


Jan. 7 – Peoria Liberty. Jan. 8 – Scottsdale Chaparral. Jan 10-- @ Phoenix Pinnacle.  Jan. 14 – Gilbert Perry. Jan. 17 -- @ Chandler Basha. Jan. 21 – Chandler High. Jan. 24 – Chandler Hamilton. Jan. 30 -- @ Mesa Mountain View. Jan. 31 -- @ Gilbert Perry.


Feb. 4 – Chandler Basha. Feb. 7 -- @ Chandler High. Feb. 11 -- @ Chandler Hamilton

Oltrogge, McIntosh make progress in college hoops

Basketball life did not end for two Xavier Prep players when they graduated and moved on to college.

Forward Montana Oltrogge (XCP class of 2018) and point guard Leilani McIntosh (class of 2019) are doing well at their respective landing spots, Idaho State and the University of California-Berkeley.

The 6-foot Oltrogge helped Xavier earn a 6A Conference state runner-up finish and now is usually the first player called off the bench by ISU coach Seton Sobolewski, who is a graduate of Northern Arizona University and was an assistant coach at Coconino High in Flagstaff and Yavapai (junior) College In Prescott.

Idaho State was 2-2 in its first four games and plays a home game in Pocatello, Idaho, on Monday night (Nov. 25) against Montana Tech. Xavier supporters and other area fans will be able to get a first-hand look at Oltrogge on Dec. 8 when ISU pays a visit to Desert Financial Arena in Tempe to play Arizona State.

Now a sophomore, Oltrogge averaged 3.8 points and 1.3 rebounds as a freshman. Through her first four games of her second season, Oltrogge was averaging 17.3 minutes per game along with 8 points and 3.3 rebounds in her first four games.

After helping Xavier to another runner-up finish last season, McIntosh’s journey to Berkeley began with a brief stop at Pepperdine University.

The 5-5 McIntosh had signed a letter of intent with the school, but was released from it after head coach Delisha Milton-Jones resigned and went on to become an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Syracuse University.

Meanwhile, long-time Cal assistant Charmin Smith took over the Bears’ program and was well aware of McIntosh’s background. McIntosh moved up the California coast and already is becoming a force as a freshman.

Cal also had a 2-2 record through Friday (Nov. 22) and plays a home game against Arkansas on Sunday (Nov. 24).

McIntosh has started all four games and leads Cal in minutes played, along with dishing out 11 assists, averaging 4.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, and collecting 11 steals on the defensive side.

She, too, will be in the spotlight when Cal comes to Tempe on Feb. 28 to face ASU.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Cross country season ends with 3rd-place finish

Xavier Prep’s cross-country team gave it a good run in Saturday’s (Nov. 16) Division I state meet at the Cave Creek Golf Course in north Phoenix, but the Gators were unable to take home the championship after claiming the title in 2018.

Phoenix Desert Vista won the title, led by sisters and 1-2 finishers Lauren and Grace Ping. The Thunder had 49 points, followed by Gilbert Highland with 99 and Xavier with 106.

Xavier senior Mia Olsen and junior Jamie Stelnik, who finished fifth and seventh a year ago, almost made it a repeat this time. Olsen was sixth and Stelnik seventh in the 3-mile event.

Olsen’s time was 18:46.2 and Stelnik’s was 18:48.0.

Top, Xavier's Mia Olsen finished in sixth place and Jamie Stelnik, bottom left, was close behind at No. 7 (Photos by Sr. Lynn Winsor).
Other Xavier runners were sophomore Ansley Burns (20th, 19:47.6), senior Grace Valandra (35th, 20:19.5), sophomore Maria Benitez (46th, 20:34.4), freshman Reyna Silva (67th, 21:09.8) and sophomore Hannah Wheeling (94th, 22:03.4). The race had a total of 144 competitors.

Olsen will graduate in 2020 and move on to Southern Methodist University. Stelnik will continue her leadership role and the future looks bright for the Gators with quite a few quality underclassmen returning.

Way to go, Gators! You did a great job this year!

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Senior athletes sign, ready for next level

Ten of Xavier Prep’s top senior athletes for the 2019-20 school year signed letters of intent on Wednesday (Nov. 13) to study and continue their athletic careers at schools from across the country.

They were (listed alphabetically):

*Katie Donahey, softball, Yale University (New Haven, Conn.). Field of study: Economics.

*Taylor Killoren, crew, University of San Diego, Pre-Pharmacy.

*Jasmine Knight, volleyball, Virginia Commonwealth University (Richmond, Va.), Interdisciplinary Studies (Forensic Science, Psychology, Criminal Justice).

*Clara Lynch, soccer, Southern Methodist University (Dallas), Business.

*Breyana Matthews, golf, Arizona State University (Tempe), Kinesiology.

*Bri McKnight, volleyball, University of California-Santa Barbara, Film and Media.

*Ashley Menne, golf, Arizona State University (Tempe), Business.

*Mia Olsen, cross country/track, Southern Methodist University (Dallas), Biochemistry.

*Megan Onofrei, soccer, Roanoke College (Salem, Va.), Political Science, History, Psychology.

*Olivia Petrine, crew, San Diego State University, Biology.

Congratulations to these outstanding young women! Xavier is proud of you!

Monday, November 11, 2019

Runner Mia Olsen has commitment to excellence

As another Division I state championship cross-country meet approaches on Saturday (Nov. 16), Xavier Prep coach Dave Van Sickle reflected on his senior co-captain Mia Olsen and what she has meant to the Gators’ program.

“She has been pretty thorough in her preparation and what she has done in the races,’’ he said.

He further illustrated his point when talking about her overall four-year run.

“I was looking through some numbers a couple of weeks ago, the top 10 overall times in each of the four years (freshman through senior), and she is in the top five of each. Not many people can say that,’’ he said.

So there is one race to go and Olsen will put her two best feet forward, one right after the other, over and over. She will do whatever she can to make this one of the most memorable races of all.
Xavier runner Mia Olsen (XCP photo).
Olsen finished fifth a year ago to help the Gators earn the title. She was 18th as a sophomore as Xavier finished second and was 11th as a freshman as Xavier finished fourth.

Last Thursday (Nov. 7), Olsen finished second in the Division I, Section I qualifying event as Xavier won.

Asked about her final state meet, Olsen said, “It’s been kind of crazy here. Time (four years) went by really fast. This season has been a bit up and down, but we have really come together as a team. We have worked together really well.

“We would definitely love to be state champs, but you don’t want to be too confident. We have to stay focused.’’

Some of Xavier’s runners from last year walked in graduation, but the Gators have three other runners who were key factors in the triumphant state outcome – senior Jamie Stelnik (now a junior), who was seventh, senior Grace Valandra (18th) and junior Sammy Braun (23rd).

As for Olsen, it seems like she is always running, even when not on the race course.

She is in a number of clubs/civic groups at XCP, including the National Honor Society, National Spanish, Nu Alpha Theta, the Xero Club (treasurer), works on gradebooks and is the tribute editor for the school yearbook.

“You have to find a balance between your schoolwork and the other things. It’s also really important to have some “down time,’ ‘’ said Olsen, who enjoys being with her friends.

When she was a tadpole, Olsen was a swimmer, but she crawled up on land in middle school to breathe the air and became a runner who began to excel soon after. And she has remained there since, with cross country and track (also coached by Van Sickle).

Regarding her race strategy, Olsen said she needs to be flexible, depending on the course.

When she ran in the Mount SAC recently in California, there were three large hills, and at the Cave Creek Golf Course in Phoenix, site of the state meet, there aren’t too many hills, “just some smaller rolling hills toward the end,’’ she said.

“Either way, you want to get off to a good start, find a good spot, figure out the pace and be close enough to have your sprint at the end help you.’’

The Xavier cross-country workouts involve longer runs, strides, and hill sprints.

The state meet course has not changed much, which can be a good thing, “because you know more what to expect when you are familiar with the course,’’ Olsen said.

Olsen’s early years were spent in the Dallas area, where her father, Morgan, was a financial executive at Southern Methodist University (SMU). Dad moved the family to Arizona State when Mia was 7, and she enjoys it here.

But she is due to return to some of her roots next year after she recently committed to the cross-country program at SMU (she is due to sign a letter of intent on Wednesday, Nov. 13).

It should be a challenge, but she is looking forward to it, just like this year’s state meet.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Strong 2nd-place state finish for swim-dive

Xavier Prep’s swimmers and divers were outdistanced by Scottsdale Chaparral in the 2018 Division I state championship, and when the two headlined the 2019 meet on Thursday (Nov. 7) and Friday (Nov. 8), the result was virtually the same.

Xavier did make a bit of headway this time at the Kino Aquatic Complex in Mesa. In 2018, there was a differential of 176 ½ points between the Gators and Chaparral, and this time, the gap was 160.

Across the board, Chaparral’s quality and depth was just too much.

Highlights for Xavier were the championship swim by senior Maddie Wright in the 100-yard freestyle (51:09) to defeat Gilbert Perry’s Kelly Fama (51.81), and the three relay teams (200-yard medley, 200-yard freestyle and 400-yard freestyle) that finished second to Chaparral.

Wright also finished third in the individual 200 free. Junior Mia Rankin was second in the 200-yard individual medley and third in the 500-yard freestyle, junior Jordan Herrera was seventh in the 200 IM and sixth in the 100-yard butterfly, junior Kelly Scott was seventh in the 50-yard freestyle and fourth in the 100 free, sophomore Gracie Munk was third in the 100-yard backstroke and third in the 100 fly, junior Paola Guerra was fourth in the 100-yard breaststroke.

In 1-meter diving, senior Maddy Sewell capped an outstanding Xavier career by advancing to the final for the fourth straight time and finishing 11th out of 16 in the final.

Xavier state results

200-yard medley relay – 2nd, 1:44.95.

200-yard freestyle – Maddie Wright, 3rd, 1:49.68; Vica Dow, 11th, 1:57.70; Daisy Maldonado, 16th, 2:00.01.

200-yard individual medley – Mia Rankin, 2nd, 2:04.17; Jordan Herrera, 7th, 2:09.94; Hope Nolan, 11th, 2:11.85.

50-yard freestyle – Kelly Scott, 7th, 24.58; Olivia Paliscak, 10th, 24.63; Paola Guerra, 14th, 24.91.

100-yard butterfly – Gracie Munk, 3rd, 57.43; Jordan Herrera, 6th, 58.22; Olivia Paliscak, 11th, 58.40; Haley Hubbard, 14th, 59.53.

100-yard freestyle – MADDIE WRIGHT, 1ST, 51.09; Kelly Scott, 4th, 52.96.

500-yard freestyle – Mia Rankin, 3rd, 5:01.43.

200-yard freestyle relay – 2nd, 1:37.03.

100-yard backstroke – Gracie Munk, 3rd, 56.96; Vica Dow, 10th, 58.59.

100-yard breaststroke – Paola Guerra, 4th, 1:05.39; Hope Nolan, 12th, 1:08.39.

400-yard freestyle relay – 2nd, 3:31.71.

1-meter diving – Maddy Sewell, 11th, 378.95 points.

Team scores

Scottsdale Chaparral 480, XAVIER PREP 320, Mesa Mountain View 209, Mesa Red Mountain 163, Phoenix Desert Vista 161, Gilbert Perry 138, Chandler High 115, Gilbert Highland 105, Phoenix Pinnacle 104, Mesa Desert Ridge 104, Peoria Liberty 74, Chandler Hamilton 52, Tucson High 51, Tempe Corona del Sol 44, Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor 38, Glendale Mountain Ridge 34, Chandler Basha 29, Yuma Cibola 27, Anthem Boulder Creek 25, Surprise Valley Vista 22, Mesa Skyline 14, Queen Creek 13.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Gators' valiant volleyball effort falls just short

Xavier Prep’s Lamar-Renee Bryant has played and coached in moments such as this during her athletic career. Sometimes, she said, the ball is just not going to bounce your way no matter what you do.

Her volleyball team stood in the hallway at Gilbert Highland’s gym, only a few steps from where the Gators nearly earned a berth in the 6A Conference semifinals.

Their top player, senior outside hitter Bri McKnight, sat on the bench during the match, wearing a boot on her left foot/ankle and she moved around on crutches after an injury in the first round. She wanted to be out there with her fifth-seeded teammates, but had to settle for watching them battle to the end before they fell 3-2 to the fourth-seeded Hawks in five sets, including a 17-15 nail-biter in the finale.

The scores (Highland listed first): 25-17, 21-25, 25-16, 22-25 and 17-15.

Xavier, which entered the match as the two-time defending state champion, went home with a 30-12 record. Highland, meanwhile, stays alive with a 36-9 record and a trip to the semis against top-seeded Gilbert Perry on Saturday night (Nov. 9).

Perry advanced with a 3-1 win over No. 8 Phoenix Desert Vista. No. 2 Tempe Corona del Sol defeated 10th-seeded Scottsdale Chaparral 3-1 in one of the remaining quarterfinal matches, and No. 3 Chandler Basha survived a five-set challenge from No. 6 Chandler Hamilton for a 3-2 win. Corona del Sol will meet Basha on Saturday night in the other semi.

Tears flowed afterward as the Gators gathered in a circle with Bryant and her assistant coaches, Kristen Jones and Stephanie Preach.

“It stings,’’ Bryant told the players. “My heart hurts for all of you.’’

Xavier had a 15-14 lead in Game 5 before Highland rallied. Xavier had a block but it went out of bounds for a 15-15 score, followed by a Highland kill and a return shot that landed just outside the sideline.

“We were so close, had two (match points at14-12 and 15-14) but we just couldn’t put it away,’’ Bryant said.

 “We had a lot of people step up for us tonight.’’

Knight had 18 kills and senior outside hitter Juli Westfall had 11. Junior defender Kaori Robertson had 20 digs, senior libero Abby Converse had 15 digs and three aces (two in the last game), and sophomore Alexa Shiner had 15 digs, 35 assists and two aces.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

XCP runners win sectional, target another title

The race for the Division I state cross-country championship is on.

Xavier Prep served notice that it will make a strong push for a second straight title after a big finish in the Division I, Section I meet on Thursday (Nov. 7) at Cesar Chavez Park in Laveen.

The Gators had four of the top 10 runners to win the event with 35 points, followed by Gilbert Perry (52), Chandler Hamilton (61), Chandler High (87) and seven other schools.

Senior Mia Olsen led the way for XCP, finishing second in the 5,000-meter race with a time of 18:35.7. Hamilton sophomore Rujuta Sane won at 18:27.4.

Xavier junior Jamie Stelnik was right behind Olsen in third place with a time of 18:43.3. Other Xavier runners in the top 10 were sophomore Ansley Burns, sixth at 19:36.5, and freshman Reyna Silva, 10th at 20:11.7.

In addition, senior Grace Valandra was 14th at 20:19.1 and sophomore Maria Benitez was 23rd at 21:15.4.

The state meet will be held on Nov. 16 at the Cave Creek Golf Course in north Phoenix. Race time for the D-I girls is scheduled for 9:45 a.m.

Team scores

Xavier Prep 35, Gilbert Perry 52, Chandler Hamilton 61, Chandler High 87, Chandler Basha 127, Phoenix Maryvale 189, Phoenix Alhambra 221, Tucson High 223, Phoenix North 250, Laveen Cesar Chavez 258, Phoenix Trevor Browne 279.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Gator volleyball digs deep, advances to quarters

Xavier Prep’s volleyball team could have folded after watching senior star outside hitter Bri McKnight slowly limp off the floor with an injured ankle in the opening game of its 6A Conference state tournament match on Tuesday night (Nov. 5) against visiting Peoria Liberty.

But the Gators didn’t fold.

The fifth-seeded Gators also didn’t fold in the third game when No. 12 Liberty, its back to the wall, provided a spirited challenge before Xavier held on for a 32-30 triumph to clinch the match, 3-0.

Now it’s on to bigger and hopefully better things as Xavier travels to face No. 4 Gilbert Highland on Thursday night (Nov. 7) in a quarterfinal match at 6:30 p.m. The winner of this one likely will have to play at top-seeded Gilbert Perry in a semifinal match on Saturday night (Nov. 9).

Xavier (30-11) can take some solace in its situation. It knows that Highland (35-9) can be beaten as it was by Xavier in the championship match of the House of Payne tournament at Chandler High in early September, but that seems like an eternity ago.

Xavier coach Lamar-Renee Bryant was pleased that her two-time defending state champions reached the final eight.

“We did not waver (after McKnight’s injury),’’ Bryant said. “We really didn’t have time to mourn or anything like that. We wanted to make it to Thursday, which is part of our long-time goal. Hopefully we’ll be able to figure out what to do (if McKnight can’t go).’’

Bryant got some outstanding play from senior outside hitters Juli Westfall and Katelen Tellez and senior middle blocker Jasmine Knight, who was a factor at just the right time most of the night.

“They did what seniors are supposed to do – they stepped up,’’ Bryant said.

The coach also was encouraged by the play of sophomore defensive specialist/libero Hannah Ulisch, who played most of the season on the junior varsity before recently getting the call-up.

Senior libero Abby Converse and junior defender Kaori Robertson also were keys for the Gators’ defense, digging the ball out of danger along the back line.

Xavier jumped to a 5-0 lead early in Game 1, but Liberty (21-15) rallied to pull within 8-6. That is when McKnight went down. The Gators regained their composure for the 25-19 win.

Liberty led for most of the first half of Game 2. Xavier pulled ahead 13-12 and did not trail again after that, securing a 25-17 victory.

There were big plays on both sides of the net in Game 3. Xavier trailed 30-29 but battled back to win it 32-30 on a long serve by Liberty, a kill by Knight and a block.

Golf title streak ends, Xavier finishes second

Xavier Prep’s Gators gave it all they had, but a ninth straight state golf championship was not to be, and the team will have to wait a year for another attempt at the school’s 37th title overall.

Xavier finished in second place behind a strong Phoenix Pinnacle team after Tuesday’s (Nov. 5) final round of the Division I state tournament at the Omni Tucson National ‘s Sonoran Course.

Xavier was 16 shots behind the Pioneers, who had four players in the top 10. Xavier senior star Ashley Menne, who won the state individual title on three previous occasions, fell just short in  her bid for No. 4. Menne finished in second place, like her team, and was one shot behind champion Joy Callinan, a senior at Chandler Hamilton.

Callinan’s effort allowed Hamilton to finish third, six shots behind Xavier.

“Our girls had good scores but Pinnacle shot very well for two days to win it,’’ said Xavier co-head coach (with Tui Selvaratnam) and Athletic Director Sr. Lynn Winsor. “It was a great season. We are so proud of our girls.’’

Menne was the only Gator to finish under par (142 for two days) at 6-under. Senior Breyana Matthews, who will join Menne at Arizona State next year, was next in line at 5-over. Junior Mary Beth Doss was at 7-over, and sophomore Ivy Song and freshman Annie Dawson were both at 8-over.

Team standings (in order): Phoenix Pinnacle, Xavier Prep, Chandler Hamilton, Gilbert Highland, Mesa Red Mountain, Peoria Liberty, Phoenix Desert Vista, Anthem Boulder Creek, Tempe Corona del Sol, Gilbert Perry, Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor, Glendale Mountain Ridge and Mesa Mountain View.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Xavier golf 2nd, but has significant deficit

If Xavier Prep’s golf team is to win its ninth straight Division I golf championship and 37th overall on Tuesday (Nov. 5), it will require one of the greatest comebacks in the history of the final round.

The Gators struggled in Monday’s (Nov. 4) opening round at the Omni Tucson National Resort’s Sonoran Course, an up and down layout that is one of the most physically demanding courses that these teams will play in this season or any season.

After Monday’s play, the Gators were in second place at 8-over-par 292, manageable in some cases but a gargantuan task considering that the leader is an outstanding Phoenix Pinnacle team that is playing as many Xavier teams have over the years, with a 16-shot lead at 8-under 276.

“We’ll just have to go back out there on Tuesday and play the best we can,’’ said long-time Xavier Coach and Athletic Director Sr. Lynn Winsor.

Pinnacle had three golfers among the top 10 after the opening round. They were Katie Stinchcomb (4-under 67, tied for second, one shot behind leader Grace Summerhays of Scottsdale Chaparral), Carolyn Fuller (3-under 68, tied for fifth) and Kyla Wilde (also at 68).

Meanwhile, Xavier’s outgoing senior star, Ashley Menne, also was at 68 and remains within range of winning the individual title in each of her four years as a Gator.

The rest of her Gator teammates: freshman Annie Dawson, tied for 14th at 3-over 74; junior Mary Beth Doss, tied for 17th with Xavier senior Breyana Matthews at 4-over 75; and sophomore Ivy Song, 24th at 7-over 78.

Moment of truth nears for fall sports teams

Xavier Prep’s fall sports teams have entered the final stretch of their seasons, with sectional and state tournament competition scheduled this week and next.

Looking at it chronologically, the golf team will be attempting to bring home another in a long line of state championship trophies at the Division I tournament at the Omni Tucson National Golf Resort.

The event began on Monday (Nov. 4), with the second and final round set for Tuesday (Nov. 5).

The first round of the Division 6 state volleyball tournament will be played on Tuesday, with fifth-seeded two-time defending champion Xavier hosting No. 12 Peoria Liberty at 6:30 in the Activity Center.

The winner will advance to the quarterfinals on Thursday night (Nov. 7), with the semifinals on Saturday night (Nov. 9) and the finals on Nov. 12 at Arizona State’s arena in Tempe.

Cross country also will be defending its 2018 title run. The Gators will run in the Division I Section I qualifier on Thursday at 10:15 a.m. at Caesar Chavez Park in Laveen. That will set the stage for the state meet on Nov. 16 at 9:45 a.m. at the Cave Creek Golf Course in north Phoenix.

And the XCP swimmers and divers will attempt to overtake a strong Scottsdale Chaparral team and win their second D-I title in the last three years on Thursday and Friday (Nov. 8) at the Kino Aquatic Complex in Mesa. The Gators appear to have built a lot of momentum late in the regular season. Swim times are at 2:30 p.m. on both days, with diving preliminaries on Thursday at 1 p.m., semifinals at noon on Friday and finals at 1:30 p.m. on Friday.

Mountain bikers learn to make the grade

The Xavier/Brophy mountain biking club team had a strong effort in Sunday’s (Nov. 3) Arizona Interscholastic Cycling League race at the White Tank Regional Park in Waddell, finishing in the No. 5 spot.

The Gator/Bronco riders finished sixth overall after the five-race schedule.

"We had a fantastic season. Xavier not only had the biggest female team in school history, we had the biggest female team in Arizona League history,'' said head coach Rich Perrott.
The Xavier contingent had 10 riders compete across three races at the White Tank event.

The Gators had two of the top 10 finishers in the 15-mile JV1 race. They were sophomore Hailey Schwartz, who was second at 1:07:27.50, and senior Heather Kwapiszeski, who was eighth at 1:08:40.55. A third Xavier rider, senior Erin Hill, was 18th at 1:20:36.96.

There was one rider in the 10-mile Freshman race – Chloe Lindeback, who finished 14th at 50:45:38.

And six more Xavier girls climbed about their bikes to cover the 10-mile JV2 race.

They were senior Sam Sandoval (20th, 54:50.79), senior Catherine Wandachowicz (25th, 56:31.44), sophomore Aria Tseffos (39th, 1:11:34.71), senior Camdyn Rael (40th, 1:12:36.01), senior Maria Villegas (44th, 1:20:56.55) and sophomore Sharon Cardenas-Gordillo (45th, 1:25:41.67).

Congrats to head coach Perrott and his assistants, support staff and all of the riders for a job well done.

Swim-dive tunes up for state with big AMDG finish

In their final tune-up for this week’s Division I state swimming and diving meet, Xavier Prep’s Gators had a strong finish in their final invitational race, the AMDG at the Brophy aquatic center on Saturday (Nov. 2).

As they have been all season, the relay teams stood out.

Xavier ruled the relays as the result of efforts from Gracie Munk, Pao Guerra, Olivia Paliscak, Kelly Scott, Maddie Wright, Jordan Herrera, Vica Dow and Mia Rankin.

Individual event winners were Herrera in the 200-yard individual medley, Wright in the 50-yard freestyle, Hope Nolan in the 100-yard butterfly and Munk in the 100-yard backstroke.

Swimming and diving Division I state preliminaries will be held on Thursday (Nov. 7), with the finals set for Friday (Nov. 8), both at the Kino aquatic complex in Mesa.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Gators No. 5 as state v-ball tourney set to begin

The 6A Conference volleyball state tournament brackets were announced by the Arizona Interscholastic Association on Saturday (Nov. 2), and Xavier Prep’s two-time defending champion Gators are listed as the No. 5 seed.

Xavier, which had a 29-11 record in the recently completed regular season, will host a first-round game in the Activity Center on Tuesday (Nov. 5) against No. 12 Peoria Liberty.

The winner of that contest will move on to the quarterfinals on Thursday (Nov. 7) against the winner of a first-round match between No. 13 Mesa Desert Ridge and No. 4 Gilbert Highland. Xavier would host the quarterfinal if Desert Ridge upsets Highland, but would have to hit the road if Highland wins.

Here are the 6A first round games, all on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.:

No. 16 Queen Creek at No. 1 Gilbert Perry, No. 9 Phoenix Pinnacle at No. 8 Phoenix Desert Vista, No. 12 Peoria Liberty at No. 5 Xavier Prep, No. 13 Mesa Desert Ridge at No. 4 Gilbert Highland, No. 14 Phoenix Mountain Pointe at No. 3 Chandler Basha, No. 11 Mesa Mountain View at No. 6 Chandler Hamilton, No. 10 Scottsdale Chaparral at No. 7 Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor, No. 15 Mesa Skyline at No. 2 Tempe Corona del Sol.