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.
Gators didn’t fold.
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).
(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
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).’’
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.
what seniors are supposed to do – they stepped up,’’ Bryant said.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.