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.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Xavier prime example of beach volleyball growth

The sport of beach volleyball continues to grow by leaps and bounds each year in Arizona, and the resulting task for high school coaches such as Xavier Prep’s Tim McHale certainly is not easy.

With increased interest comes increased ability, and McHale was trying to figure out which of the players trying out as part of his roster of 18-20 for the 2020 season, when the Gators will make a bid for their eighth Division I state championship.

“That’s the hard part, trying to sort things out,’’ McHale said.

He wants to keep the roster as balanced as possible, combining the older players with younger ones who are moving quickly up the ladder.

“You want to be strong for the current season, but you also need to be looking ahead to the future,’’ McHale said.

Xavier has six seniors who are capable of making an impact – Tori Burton, Bri Butkiewicz, Analy Carbine, Abby Converse, Grace Lincoln and Katelen Tellez.

The top team in the two-player format likely will be Converse and junior Serena Turner.

Converse, who played indoor last fall, is a bundle of energy, diving all over the sand. The 6-foot-1 Turner gives the Gators a forceful presence at the net. She, too, played indoor as a freshman and sophomore before stepping back from indoor last fall due to an injury and deciding to concentrate on beach, since she already has made a commitment to Stanford.

Other players to watch are junior Zaira Reyes and sophomore Alexa Shiner, who was the top setter on Xavier’s indoor team.

“All of our returning players are so selfless. They are concerned about the overall health of the program they helped to build,’’ McHale said.

McHale’s “list of usual suspects’’ again should be strong as they attempt to challenge Xavier.

On that list are defending state runner-up Gilbert Perry, Tempe Corona del Sol, Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor, Anthem Boulder Creek and Goodyear Millennium.

Xavier faced Millennium in a scrimmage on Monday (Feb. 24) at Xavier, and the Gators will meet Chandler Basha in the regular-season opener on Friday (Feb. 28) at Xavier.

No score was kept for the scrimmage. The Xavier teams that were first up on the top two Cavanaugh courts looked as if they are developing into duos capable of making an impact near the top of the team’s list – Converse and Turner and Burton and Carbine.

Xavier 2020 beach volleyball roster

Head coach – Tim McHale. Assistants – Susan Contreras, Anna Panagiotakopoulos.

Players -- Katie Anthony, So.; Tori Burton, Sr.; Bri Butkiewicz, Sr.; Analy Carbine, Sr.; Landree Coats, So.; Abby Converse, Sr.; Lila Freeland, Fr.; Adrienne Gordon, So.; Tessa Guthrie, Jr.; Grace Lincoln, Sr.; Summer McCann, Fr.; Zaira Reyes, Jr.; Alexa Shiner, So.; Gracie Smith, Fr.; Katelen Tellez, Sr.; Tiffany Tellez, So.; Mei Tsou, Fr.; Serena Turner, Jr.; Hannah Ulisch, So.; Angela Valentine, Fr.; Lexi Yoza, Fr.

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