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.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Gator volleyball remains a work in progress

 Working with a younger team that has not played together very much can be exhilarating one moment and frustrating the next. As a coach, you’re never quite sure which you are going to get on any given night.

About 24 hours after defeating defending Division I state champion Chandler Basha in its own gym, Xavier Prep returned to the floor on Wednesday night (Sept. 23) for its home opener against Scottsdale Chaparral. The Gators looked strong in spots, not so much in others.

It was enough to create a bit of fog on the shield mask of Xavier coach Lamar-Renee Bryant.

Xavier took a 25-20 win in the first game, fell 25-22 in the second, finally warmed up in the third for a 25-18 win, and in the fourth game looked to be headed for a Game 5 before managing to avoid that with a 25-20 triumph to take the match 3-1.

“That was hard to watch,’’ Bryant said.

“We hoped we could stay confident, coming from yesterday (Basha), but with a young team, this is what you get.’’

On Thursday (Sept. 24), Xavier will play its third match in as many nights when it plays host to Premier Region opponent Chandler High in the Activity Center. Match time is 6 p.m., preceded by the frosh-sophomore match at 4 and the junior varsity at 5.

Safety precautions will resume after the Chaparral match in which the Xavier staff did a good job of distancing chairs for players in the bench area and disinfecting the volleyballs with a spray and towel after each point. Teams did not switch sides as in a normal match, and there was no physical contact between the athletes, who were required to wear masks when not playing. Spectators were limited to two people per Xavier player, set up before the match in a “will-call’’ format.

Asked about individual efforts from her players, Bryant pointed to sophomore Maddie MacDonald and junior Tiffany Tellez, who helped keep the Gators together with their play off the bench.

In the decisive Game 4, Chaparral held a 17-13 lead and had a 20-19 advantage before Xavier scored six straight points to seal the contest.


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