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, October 2, 2020

Gators enter volleyball obstacle course


The Xavier Prep volleyball team was coasting along before this week’s matches, but all of that came to a screeching halt with opponents sweeping the Gators in two of their three contests, most recently to Chandler Hamilton in the Activity Center on Thursday night (Oct. 1).

The Gators had sandwiched a sweep of their own against Mesa Skyline in between the setbacks to Gilbert Perry and Hamilton, but that did not offer much consolation.

Scores against Hamilton were 21-25, 19-25 and 16-25. As the dwindling numbers might indicate over the course of the contest, Xavier could not match the size, strength and power of the Huskies.

Playing in perhaps the state’s toughest 6A region, the Premier, is a difficult task. The defending state champion, Chandler Basha, also is in the region, but is a bit down this season after losing several key players to graduation. Xavier, which swept the Bears in the season opener, will battle it out with Hamilton, Perry and Chandler High.

Hamilton had lost a tough five-set match against Perry on Wednesday night (Sept. 30) and did not want another disappointment against Xavier.

The Huskies seemed to be focused from the start.

Jordan Middleton, a 6-foot-2 junior outside hitter, provided the biggest impact with 16 kills on the heels of a her 27 kills against Perry. Setter Diana Ethridge set things up with 30 assists.

“Perry and Hamilton were clicking this week, and we showed that we have a lot more work to do,’’ said Xavier coach Lamar-Renee Bryant. “They have bigger people and I think we were a little scared. That is not Xavier volleyball.’’

Xavier had three players with 5 kills each – seniors Zaira Reyes and Phoebe Lewis and sophomore Kate Tax. Junior setter Alexa Shiner had 25 assists and senior libero Kaori Robertson had 24 digs. But the Gators only managed 3 blocks, not a good sign for the first line of defense.

The Gators stayed close in the first game and led early in the second before a 6-0 run by Hamilton turned things back in its favor.

Xavier was never really in it in the third game.

The Gators (4-2) will play again on Tuesday night (Oct. 6) with a non-region game at home against Mesa Mountain View. The Toros, almost always a competitive opponent, are 5-0.

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