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 23, 2020

Sunnyslope v-ball tries to rally, but Gators stand firm

 One great match deserves another.

In the case of Xavier Prep’s Gators, their rally for a 3-2 volleyball victory over Phoenix Desert Vista on Wednesday night (Oct. 21) set the stage for a 3-1 triumph over 2019 5A Conference state champion Phoenix Sunnyslope on Thursday night (Oct. 22).

Scores vs. Sunnyslope (Xavier listed first): 25-20, 25-18, 23-25 and 27-25. Xavier is now 8-5, while Sunnyslope, which moved up to 6A this season, slipped to 6-2 with its second straight loss.

Xavier had rallied from two sets down to defeat Desert Vista, and the confidence gleaned from that match carried over at Sunnyslope.

Still, the Gators have some work to do. They were within range of a sweep against the Vikings, leading 23-21 in the third game, but Sunnyslope scored four straight points to send it to a fourth.

“If you are up 23-21 in the third game at state, you have to make sure you finish it off if you want to stay in the tournament. We didn’t do that here,’’ said Xavier coach Lamar-Renee Bryant.

“We thought the match was over, and it wasn’t. We’re at the point of the season when every match matters when you’re looking at power points (Arizona Interscholastic Association rankings).’’

In the fourth game, Xavier led until late, when Sunnyslope pulled even with the Gators at 20-20 and shortly thereafter took a 22-21 lead on a block.

Back and forth it went after that. Sunnyslope had its last lead at 25-24, on a double hit by Xavier, but couldn’t put it away. The Gators tied it at 25-25 on a block by senior Phoebe Lewis, then picked up the final two points. Finally, they could take a breath.

Bryant liked the play of junior outside hitter Tiffany Tellez, particularly in the early part of the match, and pointed to the consistent efforts of junior outside hitter Emma Soderstrom and senior libero Kaori Robertson. And junior setter Alexa Shiner did a good job setting up her teammates up front with her passing, as well as keeping the Vikings off balance with some strategically placed shots of her own.

Xavier has two regular-season matches remaining: on Tuesday (Oct. 27) at Chandler Hamilton and on Nov. 3 at home against Tempe Corona del Sol.

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