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.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Snowball rumbles, Gator v-ball tumbles with it

 Xavier Prep’s Gators saw a snowball sitting at the top of the hill on Tuesday (Nov. 17), and somebody pushed it.

Bigger and faster it came, and it became apparent that the Gators would not be able to stop it.

Gilbert Perry has been that dominant with the volleyball teams it has played during this unprecedented season that was filled with uncertainty due to the Covid-19 virus.

Perry, the defending 6A Conference runner-up, was 16-0 entering the quarterfinal game against the Premier Region rival Gators, and by the end of the evening was 17-0 after a 3-0 sweep, its third sweep of Xavier this season and 13th sweep overall.

Quarterfinal scores were 25-12, 25-13 and 25-21.

The top-seeded Pumas will go on to play again at home in a semifinal match on Thursday night (Nov. 19) against No. 4 Mesa Mountain View. Second-seeded Chandler Hamilton will play host to No. 11 Phoenix Sunnyslope in the other semi, and the winners will meet for the state title on Saturday night (Nov. 21) at Gilbert Mesquite.

Xavier finished 10-7.

“They (Perry) were a little more on their game than we were and that made it difficult for us to do much of anything,’’ said Xavier Coach Lamar-Renee Bryant.

It was duck and cover for the Gators in the first two games as powerful Perry smashed kill shot after kill shot. Xavier played better in Game 3, perhaps even dreaming of forcing a Game 4. However, those thoughts were fleeting.

Perry racked up Game 1 with a service ace and two blocks on defense. Game 2 ended in similar fashion. With the score 24-20 in Game 3, the Pumas gave XCP an opening with a long serve, but came back to clinch the match with one final kill shot.

Bryant expressed admiration for her three senior players – outside hitter Zaira Reyes, middle blocker Phoebe Lewis and team captain Kaori Robertson, the libero.

“It is tough for the seniors, but we (coaches) appreciate everything they have done for us,’’ Bryant said. “With the curriculum we have at Xavier, it is difficult to be a student sometimes, and to be a student-athlete makes it all the more challenging.

“And we are super proud of everyone. We have been living in uncertain times, but we are fortunate to have stayed healthy and safe. Above all, we were grateful to our administration for allowing us to even have a season.’’

It is hoped that a solid group of underclassmen will return in 2021-22. They are current juniors Tiffany Tellez, Emma Soderstrom, Bella Sinacori, Hannah Ulisch and Alexa Shiner. Current sophomores are Mei Tsou, Kate Tax and Lauren Vanderwey, and Finley Workman is the current freshman.

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