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.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

XCP v-ball to meet top-rated Perry in quarter

 In the 2018, 2017 and 2016 volleyball seasons, Xavier Prep and Tempe Corona del Sol were among the teams in the upper echelon in Arizona’s 6A Conference, often squaring off in crucial matches.

Corona del Sol won the state title against Phoenix Mountain Pointe in 2016, then fell twice to Xavier in the 2017 and 2018 championship matches.

Since then, the two programs have not ascended to the same heights as their former selves, and entered the 2020 state tournament under somewhat different circumstances.

Xavier was the eighth and final team to earn a first-round bye, and Corona del Sol had to fight through the “play-in’’ round just to reach the state tournament as the No. 9 seed.

And after meeting late in the season on Nov. 3, the two teams met again at Xavier’s Activity Center in a first-round match on Saturday afternoon (Nov. 14).

“What a difference four years makes,’’ said Xavier coach Lamar-Renee Bryant.

Just as it did in the first meeting between the two, Xavier turned away a Corona del Sol team that was trying to push the contest to a decisive fifth game. In both cases, Xavier managed to survive with 3-1 victories.

The Gators began Saturday’s match with 25-23 and 25-19 wins in the first wo games. Corona del Sol stayed alive in Game 3, winning 25-20 and Xavier won Game 4 25-21.

With the win, Xavier (10-6) earned a third shot at 6A Premier Region rival Gilbert Perry, the defending state runner-up, in a quarterfinal contest at Perry (16-0) on Tuesday night (Nov. 17).

Perry swept the Gators 3-0 in both of their regular-season matches.

Of the match-up with Perry, Bryant said, “To be the best, you have to beat the best.’’

The Gators had a balanced effort against Corona del Sol (10-7).

“That’s what you have to have when it’s playoff time,’’ Bryant said.

In the fourth game against Corona del Sol, Xavier came up with some key blocks, including those by senior middle blocker Phoebe Lewis. Junior middle blocker Bella Sinacori also had her moments on defense.

Junior Emma Soderstrom, junior Tiffany Tellez and sophomore Kate Tax, all outside hitters, kept the offense going. Junior setter Alexa Shiner was steady with her passing, while senior libero Kaori Robertson and junior libero Hannah Ulisch managed to turn away more kill attempts with aggressive play than they let fall to the floor.

6A first-round state volleyball results

All matches on Saturday, Nov. 14

(Seedings in parentheses)

Gilbert Perry (1) def. Glendale Mountain Ridge (16); Xavier Prep (8) def. Tempe Corona del Sol (9); Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor (5) def. Surprise Valley Vista (12); Mesa Mountain View (4) def. Queen Creek (13); Gilbert Highland (3) def. Chandler Basha (14); Phoenix Sunnyslope (11) def. Phoenix Pinnacle (6); Phoenix Desert Vista (7) def. Chandler High (10); Chandler Hamilton (2) def. Peoria Liberty (15).

Quarterfinal match-ups

Tuesday, Nov. 17, 6:30 p.m.

Xavier Prep at Perry, Sandra Day O’Connor at Mountain View, Sunnyslope at Highland, Desert Vista at Hamilton.

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