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, December 23, 2021

Gator hoops looking for ways to turn it around

 The final days of December will offer Xavier Prep’s basketball team an opportunity to heal from injuries and reflect on its struggle in the recent Nike Tournament of Champions, try to figure out what it can do better in 2022.

The Gators won six regular-season games before entering the Nike and losing all four of their games.

The latest setback came on Wednesday (Dec. 22), 65-64 to Arizona 5A Conference team Goodyear Millennium at Phoenix Desert Vista in Ahwatukee.

Despite the loss, the Xavier coaches were pleased with the way the team fought back, showed improvement and a good team mentality throughout the game.

Sophomore guard-forward Sarah Miller led Xavier with 18 points and 6 rebounds.

“She was a constant,’’ said head coach Jennifer Gillom.

Juniors Gabi Trbovic (forward) and Sienna Cherwinski (guard) and sophomore guard Maureen (Mo) Ulrich “really stepped up,’’ according to Gillom, “and showed great poise.’’

Trbovic scored 14 points, including 4 of 4 shooting, and grabbed 5 rebounds. Cherwinski scored 15 points and had a pair of blocked shots. And Ulrich had 11 points, 5 assists and 8 rebounds.

With sophomore guard Dom Nesland out for the second straight game with an injury, Ulrich played the point again impressed the coaches with her drives to the basket and dishing the ball to open teammates.

Sophomore Gosi Alilonu played strong defense and came up with seven rebounds.

About halfway through the second quarter, senior forward Toni Garcia suffered an ankle injury and did not return. Her availability is uncertain moving forward.

Xavier returns to game action on Jan. 4 with a home contest against Anthem Boulder Creek.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Fourth tourney game becomes salvage operation

 In its first six games of the season, Xavier Prep’s basketball team was traveling smooth and steady along a superhighway, but now has veered off onto a rocky, desolate stretch filled with all sorts of debris.

The Gators have lost their first three games in the Nike Tournament of Champions, and now must try to salvage their fourth and final Nike contest before returning to their regular-season schedule in January.

The latest roadblock came on Tuesday (Dec. 21), when 6A Xavier fell to 4A Tucson Salpointe Catholic 65-50 at Phoenix Desert Vista in Ahwatukee.

Xavier (6-3) will meet 5A Goodyear Millennium on Wednesday (Dec. 22) at 8 a.m. at Desert Vista (auxiliary gym). The winner will finish as the 15th-place team in the John Anderson Bracket. Millennium is in a similar situation as the Gators, with losses in its first three Nike games and an overall record of 4-3.

The Gators started things off against Salpointe (8-2) with a three-point basket by Sienna Cherwinski and went on to a 9-5 lead, But the Lancers had a 16-3 run and ended up with a nine-point advantage at the end of the first quarter. Only a 3-pointer by Sarah Miller (22 points) kept XCP from being shut out in the final 5:20 of the quarter.

From there, Salpointe was in control. The Gators got another 3-pointer from Cherwinski to help cut the margin to four about midway through the third.

Xavier could not manufacture much on offense after that with low-percentage shot selection, troublesome passes that were intercepted or tipped away, or standing flat-footed on rebounds as Salpointe appeared to have more of an urgency to go and retrieve the ball.

Complicating matters was the fact that the Gators’ offense was slowed that sophomore point guard Dom Nesland was sidelined by a shoulder injury that occurred on Monday (Dec. 20) with a shoulder injury. She likely will not return to the court until January.

Monday, December 20, 2021

Sr. Lynn inducted into NIAAA Hall of Fame

 The National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association wrapped up its annual conference recently with a big finish in Denver.

Xavier Prep’s very own Athletic Director, Sr. Lynn Winsor, was one of 10 ADs who were inducted into the organization’s Hall of Fame.

A post on the BVM’s Facebook page paid tribute to Winsor with these words . . .

“A champion of women’s equality and expansion of women’ sports, Sista Lynn has served as Xavier College Preparatory Athletic Director for 44 years and has coached and inspired thousands of students.’’

Members of XCP’s Athletic Department also were on hand at the conference to witness the great occasion.

Congrats, Sr. Lynn, you are the best !!

Gators need to give more attention to details

 There are many things that go into making an individual or a team a success on the basketball floor.

Shooting, rebounding, passing, dribbling and defense, of course.

But you also have to pay attention to details, some of the little things, the rest of it usually won’t work.

That was the missing link for the Gators on Monday (Dec. 20) in the Nike Tournament of Champions loser’s side of the “John Anderson’’ bracket at Tempe McClintock High. They played much better than in their opening-game loss on Saturday (Dec. 18), but it still wasn’t quite good enough.

Facing Lubbock Cooper HS from Texas, XCP trailed by as many as nine points in the second quarter, but charged back to take a couple of 3-point leads and trailed by just one at the half.

Lubbock Cooper managed to get things back under control in the fourth and held on for a 64-61 victory.

Xavier, now 6-2 overall, plays on Tuesday (Dec. 21) at Phoenix Desert Vista in Ahwatukee and will meet Tucson Salpointe Catholic at 10:30 a.m. The teams will return to Desert Vista for their final tournament games on Wednesday (Dec. 22).

If Xavier defeats Salpointe, it would play on Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. If Salpointe wins, Xavier will have to rise bright and early on Wednesday and play at 8 a.m.

After the team met with Coach Jennifer Gillom beneath a flight of stairs after its loss, Gillom made sure to remind the players about the attention to detail issue. Some if it was as simple as turning their head the wrong way at the wrong time. Other instances involved thinking that one of their teammates was going to make a cut one way, when it turned out to be another.

Sophomore guard-forward Sarah Miller led Xavier with 19 points, nine coming in a time span of about a minute and a half, including two 3-pointers while keeping the Gators close.

What limited Xavier’s options down the stretch was an injury to sophomore point guard Dom Nesland, who banged up her shoulder halfway through the fourth quarter and had it iced and wrapped afterward. Gillom wasn’t sure if Nesland would return for one or both remaining games in the tournament, but the possibility exists that she will use the next week to 10 days to rest before the Arizona part of the XCP schedule resumes in January.

As tough as it was to watch on Monday, Gillom said she was glad to have tough competition.

“That’s why we’re here,’’ she said. “I know this will help us improve and be ready as we move through the season.’’

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Calif. team knocks Gators from unbeaten list

 Xavier Prep’s Gators had the will to win on Saturday (Dec. 18), but not enough time to do it.

They trailed Rosary Academy (Fullerton, Calif.) by 21 points entering the fourth quarter of their Nike Tournament of Champions game at Tempe Marcos de Niza, having been overwhelmed by the opponent’s quickness and ultra-pressure defense.

But the Gators came roaring back in the fourth quarter, going on an 11-0 run to cut its deficit to nine points before Rosary managed to regain its composure and held on for a 46-34 victory, knocking Xavier from the unbeaten ranks at 6-1.

After an off day for the tournament on Sunday (Dec. 19), Xavier moves to the lower part of the 16-team John Anderson bracket and plays on Monday (Dec. 20) in a 1:30 p.m. contest at Tempe McClintock against either Lubbock-Cooper (Texas) or Kenwood (Ill.).

Rosary kept the pressure on from the opening moments on, stifling Xavier with a defense that switched frequently or double-teamed, and the Gators rarely could handle it.

“It was their quickness and their physicality,’’ Xavier coach Jennifer Gillom said. “We needed to play a team like this. We are grateful for the opportunity to do it. We have to learn to play against teams like this because this is the type of team we are going to face in our (6A Conference) state tournament.’’

Of her youthful team, she said, “We showed that we could come back and play with them in the fourth quarter and we feel that we are capable of playing with anybody. The more games we play like this, the better off we will be.’’

Sophomore guard-forward Sarah Miller led the Gators with 15 points, including a pair of 3-pointers. Another sophomore, Maureen (Mo) Ulrich, finished with eight points and did a good job defensively.

4 Xavier golfers honored by

 Xavier Prep’s golf team, which came within three shots of winning its 38th state championship this fall, had four players listed as Honorable Mention on the All-Arizona Team that was released on Saturday (Dec. 18).

The golfers were junior Annie Dawson, sophomores Jayden Jevnick and Kate Hauptman, and senior Ivy Song.

Dawson finished in a tie for fifth, Song was seventh, Hauptman was tied for 14th, and Jevnick was tied for 26th.

The Player of the Year and Coach of the Year will receive their awards at the media outlet’s annual Arizona High School Sports Awards event at the close of the school year.

Xavier's schedule, locations change in Nike tournament

 Attention, Gator Nation . . .

For those intending to follow Xavier Prep’s basketball team in the Nike Tournament of Champions in person from Dec. 18-22, please be advised of bracket and location changes that were announced by tournament officials on Friday night (Dec. 17).

The Gators were originally placed in the “Mike’’ bracket but now are in the “John’’ bracket and will begin play on Saturday (Dec. 18) against Rosary of Fullerton, Calif., with a 1:30 p.m. tipoff at Tempe Marcos de Niza High.

The John bracket will consist of 16 teams.

After an off day on Sunday (Dec. 19), play resumes on Monday (Dec. 20).

If Xavier wins on Saturday, it will advance to a 10:30 a.m. game on Monday at Marcos de Niza. If Xavier loses on Saturday, it will slip into the lower half of the bracket and play on Monday at Tempe McClintock High.

The final two days for the John bracket will be played at Phoenix Desert Vista High in Ahwatukee.

Monday’s winners will play on Tuesday (Dec. 21) at 10:30 a.m. and Monday’s losers will play at 1:30 p.m.

The bracket championship and ninth-place games will be played on Wednesday (Dec. 22) at Desert Vista, both at 12:30 p.m.



Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Cherwinski leads charge for Gator basketball

 When you are looking for an example of an all-around effort by a basketball player, Tuesday night’s (Dec. 14) performance by Xavier Prep junior guard Sienna Cherwinski is one by which almost all others can be measured.

Cherwinski helped the Gators remain unbeaten at 6-0 with an 88-32 victory over visiting Scottsdale Chaparral. She scored a team-leading 24 points, including 4-of-7 from 3-point range and 6-of-7 from the traditional 2-point range.

Don’t stop there – take a look beyond at additional numbers.

She also had 7 assists, 5 steals and 4 rebounds.

“Sienna is capable of doing something like that every single night,’’ said Xavier Coach Jennifer Gillom.  “She can post up, she can do it all. She is a real team player. I keep telling her, encouraging her, “This is what we need from you.’ ''

Xavier jumped to a 31-7 at the end of the first quarter and Cherwinski had a big hand in that.

She scored 17 points during that time, including three 3-pointers. She connected on another trey in the second quarter as the Xavier lead was 48-23 at halftime.

The outcome was all but sealed in the third quarter when Xavier used a 19-0 run to set up the usage of the running clock with its big lead.

In the third quarter, sophomore guard Dom Nesland hit two of her three 3-pointers on the night and went on to finish with 20 points.

Senior Toni Garcia showed strength under the basket with 9 points, 6 rebounds and 4 steals. Junior forward Gabby Trbovic scored seven points and freshman post CeCe Mlat had four points and forced Chaparral to alter some of its shots inside with her height (6-feet-6) and long reach.

Next up for Xavier is the Nike Tournament of Champions in the southeast Valley. The Gators are expected to play at least four games, with the first coming on Saturday (Dec. 18) at 1:30 p.m. against West Linn, Ore., at Tempe McClintock High. The remainder of the tournament will be held Monday (Dec. 20), Tuesday (Dec. 21) and Wednesday (Dec. 22).

Saturday, December 11, 2021

"Scoring Machine,' depth carry Xavier soccer

 Xavier Prep’s “Scoring Machine’’ continued to score, but there was more to the Gators’ 3-1 soccer victory over visiting Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor than that.

Xavier coach Barb Chura was able to utilize the team’s depth, which kept her players fresh, and there was a defensive adjustment that helped the team after Sandra Day O’Connor tied the contest at 1-1 with 19:57 left in the second half.

Junior forward Larkin Thomason scored her machine-like eighth and ninth goals of the young season, and added an assist on a goal by freshman forward Michal Cagungun as the Gators raised their record to 3-0-1 at Petznick Field. Sandra Day O’Connor, playing only its second match of the season, is 1-1.

Thomason’s first goal came with 35:34 left in the first half with an assist by Cagungun.

Sandra Day O’Connor tied it in the second half, and it took just another 1:45 for the Gators to regain the lead, on a goal by Cagungun.

The Gators’ defense shut down the Eagles after the match was tied, putting four defenders along the back area near the goal to lessen the chances of additional scores.

Thomason assisted on Cagungun’s goal that made it 2-1, and Thomason scored again with 11:57 remaining in the second half with an assist from junior Julianne Veloria. Chura was amazed by the element of speed that Cagungun brings to the table.

Sandra Day O’Connor’s goal got the Gators’ attention.

“I just told them (Xavier players) that in soccer, you are going to get teams that hang with you. O’Connor is a good team, much improved over last season,’’ Chura said.

The depth situation is due to improved play across the board, and the coach said that in practice, when the first unit squares off against some of the reserves, “it can get pretty even.’’

Xavier will not play another match until Jan. 10, when it travels to face Phoenix Desert Vista in Ahwatukee.

In the meantime, practice times will be spread out with a few days of action in a row followed by a day of rest, allowing those with bumps and bruises to heal.

For XCP hoops, road doesn't seem a bad place to be

 Playing on the road seems to be almost as comfortable for Xavier Prep’s basketball team as being at home.

For the fourth time in five games, the Gators boarded the team bus and headed to Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor in the northwest Valley, and managed to keep their unbeaten record intact wih a 67-47 victory over the Eagles. Xavier now stands at 5-0.

Sophomore guard-forward Sarah Miller played an impactful all-around game with a team-high 21 points and seven rebounds. Junior guard Sienna Cherwinski had 13 points and five assists.

Xavier will finally return home to the Activity Center on Tuesday night (Dec. 14) against Scottsdale Chaparral. And beginning on Dec. 18, the Gators will participate in the Nike Tournament of Champions at several sites in the southeast Valley. The team is expected to play at least four games.

Friday, December 10, 2021

After the unexpected, Gators do what is expected

 You just never know what is going to happen when you walk into the gym.

The unexpected unfolded when Xavier Prep’s basketball team entered Phoenix Pinnacle’s home court on Thursday night (Dec. 9).

Before the opening tip, before a shot was taken, before a dribble bounced, before you could hear any sneakers squeak, the host Pioneers were busted with a rules violation and accompanying technical foul shots, of which the Gators’ Sienna Cherwinski made one.

And with 3:27 left in the third quarter and Xavier holding a comfortable 58-23 lead, the game was stopped when rain leaking from the roof was dripping on the Gators’ baseline.

The Pinnacle facilities person eventually drove a scissors lift through the gym door and raised the platform to the rafters, where he hung an industrial-sized plastic bucket. About 20 minutes later, play resumed and Xavier went on to remain unbeaten at 4-0 with a 76-46 victory.

“You never expect events like we had tonight,’’ said Xavier coach Jennifer Gillom. “You just have to be ready to play. Our girls do a good job of that.’’

Gillom instructed her players to return home and get some rest, because the Gators are due to play again on Friday night (Dec. 10), on the road again vs. Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor.

The Gators gained the upper hand early with a swarming defense that had Pinnacle rarely able to get the ball past the half-court line. By the end of the night, Xavier had recorded 19 steals, including four each by Cherwinski, Gosi Alilonu and Sarah Miller.

On offense, Dom Nesland and Miller, her backcourt running mate, each had four assists.

And it was Nesland who was on fire with her shots, connecting on seven 3-pointers and finishing with 27 points. Miller had 16 points and Maureen (Mo) Ulrich had 11. Ulrich also led the team in rebounding with nine.

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Three-pointers power Gators to hoops victory

 What do you get when you combine a meteorologist with a hoopsologist?

The answer came on Monday night (Dec. 6) at Xavier Prep’s Activity Center.

There was a big cloudburst and it rained 3-pointers.

XCP’s basketball team connected on 11 of the long-range shots and coasted to an 85-22 victory over Phoenix North in a game that went to a running clock in the fourth period after Xavier’s lead reached past the required 30 points.

So Xavier continued its hot start by winning its third game in as many tries. The Gators fill out the rest of this week with road games at Phoenix Pinnacle (9-1) on Thursday night (Dec. 9) and Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor on Friday night (Dec. 10). O’Connor (2-1) was set to face defending 6A Conference state champion Surprise Valley Vista on Wednesday night (Dec. 8).

The treys were pretty much balanced across the board, with three in the first, two in the second, four in the third and two in the fourth.

Xavier had seven players connect on the threes. Sophomore Dom Nesland had three, sophomores Sarah Miller and Josie Alilonu had two each and junior Sienna Cherwinski, freshman Lucy Sanford and sophomores Juliet Botiller and Aniyah Roberson had one apiece.

Four Gators scored in double figures – Nesland and Miller (17 each), Cherwinski (13) and Alilonu (11).

Larkin sparks Xavier Prep soccer again

 To say that Larkin Thomason is on a roll is an understatement.

The Xavier Prep junior forward scored four goals on Monday night (Dec. 6), bringing her total to seven in just three matches, as the Gators (2-0-1) rolled past visiting Phoenix North 14-0 at Petznick Field.

Senior forward Keila Lopez and junior forward Tatum Kramer each scored twice.

The Gators will return to action on Friday night (Dec. 10) at 6 p.m. at Petznick against Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor.

Saturday, December 4, 2021

Gators score second victory of young hoops season

 Two for two.

Xavier Prep’s basketball team claimed its second victory in as many games to open the 2021-22 season, stopping host Phoenix Sunnyslope 53-34 on Friday night (Dec. 3).

As with most teams at this point in the season, the Gators were off the mark with some of their shooting, but were able to find more of an accurate touch in the second half. An aggressive defensive effort helped clear the way.

Xavier had an eight-point lead at halftime and put more space between it and the Vikings with a 16-7 run in the third quarter.

Key plays in the third were two steals that set up scores by sophomore guard Dom Nesland and another by sophomore Sarah Miller, who finished with a team-high 17 points.

Miller, Nesland and junior guard Sienna Cherwinski all had a 3-point basket.

After two road games, Xavier will play its home opener on Monday night (Dec. 6) against Phoenix North. Varsity begins at 7 p.m., and JV at 5:30.

Friday, December 3, 2021

Defense dominates for soccer teams in 1-1 tie

 There was a great deal of anticipation in regard to Thursday night’s (Dec. 2) soccer match between Xavier Prep and host Scottsdale Chaparral.

Many people thought that the contest would resemble last year’s Division I state championship duel, which Xavier won 2-0.

And this one came as advertised. Both teams took turns controlling the contest and each scored a goal before two defense-dominated overtime periods kept the score at 1-1 when the night was through.

“We had so many opportunities and their goalkeeper definitely had to make some fantastic saves against us,’’ said Xavier coach Barb Chura.

Xavier had some solid goaltending from sophomore Kate Wilmering, who stood tall the whole game “and did a really nice job,’’ according to Chura.

On offense, the Gators connected on a first-half goal by junior forward Larkin Thomason, who scored twice in a season-opening 5-0 win over Glendale Mountain Ridge on Tuesday night (Nov. 30). Larkin’s goal against Chaparral was assisted by sophomore midfielder Lucy Brink.

“Many people contributed and had great minutes for us,’’ Chura said.

Next on Xavier’s agenda is a match on Monday night (Dec. 6) against Phoenix North at Petznick Field. Time is 6 p.m.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

New Xavier Prep tennis courts are true blue

 After about eight months of eager anticipation, the brand-new courts at Xavier Prep’s Stark Tennis Center are open for play.

Varsity and JV players for XCP and freshman players who played competitively during the recently completed fall season were allowed to get their feet wet starting Nov. 29 on the new blue surfaces that resemble an inviting swimming pool or pond to cool off in.

What a wonderful place to play! (Xavier photos)

Where do Gators live? In a blue lagoon!

And with the addition of lighting, the courts will be available for night matches. And the courts themselves can be configured for the fast-growing sport of pickleball.

There are picnic-type tables to use for social events, along with a grassy area similar to the one that was used previously.

The only thing missing are the large ash trees that had to be removed due to overgrowth of the root system. New trees have been planted in their place and should be able to provide plenty of shade once they reach maturity.

Xavier has long been a force on Arizona’s high school tennis scene. Now we have the courts to match that!

"Perfect game' highlights hoops victory over Westwood

 Xavier Prep’s basketball team had a strong opening lap in its season opener on Tuesday night (Nov. 30) and it turned out to be a big victory lap with a 68-48 road triumph over Mesa Westwood.

Sophomore Sarah Miller was the team’s top scorer with 22 points, and grabbed six rebounds. Junior Sienna Cherwinski had 15 points and six rebounds.

Sophomore Dom Nesland and senior Maureen (Mo) Ulrich each scored 10 points. For Ulrich, it was a “perfect’’ game – she was perfect from the field (1 of 1), from 3-point range (2 of 2) and from the free-throw line (2 of 2).

Xavier will play another road game on Friday night (Dec. 3) against Phoenix Sunnyslope.

Efficient effort gives Gators season-opening soccer win

 It was the first match of Xavier Prep’s soccer season and coach Barb Chura said her players were “excited, nervous and anxious’’ entering the home contest against Glendale Mountain Ridge on Tuesday night (Nov. 30).

The Gators put their feelings aside to score a 5-0 victory over the Mountain Lions, and now some of that sentiment might return on Thursday night (Dec. 2) when XCP travels to face Scottsdale Chaparral.

Freshman Michal Cagungun (18) saw plenty of action in her first varsity match (Photos by Sr. Lynn Winsor).

The reason? It’s a rematch of last year’s Division I state championship title meeting won by Xavier 2-0 to claim the 11th crown in the school’s history.

“We are anticipating a tough match,’’  Chura said.

Xavier soccer players gather for a few words of inspiration before their match against Mountain Ridge.  

What would be an efficient effort against Mountain Ridge began somewhat slowly, with the Gators trying to gain their footing, particularly at the offensive end.

The clock ran down to the 10:04 mark of the first half before Xavier was able to put the ball in the net on a shot by senior defender Ansley Burns.

About 3 ½ minutes later, the Gators scored again on the first of two goals by junior forward Larkin Thomason. She came through again, this time on a header, with only three seconds left before the intermission.

Junior midfielder Bella Leonard tallied the Gators’ fourth goal with 23:31 left in the contest, and junior Collins Entz finished it off on her goal with just 15 seconds left in the match.

Collins Entz looks downfield for a teammate to receive the ball she will send.

Sophomore goalkeeper Kate Willmering and junior Sarah Castlen combined on the shutout. The keepers have been working with Jaden Campbell, who starred in goal for the Gators the last few seasons before graduating in 2021 and has volunteered to pass along her knowledge.

Chura listed a handful of Gators who stood out in the contest.

*Freshman forward/defender Lainey Swanson. “She was one of the best players out there for us, particularly in the first half,’’ Chura said.

*Sophomore defender Talia Coury, productive with her communication skills. “She does a good job of setting things up with her voice,’’ Chura said.

*Senior midfielder Hennessy Perez. Participation in club ball has led to a great deal of improvement. “She has more confidence and has become so much better than last year,’’ Chura said.

*Freshman midfielder Ally Brown. She is the sister of senior defender/midfielder Jayme Brown, and slices through the defense with her quickness. She also excels with her analytical skills. “She reads the game well and will only get better,’’ Chura said.

*And you can’t forget Bella Leonard. After a remarkable run in last year’s state tournament, her star continues to rise and already has made her college commitment to Notre Dame. “She plays at such a high level, it’s amazing,’’ Chura said.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Xavier basketball needs what Toni Garcia brings

 Toni Garcia has a unique type of goal for Xavier Prep’s basketball team.

As the team’s only senior, she would like nothing better than to help the Gators win the 6A Conference state championship and make the claim that other seniors before her could not.

“Yes, I would like that very much,’’ she said.

It all starts on Tuesday (Nov. 30) when Xavier travels to face Mesa Westwood in the regular-season opener. After another road game at Phoenix Sunnyslope on Dec. 3, the Gators will play their first home game on Dec. 6 against Phoenix North.

Although you might not see her name among the team’s scoring leaders, what you will notice is a player with an unrelenting work ethic. She steps into the lane and under the basket, doing whatever she can to get rebounds, putbacks after Xavier misses and positions her body in such a way that seldom will allow an opponent to get a clear path to the hoop.

A player that every team needs.

Toni Garcia will have a leadership role in addition to her solid work ethic on the court (Photo by Don Ketchum).

Asked about the road she has taken to reach this point, Garcia says, “It has all gone by so fast. I remember the tryouts for the freshman team. I wanted to have fun with it and it has been. It has been kind of crazy at times. I remember being around 5-7 or 5-8 and was hoping to grow a few more inches.’’

She did just that and now checks in at around 5-11.

“I’m taller than some of the girls (opponents) and that helps me with the rebounds and the putbacks,’’ she said.

When she was a freshman, Garcia was quiet. Now her senior role involves speaking up as she did when the team gathered in a circle during a recent practice.

“I think coach (Jennifer Gillom) wants me to speak up,’’ Garcia said. “You know, “Be heard,’ pick them up.’’

Gillom said Garcia learned from older players in the past and can use that this season.

“We also think she has more potential on the floor,’’ Gillom said. “She can probably score more in the right situations, like maybe a 15-footer, also taking it to the basket.

“She wants to help the other players to get in a habit of wanting to do well. To hold each other accountable, like, “I’m doing my part and you do your part.’ ’’

Said Garcia, “We played as a team in the past, but this season, we seem to be doing that even more. We have 14 individuals coming together.’’

Spoken like someone who yearns to achieve her goal.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Soccer's Perez ready for productive senior season

 As far as memorable moments in sports are concerned, few reach the level of the goal scored by then-junior Hennessy Perez in Xavier Prep’s 2-0 victory over Scottsdale Chaparral to earn the Division I soccer title in 2020-21.

It came early in the contest (only 5:14 had elapsed), but the Gators held on and scored an insurance goal with 55 seconds left in the match.

After the final whistle sounded to signal another remarkable achievement for the Gators, Perez said she told her father “that it seemed like time had stopped.  I couldn’t believe that it happened at first. But it was real. I was really excited. Everybody was really excited.’’

Senior midfielder Hennessy Perez and her Xavier soccer teammates are excited about a chance to repeat as state champion (Photo by Don Ketchum).

The excitement has not disappeared. Perez, a midfielder, is one of four senior returnees and the Gators have a truckload of versatile underclassmen in their bid for the 12th state title in the school’s history.

“We are taking things serious,’’ Perez said. “There are a lot of new players and we (seniors) want to be as nice and helpful as we can so that the younger players can confide in us about whatever they need.’’

Last season “all went by so fast,’’ according to Perez, and now it seems like the pace is more traditional in nature.

“We are working hard,’’ she said. “It’s a mentality thing. You have to be in the right mindset. You want to make it more of a positive. We want to create a family environment, not something just for yourself.’’

She likes what she has seen from the team thus far.

“This is a good group of girls,’’ Perez said. “I think we have a good chance to defend our title. All our players are very skilled.’’

After Tuesday’s (Nov. 30) regular-season opener at home against Glendale Mountain Ridge, Xavier will encounter a tournament-type atmosphere with a rematch on the road against Chaparral on Friday (Dec. 3).

Perez will be there, ready to provide a steadying influence. That’s what seniors are supposed to do.

Monday, November 22, 2021

Xavier archers have clear focus in tournament

 Forty-three Xavier archery athletes gathered last weekend for the November state qualifier event.

Some archery competitions have resorted to virtual events, but this was in person. There were 20 other schools in addition to Xavier, with 307 archers from across the state, according to coach Kelsey Gerchar.

One of the top Xavier efforts was by a new archer, Olivia Fisko, who took second place in the Female High School Division for 3D with a score of 267.

Xavier had four archers finish in the top 10 in 3D, and four in the top 10 of the Bullseye category.

The top 3D archers were 5th-place Alexa Ojeda (257 with 10 tens), sixth-lace Ana Bhatti (257, 5 tens), 8th-lace Evelynn Papez (253, 6 tens) and 10th-place Adela Campo (251, 10 tens).

The top Bullseyes archers were 5th-place Felicia FitzGerald (271 with 9 tens), 6th-place Isabella Beninato (264, 11 tens), 7th-place Ana Bhatti (263, 7 tens) and 8th-place Adela Campo (262, 12 tens).

Congratulations to these great Gator archers!!

Wheels of fury carry successful XCP riders

 Time certainly did not stand still for the Xavier Prep club mountain biking team on Saturday (Nov. 20).

The Gators unleashed fury on the 12 Hours of Fury event at the McDowell Mountain Park in Fountain Hills.

According to Xavier coach Rich Perrott, the event is a relay race with quad teams, and the quads with the most laps win.

Xavier riders swept the top three podium (awards stand) spots for the Junior Girls category.

The winning group was Aria Tseffos, Mary Hill, Bailey Finch and Grace Morgan. Second place went to Rachel Reyes, Alyssa Isaac, Lizbeth Sanchez Garcia and Gabriela Evans. And third place went to Maggie Meaney, Megan Walker, IKirsten Findlay and eighth grader Maddie Weisman.

Mountain biking is a fast-growing sport, and Xavier is right in the middle of all the action!!

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Basketball team features strong group of young players

 The start of the 2021-22 basketball season is almost here, and Xavier Prep coach Jennifer Gillom figures her team might as well face a few early challenges instead of waiting around. In theory, it will help the Gators get better.

That challenge will be playing four of their first five games on the road (Mesa Westwood, Phoenix Sunnyslope, Phoenix Pinnacle and Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor) sandwiched around the lone early home game (Phoenix North).

Xavier will play 18 regular-season games, along with two tournaments, the Nike Tournament of Champions in the southeast Valley just before Christmas and a national tournament in Stockton, Calif., honoring the late Dr. Martin Luther King, in mid-January.

Xavier has been close to raising the 6A Conference state championship trophy over the last few seasons. It finished as state runner-up to Surprise Valley Vista in 2018 and 2019 and fell to Valley Vista in the semifinals to finish 13-4 last season while the Monsoon went on to win it all again.

The Gators are young (only one senior) but play much older, especially after last season, when some talented freshmen came aboard and made a big adjustment. Most of the better players saw action what seemed like 24-7 since the end of last season in club ball and Xavier’s participation in summer leagues.

Two key players (Mia Davis, Hannah Young) transferred to other schools in the Valley after the season. However, Davis apparently is out for the 2021-22 season due to a serious knee injury.

The Xavier returnees have Gillom eager to get the season going after she watched them in practices over the first two weeks of November.

“We have only been practicing two weeks and it has been fantastic,’’ said Gillom, who often is measured when handing out compliments. However, the ability possessed by this group makes it difficult to refrain from touting its potential.

“They look sharp together and the chemistry is very good,’’ Gillom said. “I’ve actually seen improvement in every player every day.’’

Two of the top three scorers are back as sophomores. They are Sarah Miller and Dom Nesland. The 5-foot-10 Miller averaged 13.5 points and the 5-9 Nesland averaged 9.2 while serving as the team’s primary point guard. Both also crash the boards with regularity. Miller averaged 5.5 rebounds and Nesland 4.0.

Sarah Miller (Photos by Don Ketchum).

Dom Nesland.

Junior Sienna Cherwinski also is a factor in the backcourt, particularly from long range. She connected on 25 3-pointers last season. Sophomore Maureen Ulrich provides some flexibility in the backcourt.

The lone senior is 5-9 Toni Garcia, who displays hustle, particularly under the basket, every time she steps onto the floor.

A promising sophomore is Gosie Alilonu. Junior forward Gabi Trbovic has a nice shooting touch, particularly along the baseline.

Two freshmen to watch are guard Lucy Sanford and forward-post Cece Mlat, who stands 6-feet-6 and is intimidating on defense and on the boards. Her offense is a work in progress.

“It’s pretty encouraging out there,’’ said Miller. “We pick each other up. We’re in good condition.  I think we’ve improved a lot since last year.

“We play good defense, and our offense is good. We can all score, which creates a dilemma for the opposing defense about who to cover.’’

She said she was drawn to Xavier by its all-around environment.

“It’s a great community atmosphere. I know I will go to college some day and will need to have good time management skills, and Xavier is already helping with that.’’

It is her goal to be a complete player.

“Coach gives me the option sometimes to look at what the defense is giving me and to try to take advantage.’’

Nesland is capable of being “Dom’’-inant at times. She refined her game over the summer, playing for a club team in the Bay area backed by former Phoenix Suns player and NBA coach Jason Kidd and will try to do more of that next summer for a Los Angeles-based team affiliated with Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi.

She already has been contacted by colleges and hopes to have a decision by this time next year, to allow her to play her junior and senior seasons “stress-free.’’

Before that, there is the business of helping Xavier extend its reach far into the state tournament.

Nesland said she will try to “get everyone involved on offense,’’ dishing the ball off at just the right moment.

“I think coach trusts me,’’ she said. “But there’s a lot to playing this game. You have to do a lot of everything to win.’’

If the season falls into place, the Gators will be doing a lot of everything to get a lot of wins.



Head coach – Jennifer Gillom. Assistants – Patrick Mangosing, Rikki Mulloy.


Gosie Alilonu, So.; Juliet Botiller, So.; Sienna Cherwinski, Jr.; Kalyn Doss, So.; Toni Garcia, Sr.; Annie Kopp, Jr.; Sarah Miller, So.; Cece Mlat, Fr.; Dom Nesland, So.; Aniyah Roberson, So.; Lucy Sanford, Fr.; Gabi Trbovic, Jr.; Maureen Ulrich, So.; Sofia Zielinski, So.


(Games at 7 p.m. unless otherwise indicated).

Times, locations subject to change.

Nov. 30 -- @ Mesa Westwood.

Dec. 3 -- @ Phoenix Sunnyslope.

Dec. 6 – Phoenix North.

Dec. 9 -- @ Phoenix Pinnacle.

Dec. 10 -- @ Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor.

Dec. 14 – Scottsdale Chaparral.

Dec. 18-21 – Nike Tournament of Champions, locations and times TBA.

Jan. 4 – Anthem Boulder Creek.

Jan. 6 -- @ Gilbert Perry.

Jan. 7 -- @ Chandler Basha.

Jan. 11 – Chandler High.

Jan. 12 – Phoenix South Mountain.

Jan. 19 – Surprise Valley Vista.

Jan. 21 – Chandler Hamilton.

Jan. 24 – Chandler Basha.

Jan. 27 -- @ Chandler High.

Feb. 1 – Gilbert Perry.

Feb. 3 -- @ Tucson High.

Feb. 8 -- @ Chandler Hamilton.



Xavier has the talent to repeat as soccer champ

 It took a lot of hard work for Xavier Prep’s soccer team to claim the Division I state championship last season.

And it will take just as much, if not more, of an effort to repeat in 2021-22.

Coach Barb Chura and the Gators think they are up to the task again, with many holdovers from a team that finished 10-2-1 in a pandemic-shortened season, won the sixth title under Chura and 11th in the school’s history. Chura was named Coach of the Year by

By the time the regular season begins on Nov. 30 with a contest against Glendale Mountain Ridge at Petznick Field, the Gators likely will have had less than 10 practices to fine-tune their skills from last season and the club circuit.

“I think this team is going to be good, really good, with some very good young players,’’ said Chura, who will be the sole voice on the sideline this year after the retirement of popular assistant Rafael Rios.

The team will be loaded with 10 juniors, have four seniors and several underclassmen, including a handful of quality freshmen. There also are two transfers.

Among the key returnees are senior defender/midfielder Ansley Burns, senior midfielder Hennessy Perez, senior defender Jayme Brown, junior forward Eva Allen, junior midfielder Bella Leonard and sophomore defender Talia Coury.

Leonard put her name in the video history books with a goal that sailed close to 40 yards as time expired in overtime to defeat Gilbert Perry 1-0 in the semifinal last season. The play was viewed over and over across the nation as part of ESPN’s Top 10 Plays of the Day.

Soccer is not a game for those who are out of shape, and Burns carries the cardio banner. She moved over to soccer after helping Xavier to a recent eighth-place finish in the Division I state cross-country meet.

While the team’s top two scorers, Allen and Leonard, return from last season, defense remains a key element.

And Brown is here to make sure the job gets done.

Senior Jayme Brown is one of Xavier Prep's top defenders (Photo by Don Ketchum).

“You can’t win without the defense,’’ she said. “If you’re going to score, you have to try to make sure the other team doesn’t score.’’

Brown and the other seniors will be counted on to provide leadership, something that Chura is sold on.

“I’m leaving it (talking about the carry-over from last season) up to the older girls,’’ Chura said. “They have the experience and have to have the mentality to pass along what certain things mean. They usually do a good job of it.’’

Brown, whose younger sister, Ally, is a freshman midfielder this season, has played closer to the outside of midfield on occasion, but has settled into the defender’s role.

“Those spots are similar in some ways,’’ she said. “But wherever you are, you have to make sure that you communicate with your teammates.’’

One of the biggest keys will be finding a player to step in at goalkeeper after the graduation of Jaden Campbell, who recorded several shutouts last season and was a candidate for azcentral’s Player of the Year.

Xavier will have four games before the Christmas holidays, then the schedule will pick up. Eight games will be played in the New Year. Chura is looking forward to all of it.

“There are about six programs that are top-notch, and we’re going to be one of them,’’ she said.


Head coach – Barb Chura.


Kate Willmering, So., GK; Sarah Castlen, Jr., GK; Ansley Burns, Sr., D; Lucy Brink, So., MF; Lourdes Lauterborn, So., MF; Collins Entz, Jr., MF/F; Madison Schenk, So., MF; Tatum Kramer, Jr., F; Keila Lopez, Sr., F; Charlotte Sredzinski, Fr., D/F.

Bella Leonard, Jr., MF; Julianne Veloria, Jr., D; Savannah Angell, Jr., MF; Tessa Montanile, Jr., D; Larkin Thomason, Jr., F; Hennessy Perez, Sr., MF; Bailey Wolcott, Jr., D; Eva Allen Jr., F; Michal Cagungun, Fr., F; Lainey Swanson, Fr., F/D; Talia Coury, So., D; Ally Brown, Fr., MF; Jayme Brown, Sr., D/MF.


(Games at 6 p.m. unless otherwise indicated).

Times, locations subject to change.

Nov. 30 – Glendale Mountain Ridge.

Dec. 3 -- @ Scottsdale Chaparral.

Dec. 7 – Phoenix North.

Dec. 10 -- Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor.

Jan. 10 -- @ Phoenix Desert Vista.

Jan. 11 – @ Phoenix Pinnacle.

Jan. 13 – Phoenix Mountain Pointe.

Jan. 18 -- @ Phoenix South Mountain.

Jan. 25 – Gilbert Perry.

Jan. 28 – Chandler Basha.

Jan. 31 – @ Chandler High.

Feb. 7 – @ Chandler Hamilton.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Xavier runners follow coach's advice at state meet

 The weather was a bit toasty for the start of the Division I girls state championship run on Saturday (Nov. 13) at 12:30 p.m.

So Xavier Prep coach Dave Van Sickle knew what he had to do.

“I told the girls to hold back during the first mile (the race was 5,000 meters) and save their energy for the last two, because some of the other teams would not be doing that, probably would fall back and give us a chance to do well. And it looks like they listened to me . . . for once,’’ he said with a laugh.

Led by senior Tatum Goforth, the Gators finished strong in fourth place behind winner Gilbert Highland, second-place Phoenix Desert Vista and No. 3 Peoria Liberty in front of large crowds at the Cave Creek Golf Course in north Phoenix.

The Xavier runners were all smiles as they gathered for a post-race photo with XCP Athletic Director Sr. Lynn Winsor.

Xavier runners and teammates gather for a team photo with Xavier Athetic Director Sr. Lynn Winsor, back row, in blue sport shirt. (photo by Don Ketchum).

“If they’re excited, then I’m excited,’’ Van Sickle said.

Goforth finished in eighth place with a time of 19:37.7, the highest finish by a Gator runner at state since Mia Olsen crossed the line in sixth place in 2019.

“I was thinking for a long time about this race, being my last as a senior at Xavier,’’ Goforth said. “I thought it might be hotter out there today, so all week, I made sure I was prepared. I prayed and stayed hydrated. That’s what you should do.’’

Goforth said she ran with friend and Gilbert Perry senior Taylor Lovell, who finished seventh. The two have played sports together in the past.

 “She’s a good athlete, a good runner,’’ Goforth said.

Lauren Ping of Desert Vista repeated as the individual champion, and her time of 17:37.4 was about three seconds shy of her course record. The field of runners totaled 137.

Highland’s team victory was an upset of sorts, finishing 2-3 to unseat Desert Vista.

Xavier results

Tatum Goforth, Sr., 8th, 19:37.7; Catherine Alaimo, Sr., 22nd, 20:36.8; Hannah Wheeling, Sr., 30th, 20:47.9; Reese Brown, Jr., 33rd. 20:58.9; Macarthy Mahoney, Sr., 38th, 21:11.5; Ansley Burns, Sr., 46th, 21:23.1; Lily Beaver, So., 54th, 22:56.3.

Team scores

Gilbert Highland 38, Phoenix Desert Vista 45, Peoria Liberty 90, Xavier Prep 131, Gilbert Perry 140, Mesa Mountain View 209, Mesa Red Mountain 213, Chandler High 213, Surprise Shadow Ridge 230, Tempe Corona del Sol 256, Chandler Hamilton 272, Mesa Skyline 302, Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor 334, Yuma Cibola 376, Phoenix Pinnacle 398, Anthem Boulder Creek 405, Scottsdale Chaparral 450.

Friday, November 12, 2021

Gators have lucky number with letters of intent

 Who says 13 is an unlucky number?

Certainly not Xavier Prep’s Gators, who listed a record 13 athletes signing collegiate letters of intent on National Signing Day on Wednesday (Nov. 10).

In what has been an annual tradition since 2000, athletes moving on to college gather for a ceremony on the stage of the Virginia C. Piper Performing Arts Center, signing their letters while wearing gear from their future school as family members and friends look on.

More ceremonies are scheduled in January and again in April.

Here are the girls new to the collegiate fold . . .

Swimmer Ashleigh Baros (Missouri-St. Louis).

Beach volleyball player Landree Coats (San Jose State).

Softball infielder Bridget Donahey (Northwestern).

Softball pitcher Riley Flynn (Harvard).

Gymnastics athlete Alicia Jasinski (Mary Hardin-Baylor for Acrobatics and Tumbling).

Tennis player Ryan Kershner (Boise State).

Rower Kathleen Morgan (Notre Dame).

Swimmer Gracie Munk (Northern Arizona).

Swimmer Hope Nolan (Fordham).

Softball outfielder-infielder Emma Peterson (Siena).

Softball second baseman Meghan Schouten (Boston College).

Volleyball setter Alexa Shiner (Westmont, Calif.).

Volleyball middle blocker Isabella Sinacori (College of Charleston).

Xavier lacrosse player drawing attention

 Is Keilani Hong the next great lacrosse player for Xavier Prep?

She could very well be, following in the footsteps of former Gator star Areta Buness, who went on to earn star status at Stanford University.

Hong, a junior this school year, has earned impressive recognition recently in the form of being named to the 2023 All-American Player Watch List by the Adrenaline sports event promotion and gear company.

Adrenaline is out of the San Diego area and became a force in the lacrosse world by recognizing up and coming players primarily in the western U.S.

As a sophomore last season, Hong was named the Arizona Girls Lacrosse Association Division 2 Attacker of the Year as the Gators were runner-up in the D2 state title match.

Congratulations, Keilani !!  Xavier fans are fortunate to be able to watch you play and improve over the next two seasons.

Gators fall in semis, but can feel good about season

 It would have been an opportunity for the Xavier Prep volleyball players to hang their heads in disappointment after the sixth-seeded Gators fell 3-1 to second-seeded host Chandler Hamilton in Thursday’s (Nov. 11) 6A Conference semifinal.

There was disappointment, to be sure. But the Gators walked out of the Hamilton gym with the knowledge that they had given it their all and made the Huskies squirm before the lights were extinguished.

Xavier finished the season with a more-than-respectable 24-11 record, while Hamilton (33-5) now moves on to the state finals on Saturday night (Nov. 13) at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum on the Arizona State Fairgrounds in Phoenix.

Hamilton has a chance to repeat as state champion when it faces top-seeded Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor, which rallied from two sets down to edge fourth-seeded Tempe Corona del Sol , 3-2, in the other semifinal.

Xavier had played Hamilton on three previous occasions this season, falling 2-1 in an early season tournament and suffering two 3-0 sweeps at the hands of the Huskies.

In Thursday’s semi, the Gators came out and did not back down in Game 1. With each point, win or lose, it was as if the players were saying, “Hey, we can play with this team.’’

The teams took their fans on a wild state fair tilt-a-whirl ride, trading the lead and going past what is the usual 25-point conclusion (by two points is necessary) before Hamilton survived with a 28-26 win.

Xavier coach Lamar-Renee Bryant smiled at the end of the evening when asked about what might have been.

“We battled. We made it interesting. We just took our foot off the gas,’’ she said.

The Gators brought with them a large, loud group of supporters, who assuredly kept the players’ energy at a high level.

Hamilton, awakened by the Gators’ aggressiveness, rolled to a 25-11 victory in Game 2 before Xavier came back for a 25-21 victory in Game 3. Xavier kept Game 4 close until the Huskies’ strength and power began to take their toll. Hamilton used a late, quick 4-0 burst to help it secure the match 25-16.

The start of the regular season was uncertain, due in part to COVID issues, and that slowed the Gators’ development to a degree. But they kept going, to where they reached the semis.

“All of the girls battled and that’s all I could ask for,’’ said Bryant, whose coaching effort this season might have been the best of her Xavier tenure.

She was thrilled by how the seniors took ownership in the product, providing good examples for the younger girls to follow.

One of the most improved players certainly was senior outside hitter Emma Soderstrom, who became the “go-to’’ power source at all the right moments. She also proved to be a complete player, excelling on defense.

Senior setter Alexa Shiner was a steady influence, putting the ball where it needed to be.

Senior defensive specialist/libero Hannah Ulisch came on strong in the latter half of the season.

And senior middle blocker Bella Sinacori had many impactful moments.

There are, as Bryant undoubtedly is relieved, prospects for a bright future in 2022. A handful of underclassmen stepped forward – freshman defensive specialist/libero Olivia Lenz, junior outside hitter Ava Larkin, junior middle blocker Emma Caruso, freshman middle blocker Elle McCreery and sophomore outside hitter Finley Workman.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Zing go the strings for XCP archers

 Xavier Prep archers rounded up their equipment over the weekend and had a strong effort in the Wickenburg Rodeo fun shoot.

Xavier was on target, finishing in the top 10 in the female high-school division for bullseye and 3D.

Adela Campo earned second place in 3D with a score of 257 (9 tens) and Ana Bhatti was third in 3D with 254 (9 tens).

In the bullseye event, Kylie Cavanagh finished in third place with a 259, including 12 tens.

Notable mentions in the 3D Top 10: Evelynn Papez, fourth place, 245 (8 tens), Cavanagh, fifth place 243 (6 tens), Isabella Ballesteros (new archer), sixth place, 228 (8 tens), Zoe Lopez, 8th place, 220 (4 tens), Miranda Papez (new archer), 9th place, 219 (3 tens) and Sophia Pauly, 10th place, 216 (4 tens).

Notable mentions in the Bullseye Top 10: Ana Bhatti, fourth place, 258 (6 tens), Evelynn Papez, 5th (251, 6 tens), Felicia FitzGerald, 6th place, 251 (5 tens) and Adela Campo, 9th place, 244 (4 tens).

Congratulations to all of the outstanding Xavier archers!!

Door opens to semifinals for Xavier volleyball

 Queen Creek’s volleyball team dropped its first two games against host Xavier Prep in their 6A Conference quarterfinal match on Tuesday (Nov. 9). It was logical to assume that Xavier would be able to sweep the Bulldogs without much of a problem.

That’s what Gilbert Perry thought, too, in its first-round match against Queen Creek on Nov. 4.

Third-seeded Perry won its first two games, but No. 14 Queen Creek rallied to win the match 3-2 and advanced to face No. 6 Xavier.

The Gators were well aware what had transpired at Perry, and were determined not to allow the same thing to happen to them.

Xavier maintained its focus and won 3-0 (25-14. 25-16. 25-20) to earn a spot in the semifinals on Thursday night (Nov. 11) at second-seeded defending champion Chandler Hamilton. The event begins at 6 p.m.

Xavier was the victim of 3-0 sweeps by Hamilton during the regular season, but still managed to put together a 24-10 overall record. Hamilton is 32-5 after a 3-0 win over No. 7 seed Peoria Liberty.

In the other semifinal on Thursday, fourth-seeded Tempe Corona del Sol (28-6) travels to face -top-seeded Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor (27-4). That contest begins at 6:30 p.m.

Corona del Sol advanced with a  3-1 win over No. 12 seed Phoenix Desert Vista and Sandra Day O’Connor advanced with a 3-0 win over Scottsdale Chaparral.

Perry’s loss to Queen Creek handed Xavier the quarterfinal match on a platter. Xavier was ready to take it and run with it.

Xavier coach Lamar-Renee Bryant looked up at the Activity Center bleachers afterward and watched dozens of blue-clad Gator fans spill out into the lobby with smiles on their faces.

“To have this extra home game, to have this crowd . . . that was big,’’ she said. “Our girls were aware of what happened (the Queen Creek-Perry match) and they worked hard to be able to take care of things.’’

Two of the Gators’ tallest players, 6-foot-2 freshman Elle McCreery and 5-11 sophomore Finley Workman, had worked their way into more playing time in the later stages of the regular season. And they were major factors against Queen Creek, making a big impact along the net. Each got 11 kills and 2 blocks.

“They stepped up,’’ Bryant said.

Senior Emma Soderstrom had 12 kills and 16 digs and senior Bella Sinacori had 7 kills and 3 blocks. Senior setter Alexa Shiner had 37 assists, senior defensive specialist Hannah Ulisch had 24 digs and freshman libero Olivia Lenz had four service aces.

Now comes Hamilton. The Huskies are powerful, to be sure. Do the Gators have any magic left?

“It’s that time of year when anything is possible, so why not us?’’ Bryant said.

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Bikers finish 5th, leave plenty of optimism for '22

 The Xavier Prep/Brophy Prep club mountain biking team finished a solid fifth overall among teams at the Arizona Cycling Association high school state championships on Sunday (Nov. 7) at the Wren Arena in the southern Arizona community of Fort Huachuca.

The top five teams were No. 1 finisher Flagstaff High (North Division), No. 2 BASIS Prescott (North), No. 3 Queen Creek Casteel (South Division), No. 4 Cave Creek Cactus Shadows (North) and No. 5 Brophy/Xavier (South). Brophy/Xavier had battled Casteel in the South all season.

Varsity riders competed on the 4.1-mile course (4.1 per lap) and 3 laps for the JV.

Top Xavier riders were Varsity’s Mary Hill, who finished 9th, and Aria Tseffos, who finished 13th.

In the JV-1 race, Grace Morgan started but did not finish. In the JV-2 race, Rachel Reyes was 25th and Bailey Finch was 30th.

Congratulations to head coach Rich Perrott (both BCP and XCP) and his staff of assistants. It was a great year that figures to only get better in 2022!