Bio

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 AIA365.com, the web site of the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Shutout of Basha gives Xavier first soccer triumph

 Xavier Prep’s soccer team earned its first victory of the young season on Friday (Jan. 29) with a 4-0 triumph over host Chandler Basha.

The Gators (1-1) had four different players score goals – sophomore Eva Allen, sophomore Bella Leonard, sophomore Tatum Kramer and sophomore Savannah Angell. Junior Ansley Burns logged an assist and was selected as the MaxPreps Player of the Game.

Senior Ella Eberhardt made the start in goal and recorded the shutout.

After a pair of road matches, Xavier will play at its Petznick Field home for the first time on Monday (Feb. 1) against Chandler High. Start time is 6 p.m.


Friday, January 29, 2021

First shooting, then defense -- Xavier has got it going

 There are different ways that a struggling basketball team can find the path to success.

After losing to Surprise Valley Vista and Chandler Hamilton in their first two games, Xavier Prep’s Gators won their first game against host Chandler Basha with accurate shooting on Tuesday night (Jan. 26).

On Thursday night (Jan. 28), the focus turned to defense as the Gators swarmed all over visiting Chandler High for a 90-27 victory to even their record at 2-2.

Freshman guard Kalyn Doss follows through with a high lofting pass to a Xavier teammate under the basket (Photos by Sr. Lynn Winsor).

The effort was reminiscent of past Xavier teams under the guidance of head coach Jennifer Gillom. Xavier scored the first 21 points of the game and its pressure defense limited Chandler to just two points in the opening quarter.

Some of the intensity was visible in the Xavier offense. Sophomore guard-forward Mia Davis scored 17 of her game-high 29 points in the first quarter, including a pair of three-pointers.

Freshman guard Sarah Miller also played a major role throughout the night, scoring 26 points.

The Xavier spirit line performs during halftime.

The outcome was not in doubt from the start, and in a 34-8 third quarter, Gillom began to play some of her reserves. She hopes to be able to follow that same format as the season moves along,  getting the reserves more time so they won’t be like a deer in headlights come playoff time.

The fourth quarter was played with a running clock (30-point lead or larger), which helped Xavier limit Chander to three points and brought the contest to an end.

Xavier goes back out on the road on Tuesday night (Feb. 2) with a game at Gilbert Perry.

Zaara Arora (44) drives past an opponent for the XCP frosh-sophomore team, which recorded its first win in three games, 25-12.

JV player Annie Kopp launches a shot over a Chandler High defender. The JV was quite competitive in its first game of the season, but fell 42-31.



Thursday, January 28, 2021

Spirit Line coach earns National Federation honor

 Monica Gaspar is a 1992 graduate of Xavier Prep, and she has spent long hours over the years contributing to the betterment of the school and its surrounding community.

She recently was notified by the National Federation of State High School Associations that she had been selected as the 2019-20 West Section Girls Spirit Coach of the Year. The West Section includes Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada and Utah.

Gaspar was nominated for the honor by the state’s high school sports and activities governing body, the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

Coaching honorees were selected based upon their performance in the 2019-20 school year, lifetime community involvement, school involvement and philosophy of coaching.

Gaspar said it “was very cool’’ to be nominated last fall by the AIA, that it “was very nice’’ to be able to represent Arizona.

Monica Gaspar
She recently was contacted by Sr. Lynn Winsor, Xavier’s Athletic Director, who informed Gaspar that she had won the award.

“I said, “What?’ I hadn’t checked my mail in a few days, and this was a very nice surprise,’’ Gaspar said.

She considers her athletes to be a big reason why she was able to win the award.

“I told the girls, “This is partly your award, too,’’ Gaspar said. “They have always been responsive and have worked hard, but especially this year, with all that has been going on (Covid virus),’’ she said. “They set goals, aim higher, work well together as a team.

“They are close to each other, trust each other. It’s like an extended family. Ours is a year-round sport and everyone is very committed.’’

Xavier has 36 athletes on its spirit line roster this year, made up of all four classes.

Another reason for the program’s success is the work of Gaspar’s assistant coaches, Taylor Van Arsdall and Dani Behrens.

At the beginning of the school year, routines are at the basic stage, and more and more elements are implemented as time goes along.

Gaspar was among the cheerleading group at Xavier and she knows how important it is for the students to be a part of something like this (Spirit Line includes pom and cheer).

“It is fun to be able to watch them grow up,’’ she said.

Note: The cheer portion of the Spirit Line recently qualified to participate in the AIA state championships, to be held March 6, according to Gaspar.

 

 

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Gators find shooting touch, get first victory

 After dropping its first two games to powerful Surprise Valley Vista and Chandler Hamilton, Xavier Prep’s basketball team earned its first victory on Tuesday night (Jan. 26), a 60-34 road triumph against Chandler Basha.

The Gators (1-2) will return home to the Activity Center on Thursday night (Jan. 28) for a contest against Chandler High (1-3). Opening tipoff is at 7 p.m. after games featuring the freshman-sophomore and junior varsity teams.

Xavier held a 29-20 lead over Basha at halftime, then blew the game open in the third quarter with a 28-7 run.

The Gators discovered their shooting touch, particularly from 3-point range.

Sophomore guard Sienna Cherwinski hit five of the long shots and finished with a team-high 21 points, and freshman guard Dominique Nesland had a pair of treys and totaled 12 points.

Nesland had a fine all-around game with 9 assists, 5 rebounds and 4 steals. Sophomore forward-guard Mia Davis had 7 points and 8 steals.


Late Perry goal turns away Gator soccer, 1-0

 Xavier Prep’s soccer team did many things right in its season opener at Gilbert Perry on Tuesday night (Jan. 26), but couldn’t accomplish its primary objective – getting a win.

With a scoreless duel continuing to head down the stretch in the match’s late moments, Perry somehow managed to sneak one into the goal, with 4:27 left in regulation, for a 1-0 victory in chilly conditions.

The Pumas’ Megan Hedger sent the ball into the net, and the clock became her team’s ally.

Xavier had some opportunities to score, but fate intervened.

Senior forward Ololade Adebayo nearly headed the ball in with 24:22 left in the first half, and sophomore forward Eva Allen appeared to be on target with a shot at the 7:55 mark, but the ball traveled just over the crossbar.

Perry couldn’t convert a pair of early chances in the second half, and Xavier was lining up one of its own shortly thereafter.

Junior backer Ansley Burns got the ball on the Gators’ right side and made a full sprint for nearly the entire length of the field, but the Perry defense put up a roadblock at just the right moment.

Perry looked for a dead-on score in front of the Xavier goal, but was whistled for offside with 11:14 left. The match rolled to a stop with a Perry injury at the 5-minute mark, but the Pumas recovered for the deciding sequence.

Both teams took turns controlling the ball. Xavier was very competitive, to be sure, and played very well. The Gators hope to adjust to the speed and physical nature of opponents moving forward.

Xavier will be back on the road on Friday (Jan. 28) at 4 p.m., at Chandler Basha, before playing its home opener on Monday night (Feb. 1) against Chandler High. Start time is 6 p.m. for that one.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Gators look for light, hope in basketball

 As Xavier Prep coach Jennifer Gillom addressed her basketball players after the team’s game at Chandler Hamilton on Friday night (Jan. 22), an overzealous worker flipped the lights off, plunging the area behind the bleachers into near-complete darkness.

Sigh. It had been that kind of night for the Gators.

Facing their second top five team in as many games to start the season, the result for the Gators was pretty much the same as Wednesday night’s (Jan. 20) home opener against Surprise Valley Vista.

The game at Hamilton started about 90 minutes before its originally scheduled time, but the change hardly affected the Huskies (2-0), who rolled up a 17-point lead at halftime and went on to earn a 57-37 victory.

The light brightened somewhat in the second half. Gillom said her team played better, but despite that could not put much of a dent in its deficit.

For Gillom, a successful outcome begins with defense, and she had very little of that in the early going.

“These kids are so offense-minded, but it’s not about that,’’ Gillom said. “It’s defense that we need, and if we continue that (disparity), we are going to continue to get beat.’’

So what is the solution? Granted, the season has been condensed due to the Covid virus, and that means that Gillom’s young team will need to pick up the basics at a faster rate. There isn’t much time.

She told the players as much afterward, saying that she is going to monitor the situation very closely and alter the lineup if the players aren’t doing what they’re supposed to be doing.

One of the younger players who has shown flashes of consistency in both games has been freshman guard Sarah Miller, who led the team with eight points against Hamilton. Sophomore forward-guard Mia Davis also had a few prosperous moments with seven points.

Xavier will return to the road on Tuesday night (Jan. 26) with a game at Chandler Basha and be back at the Activity Center for its second home game of the season on Thursday night (Jan. 28) against Chandler High.


Friday, January 22, 2021

Volleyball's Robertson is honorable mention pick

 A big shout goes out to Xavier Prep senior volleyball player Kaori Robertson, who has received an honorable mention selection by azcentral.com when the media outlet announced its All-Arizona teams on Friday (Jan. 22).

Robertson, a libero and defensive specialist, helped the Gators compile a 10-7 record during the regular season last fall.

She has signed a letter of intent to play and study at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

Congrats, Kaori!

Thursday, January 21, 2021

XCP basketball has "a lot of work to do'

 When about half of your basketball team is made up of freshmen and sophomores and you’re going against the undisputed No. 1 team in Arizona in your season opener, you take a deep breath and hope for the best.

That ominous scenario, combined with ice-cold shooting by Xavier Prep’s Gators, led to a 62-45 loss to visiting Surprise Valley Vista on Wednesday night (Jan. 20) in the Activity Center. Valley Vista is aiming for his fourth 6A Conference state championship in the last five years.

“We have a lot of work to do,’’ said XCP coach Jennifer Gillom.

“We didn’t do a lot of the things we had been doing in practice. It was a “first game game.’ Still, I am OK with how we played. I know our team will get better.’’

Valley Vista was led by senior Marisa Davis and juniors Jennah Isai and Mikela Cooper. They combined to put most of the Monsoon’s points on the board, Isai scored 17, Davis 16 and Cooper 15.

“Valley Vista has size, speed, everything,’’ Gillom said. “We will not meet a team that is any better.’’

Xavier had just one player score in double figures – senior guard Tori Saucedo, who had 13. Sophomore guard Sienna Cherwinski and freshman guard Sarah Miller scored eight each and sophomore guard-forward Mia Davis scored seven.

The Gators also had difficulty playing defense at times, but it could have been a lot worse.

Xavier will be on the hot seat again on Friday (Jan. 22) when it hits the road for a game against Chandler Hamilton, No. 3 in azcentral.com’s Super 10 teams, regardless of classification. Xavier is fifth, at least for now.

 

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Burns' soccer approach gives Gators optimism

 Xavier Prep junior Ansley Burns admits she likes to stay busy.

No problem there.

She uses her 24-hour daily allotment to the fullest extent, ranging from athletics (soccer and cross country), student government (as the junior class Student Council Vice President), National Honor Society and her participation in community organizations.

In cross country, Burns finished 25th among individual runners to help Xavier finish fourth among Division I teams. But soccer now appears to be her main focus and likely will carry her beyond her Xavier days and into the collegiate world.

Burns has been a midfielder for the Gators in the past, but this season takes on a new challenge as a “backer,’’ meaning she will roam along the back line and will be expected to turn opponents away with some key defensive stops. Her athleticism is what prompted Xavier coach Barb Chura to implement this latest strategy.

Chura says that Burns “is one of our best players. She probably will not be outworked by anybody. Her engine never quits. She has the heart of a lion. A lot of the impact of her play will not show up in stat books, but she will definitely have an impact.’’

Attitude and the desire to carry on the school’s strong soccer tradition also are key factors.

“She truly, truly loves Xavier soccer,’’ Chura said.

Ansley Burns
After a rollercoaster ride that sent the winter sports seasons into cancellation and then back on again due to Covid virus concerns, Burns and her teammates will be ready to go when the 2021 schedule begins on Jan. 26 with a road match against Gilbert Perry.

“I think I will feel comfortable playing whatever spot they need me,’’ Burns said. “They can play me wherever if they need to make subs (substitutions), have the trust in me that I can do what is needed.’’

Playing the back line will involve playing a physical brand of soccer from time to time, and Burns believes she can survive there. The reason? Playing soccer in her younger days against her older brother, Drew, who played at Brophy Prep and now runs cross country at the University of Santa Clara (Calif.). She also played against younger brother, Luke, now a freshman at Brophy who has elected to play club soccer exclusively for the time being.

Running cross country also has helped Burns with her soccer endurance.

“It has helped me raise my fitness level so much,’’ she said. “I can go side to side on intervals in back, and still sprint to go up and back near the middle or front if I need to. I feel like I’m capable of going a whole game.’’

Although she will have another year to go at Xavier, Burns is casting glances toward college, perhaps on the East Coast, at a school that has a good balance of academics and athletics. She knows she will have to manage her time, and she already does that with her busy schedule here.

She is involved with the Phoenix Children’s Hospital Teen Board, providing assistance in various areas, including fund-raising and delivering supplies to the patients and family members through the PCH Red Wagon program and working with Doug Ducey’s Governor’s Youth Commission on a number of issues.

And when you look for her on the field, better not dilly-dally. She won’t be idle too long, if at all. And for Xavier, that’s a very good thing.


Tuesday, January 12, 2021

AIA board changes mind, allows winter teams to play

 Xavier Prep’s Gators and the rest of Arizona's winter sports teams are back in business !!

Less than a week after the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s Excutive Board voted 5-4 to cancel the winter sports seasons due to Covid virus concerns, the board reconvened on Tuesday (Jan. 12) and reversed its decision by the same score 5-4, therefore allowing the teams to play as scheduled.

The AIA received a great deal of feedback after the vote, including athletes pleading their case outside the organization’s offices in north Phoenix.

Winter sports are basketball, soccer and boys’ and girls’ wrestling. Xavier does not participate in wrestling.

By AIA mandate, athletes must wear cloth face masks at all times, including soccer, which is played outside.

Only two parents or guardians per player will be allowed to attend games, with no others allowed, other than essential working personnel. Media will be allowed to cover games, but only will if approved by the home team’s athletic director.

Home teams also must account for social distancing. Steps also will be taken to sanitize the equipment.

“We followed all the volleyball protocols in the season, and we did it very well,’’ said Sr. Lynn Winsor, Xavier Athletic Director. “All of us will have to be diligent.

“We commend the coaches, athletes, parents and athletic trainers who made that all happen. We will continue to follow what is necessary to keep everyone safe. It can work.’’

Xavier basketball will play 15 games, soccer 11. Soccer will open its season on Jan. 19 with a home match against Phoenix South Mountain, and basketball will begin one night later, on Jan. 20, with a home game against Surprise Valley Vista.

Said AIA Executive Director David Hines: “This has been a very difficult decision for the Executive Board. They have been weighing the concerns of the medical community, including the AIA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, and the requests by our member schools. We all want winter sports to happen, but it must be done safely.’’


Friday, January 8, 2021

High Covid numbers lead to winter cancellations

 Administrators, coaches and athletes in winter sports across the state of Arizona knew this would be a possibility, and they pressed on toward the start of a season that was to begin in early December but was pushed back to the week of Jan. 18.

On Friday (Jan. 8), the bad news came to the Xavier community when basketball and soccer were cancelled in a 5-4 vote by the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s Executive Board after Covid-19 virus numbers and resulting hospitalizations showed too big of an increase, with more projected. The move was recommended by the AIA’s Sports Medicine Advisory Committee.

Xavier’s 11-game soccer schedule was to begin Jan. 19 with a home match against Phoenix South Mountain at Petznick Field. One night later, on Jan. 20, the 15-game basketball season was due to begin with a home game against Surprise Valley Vista in the Activity Center.

Judging from feedback on the AIA’s Web site, there is a lot of frustration out there. The same thing occurred in the 2019-20 school year, when spring sports were canceled after barely getting under way.

Arizona recently has been one of the top areas in the world for Covid increases. Both ICU (Intensive Care Units) beds and inpatient beds have risen above 90 percent capacity, which was the primary factor in the latest decision.

“It is a difficult situation,’’ said Xavier Athletic Director Sr. Lynn Winsor.

Athletic officials in some areas of the Valley might be considering an alternative plan of action. Winsor said no decisions would be made here before consulting with the Diocese of Phoenix and meeting with basketball head coach Jennifer Gillom and soccer head coach Barb Chura.

Wrestling, in which Xavier does not participate, also has had its season canceled, and spirit line competition has been postponed, at least temporarily.

In a press release from the AIA, Executive Director David Hines said, “While we understand the (Executive) Board’s position, we are saddened by this decision, especially considering that club sports are continuing.

“To the best of our knowledge, never in our 100-plus-year history has the AIA cancelled an entire season. We want nothing more than for our students to be active in school and participating  in interscholastic sports and activities. It is my sincerest hope that all Arizonans will follow the CDC (Center for Disease Control) and Arizona Health guidelines by wearing masks, washing hands frequently, and practicing social distance to decrease cases and hospitalizations. If for no other reason, I hope we can do it for the kids.’’

In fall sports, Xavier had been at the forefront of trying to prevent the spread of Covid with sanitizing equipment, masks and social distancing.

Stay tuned to The XCP Files for further developments.


Wednesday, January 6, 2021

No. 3 XCP hoops has it tough from the start

 Do you really want to find out how good your basketball team is? There is no sense in waiting. Might as well start at the beginning of the season.

That is exactly what Xavier Prep’s Gators will do when the twisting, turning dust devil of a schedule gets under way on Jan. 20.

On Wednesday (Jan. 6), the azcentral media outlet announced its annual preseason rankings, and Xavier was put in the No. 3 spot in the 6A Conference.

And as luck would have it, XCP will play its first two games against No. 1 Surprise Valley Vista on Jan 20 at home and Jan. 22 at No. 2 Chandler Hamilton. Xavier will play five top 10 teams, including Hamilton twice, in its first seven games (the full schedule is 15).

Valley Vista is the defending state champion and has won the title in three of the last four years.

The other marquee games are No. 5 Gilbert Perry (Feb. 2), No. 7 Tucson High (Feb. 7). Perry again will be the opponent for the regular-season finale on March 5.

There could be a few more changes before the season gets under way.

Varsity head coach Jennifer Gillom expects her team will be ready to go. The team has been practicing for about a month now with nearly two more weeks to go.

Players to watch for the Gators are sophomore point guard Sienna Cherwinski, sophomore forward-post Mia Davis, senior guard Tori Saucedo, sophomore forward Hannah Young and freshman guards Sarah Miller and Dominique Nesland. Xavier has taken its preparation time to develop solid depth.

azcentral.com’s 6A CONFERENCE PRESEASON TOP 10

1 – Surprise Valley Vista

2 – Chandler Hamilton

3 – Phoenix Xavier Prep

4 – Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor

5 – Gilbert Perry

6 – Mesa Westwood

7 – Tucson High

8 – Mesa Dobson

9 – Phoenix Mountain Pointe

10 – Phoenix Desert Vista

XAVIER PREP SCHEDULE

All games, 7 p.m.

(Subject to change)

Jan. 20 – Surprise Valley Vista

Jan. 22 -- @ Chandler Hamilton

Jan. 26 -- @ Chandler Basha

Jan. 28 – Chandler High

Feb. 2 -- @ Gilbert Perry

Feb. 5 – Tucson High

Feb. 9 – Chandler Hamilton

Feb. 10 -- @ Phoenix North

Feb. 11 – Phoenix Pinnacle

Feb. 12 – Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor

Feb. 16 -- @ Scottsdale Chaparral

Feb. 23 -- @ Anthem Boulder Creek

Feb. 26 – Chandler Basha

March 2 -- @ Chandler High

March 5 – Gilbert Perry