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, March 25, 2021

Tennis players young, but they know what to do

 Xavier Prep does not have any seniors on its 2021 tennis roster, but that does not mean the Gators have no chance to earn another Division I state championship.

Coach Laurie Martin’s team is well-stocked with underclassmen.

At the top of the list are junior Ryan Kershner and freshman Dani Dyer. Both usually play 1 and 2 in the order, then turn around and team up for doubles play.

Xavier was 4-0 entering its scheduled match on Thursday (March 25) against Phoenix Sunnyslope.

Kershner is among the top players in the state as well as on some national lists. She has been sidelined with a nagging muscle injury, but that is simply a precautionary measure. She agrees that it’s better to take care of it now than when the importance ramps up in a few weeks.

In the meantime, Dyer usually is No. 1 in singles.

Freshman Dani Dyer meets the ball with her racquet on what she hopes will be a successful serve against Tempe Corona del Sol (photo by Don Ketchum).

The product of St. Thomas the Apostle School in Phoenix also has been playing No. 1 doubles, and was joined by another freshman, Belani Soto, for Wednesday’s (March 24) match against Tempe Corona del Sol at XCP’s Stark Tennis Center.

Kershner was a freshman when Xavier won the D-I title in 2019, and did her best to splice her game together after her sophomore season was taken off the board during the Covid crisis.

Now, she’s looking forward to helping the team reach the top again.

“We will be playing some of the better teams like (Scottsdale) Desert Mountain and (Chandler) Hamilton soon, and we want to be ready,’’ Kershner said. “It will make it even more interesting because I have some good friends on those teams.’’

Dyer also knows some of those players from her participation in various tournaments.

Kershner said the gap created by the virus “was disappointing. We weren’t able to practice much and there were no tournaments in sight.’’

Dyer started playing at a young age through lessons and hoped she could join the varsity at Xavier if she worked hard. She did not play for the freshman team in the fall and worked on her game with instructors she had dealt with previously.

The biggest improvements in Kershner’s game have been her ability to attack from the forehand side and her overall serves, particularly placement.

“Last year, I really didn’t have that skill (attack mode), but I’m doing pretty well with it now,’’ she said.

Footwork and overall technique have been Dyer’s focus. And developing a backhand shot.

“It’s one of my best shots,’’ she said.

Dyer used the backhand quite often against Corona del Sol in doubles and it helped her and Soto control the match.

Martin has enjoyed watching the progress the team is making.

“We have a great group of kids,’’ she said.

“They are getting better. They have taken lessons and been in clinics. That’s a lot of hours.’’

She said Kershner and Dyer have worked together previously and have a lot of experience, knowing what works for them. When she has been idle, Kershner has kept an eye on Dyer and sometimes makes suggestions, and cheers on all of her teammates.

Dyer could be the heir apparent once Kershner graduates in 2022.

“She’s a good competitor, loves to play. She has a lot of maturity,’’ Martin said.


Tuesday, March 23

Xavier Prep 9, Glendale Ironwood 0


Megan Wheeling, X, def. I, 6-3, 7-5. Belani Soto, X, def. I, 6-0, 6-0. Nyla Vranic, X, def. I, 6-0, 6-0. Katelyn Cowan, X, def. I, 6-0, 6-0. Kristine Stender, X, def. I, 6-1, 6-0. Lily Gabler, X, def. I, 6-0, 6-0.


Wheeling-Cowan, X, def. I, 8-3. Vranic-Soto, X, def. I, 8-0. Stender-Gabler, X, def. I, 8-0.

Wednesday, March 24

Xavier Prep 9, Tempe Corona del Sol 0


Danielle Dyer, X, def. I, 6-0, 6-0. Victoria Chrostowski, X, def. I, 6-0, 6-1. Megan Wheeling, X, def. I, 6-2, 6-0. Belani Soto, X, def. I, 6-1, 6-1. Nyla Vranic, X, def. I, 6-2, 6-2. Katelyn Cowan, X, def. I, 6-3, 6-1.


Soto-Dyer, X, def. I, 8-0. Vranic-Chrostowski, X, def. I, 8-4. Wheeling-Cowan, X, def. I, 8-0.

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