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, April 8, 2021

Beach v-ball digs deep for win, ranked No. 1

 Coach Tim McHale figured that Wednesday’s (April 7) beach volleyball match between his unbeaten Xavier Prep team and unbeaten Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor would play out like a state tournament-type encounter.

“A deep bracket game’’ was how he characterized it.

Well, sir, be careful for what you wish.

After the first two individual matches between the No. 5 and No. 4 pairs, Xavier found itself down 0-2. The No. 3 and 2 duos then took to the sand at XCP’s Cavanaugh Courts and walked the tightrope. Both matches were 1-1 in the best-of-three and all O’Connor needed to do was win just one more to secure the match.

The window of opportunity was not nearly as wide for the teams, because third games go to only 15 points instead of the normal 21.

Xavier’s No. 3 (Zaira Reyes and Katie Anthony) and No. 2 (Lexi Yoza and Landree Coats) teams reached down deep for 15-13 and 15-12 victories.

That put the focus on the No. 1 players, Xavier’s Serena Turner and Summer McCann and O’Connor’s Sydnee Broadway and Margo Smith, enabling them to decide the overall match.

The No. 1’s were about as close as one might expect.

Turner and McCann didn’t need a third set, however, winning by 21-17 and 21-19 scores to tip the scale in the Gators’ favor, 3-2.

Xavier is now 6-0 and O’Connor 5-1, and Xavier was announced as the top-rated team in Division I when the Arizona Interscholastic Association released its first power points listing of the season on Thursday (April 8). O’Connor was fifth.

“I can’t say enough about our kids in the 2 and 3 spots,’’ McHale said. “We have to have the trust in one another to do their jobs, and if that doesn’t happen, the No. 1’s don’t get the chance to do what they did.

“Give O’Connor credit. They gave us everything we could handle.’’

In Turner, a 6-foot-1 senior who has signed a letter of intent to play beach and study at Stanford, the Gators have someone who just might be the best beach player in Arizona.

She does everything. She is strong at the net, as her block to seal the first-game win over O’Connor would indicate. She is quick and agile and moves well all over the court. And she unleashes a powerful swing for the kill when McCann puts the ball in just the right place.

The most impressive element is that Turner’s teammates look to her for leadership.

All of it should serve the Gators well as they proceed toward the path of deep brackets.

Xavier’s next match comes on Monday (April 12) at Phoenix Desert Vista in Ahwatukee.

Wednesday’s results

Xavier Prep 3, Sandra Day O’Connor 2

No. 1 pair – Serena Turner-Summer McCann, X, def. Sydnee Broadway-Margo Smith, SDO, 21-17, 21-19.

No. 2 pair – Lexi Yoza-Landree Coats, X, def. SDO, 14-21, 21-17, 15-12.

No. 3 pair – Zaira Reyes-Katie Anthony, X, def. SDO, 21-15, 16-21, 15-13.

No. 4 pair – SDO def. Tiffany Tellez-Alexa Shiner, X, 21-13, 21-13.

No. 5 pair – SDO def. Angela Valentine-Mei Tsou, X, 21-13, 21-9.





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