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, April 25, 2021

Here comes the sun, here comes Gator lacrosse

 That big, yellow round thing up in the sky was the sun.

And it was hot.

But maybe not as hot as Xavier Prep’s club lacrosse team.

In a rare day duel on Saturday (April 24), the Gators won their fourth Arizona Girls Lacrosse Association match 21-13 against visiting Phoenix Horizon at Petznick Field.

And not even the water cannons designed to help clean the artificial turf and lessen the impacts of the heat could cool off the Gators during the halftime break, when the temperature stood at 90 degrees.

With the four straight wins, Xavier inched over the .500 mark to 6-5 in the AGLA’s Division 2 standings, while Horizon slipped to 5-6. Xavier also defeated Horizon 11-7 on April 14 at North Phoenix Prep.

Xavier led 11-8 at halftime on Saturday and scored the first five goals of the second half to gain control. The Gators went on to surpass the 20-goal mark in a game for the first time this season.

Co-head coaches Jen Nevatt and Diana Oduhlo and assistant Clay Zuba and their players are thrilled with the way the team is playing, but at the same time realize they can’t afford any complacency.

“When we play aggressively, we are giving ourselves more opportunities to score,’’ Nevatt said. “That includes the defense being aggressive.’’

It is a matter of maintaining possession of the ball, Oduhlo said.

“When we maintain possession, we have more opportunities and that means the other team doesn’t,’’ she said.

Six players scored for the Gators, all with two goals or more.

They were led by freshman McKenna Boyer, with five goals, and sophomore Keilani Hong and freshman Marlee McCloskey getting four each. Other scorers were sophomore Gigi Riviere (three), sophomore Joan Walton (three) and junior Gabby Celtruda (two).

“It has been a good month for us,’’ Hong said. “We are taking the initiative. We are a lot better off the draw.’’

When the season began, there were quite a few new players coming in, and it took some time for them to become comfortable with each other as well as the returnees.

“We’re more of a team now,’’ Boyer said. “That creates reliability in each other. And it motivates us. This was a big win for us.’’

Said senior defender Bella Giannini, “At the beginning, we had a mixed skill level. But we were able to build a good bond, be more consistent, and it led to today, when we had our first game over 20 (goals). If we can keep this going, that should put us in a good spot for the tournament.’’

The Gators have three matches left in the regular season.

The first will be the team’s final home contest, on Tuesday (April 27) against Scottsdale Desert Mountain.  A Thursday (April 29) match at Cave Creek Cactus Shadows would be next, followed by the finale at Gilbert Higley on Friday (April 30).

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