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.

Monday, May 31, 2021

Softball's Lee earns Player of the Week recognition

 Xavier Prep catcher Macy Lee, who recently completed her senior year, has been selected as the azcentral.com Girls Athlete of the Week ending May 28.

Lee, who will attend school and play at Michigan State, helped the Gators secure the 6A Conference state title, the first in school history, with a 10-0 victory in five innings over Mesa Red Mountain.

She drove in seven of the Gators’ runs with a grand slam and a pair of doubles at the University of Arizona’s Hillenbrand Stadium in Tucson.


XCP students, athletes driven by competitive spark

 Xavier Prep cast a big, wide net across the landscape of competition in 2020-21 and brought in five state team championships. Add a few other strong finishes by other groups of Gators and you have one of the best overall results among schools at any level in Arizona.

Taking home state title trophies were golf, soccer, beach volleyball , Spiritline (five-person stunt) and perhaps this year’s highlight – softball,  the first in its history.

A handful of other Xavier teams came very close to joining that prestigious list.

Swimming and diving was the state runner-up for the third straight year to powerhouse Scottsdale Chaparral. The XCP club lacrosse team was runner-up in the Arizona Girls Lacrosse Association’s Division 2 championship tournament, falling to Gilbert Higley.

The basketball and tennis teams reached the semifinals and the cross-country team finished fourth in the state. Basketball fell to eventual champion Surprise Valley Vista and tennis was defeated by eventual state runner-up Chandler Hamilton.

Xavier also had some individual athletes who excelled.

One week after the beach volleyball team claimed its latest crown, the team’s No. 1 doubles duo of senior Serena Turner and sophomore Summer McCann won the beach pairs title, similar to competition in tennis.

Dani Dyer and Belani Soto reached the tennis doubles semifinal and were the state runner-up, quite an accomplishment for them, both freshmen.

 And seniors Lina Vanderwey and Sophie Riviere took fourth place in the state badminton doubles tournament.

Badminton's Lina Vanderwey, left, and Sophie Riviere (Xavier photo).

The golf team title was sparked by a pair of underclassmen, freshman Kate Hauptman (third among individuals) and junior Ivy Song (sixth).

The club mountain biking team’s annual fall schedule was limited due to Covid virus concerns, but in November, the Gators showed a glimpse of what they hope will come this fall once full action resumes.

In the Cactus Cup Juniors series, XCP finished first and second in the girls’ quad competition, a relay race of sorts with four riders contributing in each.

The first-place team was made up of Aria Tseffos, Mary Hill, Chloe Lindeback and Grace Morgan. The second-place team was Gabriela Evans, Lizabeth Garcia, Kirsten Findlay and Susan Findlay.

In cross country, senior Jamie Stelnik finished 17th among individuals, and junior Ansley Burns was 21st before going on to help the soccer team win its title.

The track and field team had a number of young athletes who continued to work toward top performances, and they are looking to use this experience to improve in the spring of 2022. The XCP Spiritline and Gatorline girls were as competitive as ever.

At state swimming, XCP did well in the relay events as it usually does. The Gators were second in the 200-yard medley relay, the 400-yard freestyle relay and was third in the 200-yard freestyle relay.

Senior swimmers Mia Rankin and Kelly Scott finished their Xavier careers with a flourish – Rankin taking second in the 200-yard individual medley and second in the 500-yard freestyle, and Scott taking second in the 50- and 100-yard freestyles.

In the swim of things were seniors Kelly Scott, left, and  Mia Rankin (Photo by Don Ketchum).

There were two monumental efforts plays that will last a lifetime, one in soccer and one in softball.

In soccer, sophomore Bella Leonard hit a high-arching shot from about 40 yards away as time expired in the second overtime to lift the Gators to a 1-0 semifinal victory over Gilbert Perry at Gilbert Campo Verde. The ball went just behind the stunned Perry goalkeeper and into the net.

The sequence was shown over and over again on ESPN’s Top 10 Plays of the Day.

Xavier went on to win the title a few days later with a 2-0 triumph over Scottsdale Chaparral, earning Coach Barb Chura the Coach of the Year honor by azcentral.com. Senior goalkeeper Jaden Campbell was named to the All-Arizona Team.

Goalkeeper Jaden Campbell, left, and defender Emmie Paulson tossed away their masks from earlier in the season to help Xavier win the state title (Photo by Don Ketchum).

The second individual highlight was senior catcher Macy Lee’s performance in the softball championship game against Mesa Red Mountain at the University of Arizona’s Hillenbrand Stadium. She drove in seven of Xavier’s 10 runs with a grand slam and a pair of doubles as the Gators won 10-0 in five innings.

Lee was named the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s 6A Conference Player of the Year.

According to XCP Athletic Director Sr. Lynn Winsor, the Archery and the Xavier Hotshots clay target shooting teams had strong seasons, and one of the Mock Trial teams won a region competition.

What an amazing year by all of the students, athletes and coaches! It just doesn’t get much better than that.

Go Gators !!


Thursday, May 27, 2021

No surfing in summer, but plenty of hoops for Gators

 Summer almost is upon us and for followers of Xavier Prep athletics, it means . . . basketball?

You are reading that correctly.

Some of Xavier’s best basketball in recent years has begun with early work in summer leagues, most notably at Thunderbird High in north Phoenix.

After the league temporarily shut down in 2020 due to the pandemic, things are back to where they need to be in 2021. The league will begin play on June 1 and run until the end of the month.

Teams at the varsity and junior-varsity levels will participate. Each team will play seven “regular season’’ games in either T-Bird’s main or practice gyms, and that will be followed by a brief “one and done’’ playoff. Games will begin at around 2 p.m. each day and run all the way through 9 p.m.

Xavier coach Jennifer Gillom had nine underclassmen as part of the group of Gators that reached the 6A Conference semifinals, where the team fell to eventual state champion Surprise Valley Vista.

Most of those players are expected to return, barring injury and prior commitments, in the summer.

Those players are (class standing for 2021-22 in parentheses) . . .

Sienna Cherwinski (junior), Mia Davis (junior), Kalyn Doss (sophomore), Toni Garcia (senior), Sarah Miller (sophomore), Dominique Nesland (sophomore), Gabi Trbovic (junior), Maureen Ulrich (sophomore) and Hannah Young (junior).

The fact that four of these players were relatively unknown freshmen last season makes it a logical assumption that there could be a few fresh faces this summer that might help the varsity in a similar manner.

Thunderbird High 2021 Summer Basketball League

At Thunderbird High, 19th Ave. and Thunderbird Road

Participating teams

Phoenix Alhambra, Phoenix Arcadia, Anthem Boulder Creek, Prescott Valley Bradshaw Mountain, Glendale Cactus, Cave Creek Cactus Shadows, Peoria Centennial, Phoenix Central, Laveen Cesar Chavez, Phoenix Cortez, Glendale Deer Valley, Scottsdale Desert Mountain, Fountain Hills, Glendale Prep, Phoenix Barry Goldwater, Phoenix Greenway, Phoenix Horizon, Phoenix North, Phoenix North Canyon, Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor, Phoenix Paradise Valley, Prescott High, Scottsdale Saguaro, Phoenix St. Mary’s, Phoenix Sunnyslope, Peoria Sunrise Mountain, Phoenix Thunderbird Orange, Phoenix Thunderbird Blue, Surprise Valley Vista, Phoenix Xavier Prep.

Xavier schedules

Varsity

Tuesday, June 1 (Main gym) – Anthem Boulder Creek vs. XCP, 9 p.m.

Thursday, June 3 (Main) – XCP vs. Phoenix Horizon, 8 p.m.

Tuesday, June 8 (Main) – Laveen Cesar Chavez vs. XCP, 8 p.m.

Thursday, June 10 (Main) – Surprise Valley Vista vs. XCP, 8 p.m.

Tuesday, June 15 (Main) – Peoria Sunrise Mountain vs. XCP, 5 p.m.

Monday, June 21 (Main) – XCP vs. Phoenix Alhambra, 8 p.m.

Thursday, June 24 (Main) – Phoenix Thunderbird Blue vs. XCP, 9 p.m.

Junior varsity

Wednesday, June 2 (Practice gym) – XCP vs. Phoenix North, 9 p.m.

Wednesday, June 9 (Practice) – Phoenix Arcadia vs. XCP, 5 p.m.

                                                         XCP vs. Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor, 8 p.m.

Friday, June 18 (Main Gym) – Goodyear Millennium B vs. XCP, 5 p.m.

                                                      XCP vs. Laveen Cesar Chavez, 7 p.m.

Wednesday, June 23 (Practice) – Phoenix St. Mary’s vs. XCP, 8 p.m.

Friday, June 25 (Main) – XCP vs. Glendale Deer Valley, 9 p.m.


Tuesday, May 25, 2021

AIA rewards Lee, Putz, Gator softball crew

 It was undeniably the best softball season in Xavier Prep history.

The numbers speak for themselves – 19 victories in 21 games, including a resounding 10-0 triumph in five innings over Mesa Red Mountain for the 6A Conference state championship on May 17 at the University of Arizona, Xavier’s first-ever softball crown.

And with that victory goes the team trophy and some individual accolades for Xavier players in voting by the state’s coaches for the Arizona Interscholastic Association All-6A teams.

Notification came on Tuesday (May 25) through Xavier coach Brad Downes, and as the celebratory confetti reached the ground, Xavier had five players on the First Team.

Senior catcher Macy Lee was the overall Player of the Year and freshman third baseman Lauren Putz was selected as the Offensive Player of the Year.

Other Gators receiving the First Team designation were junior pitcher Riley Flynn, junior shortstop Bridget Donahey and junior outfielder Elliot Smith. Putz, Donahey and Smith were listed as position players.

“It really is quite an accomplishment. We had a great season,’’ said Downes. “This recognition was well-earned by the girls. They played hard and did the work.

“This was not an overnight success. The players have had their share of challenges along the way, and they can take stock in the lessons they have learned.’’

The players also held each other accountable, he said, which added to the discipline aspect.

“They motivated each other,’’ Downes said.

Lee, who will be heading off to Michigan State to study and play softball, hit .522 with 36 hits and 30 RBIs. She had 13 doubles and five home runs, including a memorable grand slam in the state championship game.

She was as proficient on defense as she was on offense. She did not make an error, and she guided Flynn along the way, keeping her calm in the event of rough spots.

Putz hit .493 and was the Gators’ leadoff hitter for most of the season because she made such good contact to all parts of the field. She scored 34 runs, had 34 hits, 20 RBIs, six doubles, four triples and three homers.

Flynn finished with a 16-2 record and a 1.62 earned-run average, with 178 strikeouts in 108 innings, and even recorded a save.

Donahey hit .408 with 29 hits, 30 RBIs, seven doubles and a team-high 10 homers.

Smith played most of the time in right field, where she was a solid defender. On offense, she hit .451 with 23 hits, including a pair of doubles and a pair of triples. She was perhaps the team’s best bunter.

All-Premier Region honors

Lee and Putz were the Overall and Offensive Players of the Year.

Flynn, Donahey and Smith were First Team choices, while senior first baseman Jazmin Andrade and junior second baseman Meghan Schouten were on the Second Team. A pair of outfielders, senior Sydney Johnson and junior Emma Petersen, were listed as Honorable Mention.

The Premier is made up of Xavier, Chandler High, Chandler Hamilton, Gilbert Perry and Chandler Basha.


Monday, May 24, 2021

Lacrosse players, coaches have key All-Star roles

 Coaches and players from Xavier Prep’s club lacrosse team wrapped up their strong season on May 17 when they joined forces on the Wildcats (Blue) team that earned a 13-11 victory over the Sun Devils (White) in the Arizona Girls Lacrosse Association Division Division 2 All-Star Game at Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep.

The Gators had a prolific scoring season and that continued as many of the team’s seven All-Star participants had a hand in the scoring. The Wildcats were coached by Xavier co-head coaches Diana Oduho and Jen Nevatt.

The Xavier players were senior defender Bella Giannini, junior goalkeeper Ann Obiese, sophomore attacker Gigi Riviere, sophomore midfielder Joan Walton, sophomore attacker Keilani Hong, freshman midfielder Marlee McCloskey and freshman midfielder McKenna Boyer.

Xavier also had some end-of-the-season award recipients – Division 2 All-State attackers Hong and Riviere and attacker Giannini. And Hong was named the Division 2 Attacker of the Year.

Congrats to the players and coaches on a job well done !! Go Gators !!


Thursday, May 20, 2021

Turner, McCann rule in beach championship pairs

 Xavier Prep still has that beach volleyball magic.

Just one week after helping the Gators win the D-I state championship, senior Serena Turner and sophomore Summer McCann were back at it on the sand at Casteel High in Queen Creek for the Division I state championship pairs event.

The two Gators went 4-0 over the two days, first on Wednesday (May 19) and then with the semifinals and finals on Thursday (May 20).

Turner and McCann, who won their match in the team finals against Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor, were taken to the limit in Thursday’s semis by SDO’s Sydnee Broadway and Margo Smith, by the scores of 21-17, 18-21 and 15-10. Turner and McCann were the No. 2 seed, Broadway and Smith No. 3.

The finale featured Turner and McCann against No. 5 Rylee Achtzehn and Alexis Peck of Scottsdale Desert Mountain. Achtzehn and Peck began the pairs event on Wednesday with a 21-19, 21-11 first-round win over Xavier’s other duo of unseeded Lexi Yoza and Landree Coats.

Turner and McCann were presented gold medals for their efforts.

Congrats to both Xavier teams!!

Results

Championship

Serena Turner-Summer McCann, Xavier, def. Rylee Achtzehn-Alexis Peck, Desert Mountain, 21-15, 21-10.

Semifinals

Turner-McCann def. Sydnee Broadway-Margo Smith, Sandra Day O’Connor, 21-17, 18-21, 15-10.

Quarterfinals

Turner-McCann def. Bianca Perez-Jocelyn Chavez-Rivas, Millennium, 21-13, 21-16.

First round

Turner-McCann def. Madison Carrington-Macey Camacho, Basha, 21-13, 21-13. Achtzehn-Peck def. Lexi Yoza-Landree Coats, Xavier, 21-19, 21-11.


Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Xavier bears down, takes softball title at UofA

 Tucson

It was the state championship softball game and most assuredly was accompanied by some nervousness beforehand.

So how do you rid yourselves of that? What did Xavier Prep’s Gators do?

Would you believe, a bit of country-style line dancing in front of their dugout?

“It helped us break the ice,’’ said senior catcher Macy Lee.

So the Gators dug their cowboy boots (OK, softball cleats . . .) into the dirt at the University of Arizona’s Hillenbrand Stadium, gained their footing and went about the business of trying to win the first state title in the school’s history.

Led by Lee, the top-seeded Gators achieved their goal to cap off a run that rarely has been witnessed in the tournament, and likely will not be matched by teams any time soon.

Including Monday night’s (May 17) 10-0 victory over No. 7 Mesa Red Mountain in a game shortened to five innings by the 10-run rule, Xavier “run-ruled’’ three of its four state tournament opponents, outscoring them 40-3 to finish with a 19-2 record.

Seniors Macy Lee, holding trophy, center, Sydney Johnson, left, and Jazmin Andrade, right, celebrate Xavier Prep's 6A state softball title. (Photo by Don Ketchum).

Lee, headed to Michigan State for academics and softball, drove in seven runs against Red Mountain.

The first one came in the third inning on a laser double off the left-field fence that caromed back toward the infield so fast that Xavier coach Brad Downes, who also has third-base coaching duties, had to hold baserunner Bridget Donahey at third. Donahey scored on a passed ball shortly thereafter for a 2-0 lead.

The big one came in the fourth inning.

With some fans thinking it would be nice to see the ball rocket out of the yard this time, Lee stepped to the plate with one out and did just that. She held her own Macy’s Parade, passing the third-base dugout as Downes high-fived his assistant coaches. Lee finally reached the plate, where she was greeted by her adoring teammates.

And there was more to come in the fifth. Lee hit a ball over the center fielder’s head for another double that brought home two runs, and junior Meghan Schouten ushered the evening to a quick close when her sacrifice fly allowed Donahey to score the 10th run.

Hundreds of blue-clad XCP fans erupted, cooled by a light breeze and the 77-degree temperature. It just added to the atmosphere.

It was time to bring out the shiny 6A Conference title trophy, and it was presented to the team by Arizona Interscholastic Association Executive Director David Hines.

“Well, you did it. You did it with class like you always do,’’ Hines said of the program and the school in general.

Downes had a different air than after previous wins. He was able to take a deep breath and break into a big smile.

“I am thrilled for them (players). This is a credit to their talent.’’

He did not really think about “run-ruling’’ during the tournament.

“I knew we had the potential for it. We had the hitting, had the power, had the speed and had the pitching.’’

He pointed out that nine different players hit home runs this season to bring the total to 32. Donahey, a junior shortstop, had 10 with 30 RBIs and Lee had five as part of her team-leading 36 hits and 30 RBIs. Xavier averaged 9.3 runs per game and 87 of its hits went for extra bases.

Lee hits the ball as hard as anyone in the state, but she really didn’t think about a home run in her second at-bat.

“I was going up there with the mindset that I just wanted to hit the ball hard for the team,’’ she said.

“In Day 1 this year, as the tryouts were getting going, the coaches let us know they were going to be pushing us and pushing us hard because they knew what we were capable of. It was a blessing for all of us that this happened.’’

As essential as Lee, Donahey, junior second baseman Schouten and all of the position players were, the Gators would not have reached this level without the remarkable season of junior pitcher Riley Flynn.

She gave up two hits to Red Mountain (18-6), walked four and struck out nine. She finished the season at 16-2 with a 1.62 ERA and 178 strikeouts in 108 innings.

“Riley was lights out,’’ Lee said. “She was hitting her spots like she had been doing all season.’’

Part of Xavier’s celebration came when a “W’’ (win) banner, similar to the ones used by the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field, was brought out for some photo ops.

It almost didn’t happen. Assistant coach Deryk Sexton, Downes’ top lieutenant, had arranged the acquisition, but it somehow got misplaced. So Sexton, trying to keep the plan alive, managed to get another in the days before the game.

“All I got to say is, thank goodness for Amazon,’’ a relieved Sexton said.


Monday, May 17, 2021

Saga in sand continues for Xavier duos

 Make sure you have your flip-flops handy because the beach volleyball season isn’t over just quite yet.

Xavier Prep’s Division I team state champions will have two team duos competing in the beach volleyball pairs competition, a playoff of sorts, on Wednesday (May 19) and Thursday (May 20) at Casteel High in Queen Creek (Power and Riggs roads).

The first XCP pair is seeded No. 2 in this event – senior Serena Turner and sophomore Summer McCann.

They will open play on Wednesday at 5 p.m. against unseeded Madison Carrington and Macey Camacho of Chandler Basha. The winner would play again in a quarterfinal match at 6:15 against either seventh-seeded Bianca Perez and Jocelyn Chavez Rivas of Goodyear Millennium or Tempe Corona del Sol’s unseeded Dominique Wofford and Taylor Erickson.

The second Xavier duo is unseeded Lexi Yoza and Landree Coats, both juniors. In their first match of the day, they will face the fifth-seeded pair of Rylee Achtzehn and Alexis Peck of Scottsdale Desert Mountain.

The winner would go on to a quarterfinal at 6:15 against the winner of a first-round match between fourth-seeded Jordan Suan and Avery Burks of Gilbert Perry and unseeded Reece Fischbeck and Lexi Williams of Mesa Mountain View.

Semifinals and finals are Thursday at the times listed above.


Sunday, May 16, 2021

Track & field finishes season, looks ahead to '22

 Xavier Prep’s track and field team put forth an energetic effort in the 2021 Division I state meet at Phoenix Desert Vista that ran two days (May 12 and 15), but was unable to put points on the team scoreboard.

The Gators had some athletes compete in event finals, and others competed in preliminaries (see results below).

The team has a number of young athletes with a great deal of potential, and it will be interesting to see how they fare in 2022.

The XCP Files salutes all of these Gators, from just-graduated seniors through freshmen, for their overall dedication and hard work toward improving themselves, their teammates, their school and their community.

Way to go, Gators! Xavier is proud of you!

Division I state track and field results

Team scores – Chandler High 154 ½, Gilbert Highland 83, Phoenix Desert Vista 80, Gilbert Perry 62, Queen Creek 52 ½, Scottsdale Chaparral 45, Chandler Hamilton 31, Tucson High 21, Mesa High 19, Phoenix Pinnacle 19, Mesa Westwood 18, Chandler Basha 17, Mesa Mountain View 16, Surprise Valley Vista 13, Peoria Liberty 12, Tempe Corona del Sol 12, Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor 11, Mesa Red Mountain 10, Surprise Shadow Ridge 9, Mesa Desert Ridge 6, Glendale Mountain Ridge 4, Yuma Cibola 4.

Xavier Prep results

400-meter dash preliminary – Lourdes Lauterborn, Fr., 17th, 1:02.01.

800-meter run final – Tatum Goforth, Jr., 12th, 2:21.18.

1,600-meter run final – Hannah Wheeling, Jr., 18th, 5:26.91; Tatum Goforth, Jr., 20th, 5:34.05.

3,200-meter run final – Jamie Stelnik, Sr., 12th, 11:34.57; Hannah Wheeling, Jr., 21st, 12:00.16.

4x100-meter relay preliminary --  XCP 16th, 21.64 (Runners: Mackenzie Lopez, Fr., Madigan Moran, So., Maya Ofori, Fr., Ava Sharett, Fr.).

4x400-meter relay preliminary – XCP 10th, 4:07.80 (Runners: Mackenzie Lopez, Fr., Bella Gomez, Fr., Lourdes Lautherborn, Fr., Ellie Higgins, Jr.).

4x800-meter relay final – XCP 10th, 10:07.67 (Runners: Lily Beaver, Fr., Naomi Young, So., Tatum Goforth, Jr., Ansley Burns, Jr.).

Pole vault final – Avery Allen, Jr., 11th, 10-06.

 

 

Friday, May 14, 2021

There is nobody greater than these Gators!

 The ball went up near the net, setting Xavier Prep’s Serena Turner up for a kill shot. She swung hard and her opponent from Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor made contact on a block attempt. Instead of landing in bounds, it was out.

Turner, Xavier’s senior star, dropped to her knees and almost appeared ready to bury herself in the sand, putting her hands over her face as if she did not first believe what had occurred.

Her blue-uniformed teammates surrounded her and piled on top of her, screaming at the top of their lungs to salute her and her No. 1 teammate, sophomore Summer McCann, after Xavier claimed the Division I beach volleyball state title, 4-1, at Casteel High in Queen Creek on Thursday night (May 13).

Xavier's Gators celebrate the school's eighth beach volleyball state title in the last nine years (Photo by Don Ketchum).

The championship had been clinched a short while earlier by the Gators’ No. 2 pair of sophomore Lexi Yoza and junior Landree Coats, but the two schools went ahead with the No. 1s to allow them compete in such a setting.

Xavier finished unbeaten at 16-0 and earned the title for the eighth time in nine seasons of the sport with an adventurous effort that might rival any of their predecessors on the excitement scale.

Turner and McCann had dropped their first game 21-16 to O’Connor’s Margo Smith and Sydnee Broadway, then came back to win the next one 23-21 as well as the 15-13 finale.

It would be part of a memorable week for Turner and fellow senior Zaira Reyes, who with junior Katie Anthony won in a nail-biting duel between No. 3 teams, 22-20 and 23-21. The two seniors got the title they had so longed for and on Saturday (May 15) will wear their caps and gowns as they graduate from XCP. And you can add team manager Tessa Guthrie to the list.

“I am so full of emotion right now. I feel so blessed to be able to play on such as amazing team. I owe this all to God,’’ said Turner, who moves on to Stanford to play beach and study computer science and environmental science.

“There were some close games, we all worked so hard and it paid off,’’ she added.

Turner admitted to being a bit stunned by how the final play turned out in the third game.

“It kind of hit me that after that play, I thought, “That was my last swing at Xavier,’ ’’ she said. “It is something that I will always remember.’’

Another memory is her own block to clinch the second game and signal a comeback was imminent.

Reyes will be headed to the University of Rochester (N.Y.) to play indoor volleyball and pursue a degree in mechanical engineering.

“This week has been a rollercoaster of emotion,’’ she said. “Yesterday (Wednesday) was our last day of class. You keep thinking about that all day and then you’re trying to get ready for this match.’’

“We have so many age groups on this team but we all support each other no matter what. We are like a family.’’

She enjoyed playing both indoor and beach.

“In beach, there is a lot of bonding. It is relaxed and it is fun.’’

For Gators head coach Tim McHale, winning it all never gets old.  The 2021 title was the sixth under his leadership.

He had a strong group of assistants, Anna Pangiotakopoulos, Jenny Scott and Cierra Flood.

A new wrinkle was tossed into the mix during the tournament run.

One of the players suggested that she be allowed to paint his fingernails in the school colors of blue and green, the left hand signifying the protection of the No. 1 seeding and the right being added if the Gators reached the title game.

“I’m not too into that kind of stuff but I decided to go with it, if it helps motivate the players, it would be a good thing,’’ he said.

Xavier defeated O’Connor on April 7, 3-2, its closest match of the regular season, so McHale knew this would be similar. Xavier lost the first two games in the first meeting, but rallied to win the final three.

“The last time, our 5’s and 4’s didn’t put their best foot forward, but they were a lot better today,’’ he said.

This time, the 4’s team of junior Alexa Shiner and junior Tiffany Tellez “did a remarkable job, were steady,’’ said McHale. “And I think at one point in one of Zaira’s games, they were down by five but were able to come back.

“The main thing was, we started the match as a family and finished as a family.’’

Championship results

No. 5 pairing – Emma Soncrat-Trinity Freeman, SDO, def. Trinity Tran-Mei Tsou, X, 21-10, 21-18.

No. 4 pairing – Alexa Shiner-Tiffany Tellez, X, def. Liana Huesca-Piper Rama, SDO, 14-21, 21-14, 15-11.

No. 3 pairing – Zaira Reyes-Katie Anthony, X, def. Sophia Myers-Tristan Smith, SDO, 22-20, 23-21.

No. 2 pairing – Lexi Yoza-Landree Coats, X, def. Ashlyn Rough-Hannah Doyle, SDO, 21-15, 16-21, 15-6.

No. 1 pairing – Serena Turner-Summer McCann, X, def. Margo Smith-Sydnee Broadway, SDO, 16-21, 23-21, 15-13.

Gators earn shot at first state softball title

 Gas up the buses, we’re heading to Tucson for the biggest road trip in Xavier Prep softball history!!

The Gators will play for their first-ever state championship on Monday night at 7:30 against Mesa Red Mountain at the University of Arizona’s Hillenbrand Stadium. Xavier (18-2) is the tournament’s top seed while Red Mountain (18-5) is No. 7. The Mountain Lions won five straight state titles from 2010-14.

Both teams are coming into the finale at the right time.

Red Mountain advanced with a 3-2 semifinal win in 10 innings over No. 11 Surprise Shadow Ridge. Earlier in the tournament, Red Mountain eliminated No.2 Chandler Hamilton on a no-hitter by junior Taylor Trowbridge.

Xavier, meanwhile, is spreading the wealth on offense. The Gators have outscored their three tournament opponents 30-3. The last two wins, a quarterfinal and semifinal, were by the 10-run rule, over Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor and Phoenix Pinnacle, respectively.

Xavier also defeated Red Mountain 4-1 in a game in Mesa toward the end of the regular season. Junior second baseman Megan Schouten hit a home run for the Gators off Trowbridge in the first inning, and drove in a fourth run later on with a double. Infielder Brooklyn hit a home run for Red Mountain off Xavier junior ace Riley Flynn.

In the win over Pinnacle, Xavier scored five runs in the third inning to gain the upper hand. Schouten, Emma Petersen and Lauren Putz hit home runs for the Gators in the contest.


Seven XCP lacrosse players selected All-Stars

 Fresh off their runner-up finish in the Arizona Girls Lacrosse Association Division 2 title race, Xavier Prep’s club team has had seven players selected to the All-Star Game as members of the Team Wildcats.

The Wildcats, led by Xavier co-coaches Diana Oduho and Jen Nevatt, will play the Team Sun Devils on Monday night (May 17) at 6:30 at Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep’s Bemis Field.

The Xavier players are senior Bella Giannini, sophomore Keilani Hong, sophomore Gigi Riviere, sophomore Joan Walton, freshman McKenna Boyer, freshman Marlee McCloskey and junior Ann Obiesie.


Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Will another beach crown fit? Gators hope so

 Xavier Prep’s beach volleyball team has reached the Division I state championship match on Thursday (May 13) with a perfect 15-0 record.

The Gators were only in real danger just once, and that was on April 7 when they squeaked past Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor, 3-2, in a match at Xavier.

In that match, Xavier rallied from an 0-2 deficit to get the win. The match seemed to be on the line during every play, and Xavier Coach Tim McHale called it “a deep bracket match.’’

On Tuesday, top-seeded Xavier, winner of seven of eight state championships, earned a chance at an eighth crown with a decisive 5-0 win over Chandler Basha. Xavier had defeated Basha 4-1 in the final regular season match on April 28.

McHale was particularly pleased with his No. 5 duo of Mei Tsou and Trinity Tran, the No. 4 pairing of Alexa Shiner and Tiffany Tellez and the No. 3 team of Zaira Reyes and Katie Anthony.

“We are really, really proud of the 5s, the 4s and the 3s,’’ McHale said.

He added that Reyes and Anthony have played well all season.

“They have sometimes been overlooked, but not by us,’’ he said.

Anthony certainly was not afraid to dive in the sand, doing so on numerous occasions to keep the play alive.

And the No. 1 duo of Serena Turner and Summer McCann turned in a solid effort to officially put the match away.

Like Anthony before her, McCann saved some shots, setting up Turner for one return that crept along the top of the net before dropping into Basha territory for the 20th point. Turner also accounted for the 21st and match point with a big block at the net.

Tuesday’s semifinal result

Xavier Prep 5, Basha 0

No. 1 pairing – Serena Turner-Summer McCann, X, def. Megan O’Meara-Haley Carrington, B, 21-15, 21-18.

No. 2 pairing – Landree Coats-Lexi Yoza, X, def. Madison Carrington-Macey Camacho, B, 21-16, 21-19.

No. 3 pairing – Zaira Reyes-Katie Anthony, X, def. Chloe Murakami-Maddie Malinas, B, 21-11, 21-15.

No. 4 pairing – Alexa Shiner-Tiffany Tellez, X, def. Lyenne Bect-Bryanna Murdock, B, 21-19, 21-16.

No. 5 pairing – Mei Tsou-Trinity Tran, X, def. Brooke Abel-Hayden Rosales, B , 21-15, 21-16.

 

Grand slam and other booming bats help Gators

 Any doubts of how Tuesday’s (May 11) 6A Conference softball semifinal might end were put to rest as top-seeded Xavier Prep scored 10 runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to defeat No. 8 seed Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor, 12-2, with the 10-run rule in effect.

Xavier (17-2) now moves on to a semifinal game at Petznick Field on Thursday (May 13) against No. 4 Phoenix Pinnacle (15-5). First pitch is at 4:05 p.m.

The Gators defeated Pinnacle, 4-3, in the final regular season game for both teams on May 5 at Pinnacle, which is coached by former Xavier head coach Bobby Pena.

The key to Xavier’s big offensive outburst against Sandra Day O’Connor in the fifth inning was a grand slam by junior Emma Petersen. That gave Xavier an 11-2 lead.

Another essential hit for the Gators was produced by senior Jazmin Andrade, who connected for a two-run double. Andrade also drove in a third run earlier in the game with a home run.

Junior pitcher Riley Flynn earned the victory, giving up two runs on four hits with four walks and four strikeouts.

Thursday’s semifinal winners will advance to the 6A state championship game on Monday (May 17) at the University of Arizona’s Hillenbrand Stadium in Tucson. The other semifinal will feature No. 11 Surprise Shadow Ridge and No. 7 Mesa Red Mountain.


Saturday, May 8, 2021

After strange day, softball moves to quarters

 Perhaps the fact that the game started at an odd hour, 10 a.m., on Saturday (May 8) was a -reason for some unusual occurrences in the first round of the 6A Conference state tournament between top-seeded host Xavier Prep and No. 16 Yuma Cibola.

Despite the weirdness, the Gators advanced to Tuesday’s (May 11) quarterfinals with an 8-1 victory at Petznick Field. Xavier (16-2) will be back at Petznick to meet No. 8 seed Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor (13-7), which rallied for a 7-6 win over No. 9 Mesa Desert Ridge. Cibola finished 14-5.

Of the seven other teams remaining in the tournament, Xavier has won four (O’Connor, Phoenix Sunnyslope, Mesa Red Mountain and Phoenix Pinnacle) and lost two (both to Chandler Hamilton).

Against Cicola, Xavier found itself trailing 1-0 after giving up a first-inning home run. Xavier was called for leaving a base early on a couple of occasions.

Umpires employed a seldom-used minutiae-like rule, calling Xavier pitcher Riley Flynn for lifting her foot off the pitching rubber not one, not two, but three times (pitchers must have at least one foot down to avoid a “hop’’), altering the pitch count. And a ball that umpires had said left the yard for a Bridget Donahey home run to lead off the third inning was changed to a ground-rule double.

Donahey managed to score anyway on a single by second baseman Meghan Schouten.

In the fourth inning, Donahey had a sacrifice fly taken away when it was ruled that a Xavier baserunner had left third base too soon to end the inning.

By then, Xavier head coach Brad Downes had seen too much and apparently said too much. The men in blue did not eject him, but banished him to the dugout for the rest of the game (he coaches third base) while assistant Deryk Sexton took over those duties.

“I guess you could say they put me in timeout,’’ said Downes, who still was able to relay voice signals to his defense from the dugout.

Xavier widened the gap even more with a four-run fifth. Catcher Macy Lee slugged a home run to start things off, another run scored on an error and two runs scored on a single by Sydney Johnson.

Downes said the ball was carrying a longer distance than everyone anticipated. Even on pop-ups that soared much deeper. In the Cibola sixth, a hitter hit a two-out popup that appeared Schouten would be able to handle with ease. It appeared she froze on the play and the ball dropped into right field for a double. But there was a reason for some confusion.

“You don’t know some of these other teams that you hardly ever see (hitters) and the ball is carrying,’’ Downes said. “I guess that would be on me. It was  a deal when you think you see something that you really don’t.’’

After giving up the first-inning home run to Cibola’s  Madison Matthews, Flynn settled down and finished with a four-hitter and 12 strikeouts.

Downes wasn’t necessarily concerned too much about the tournament seedings.

“We tried to look at this (Cibola) as any other game,’’ he said. “We call this the “third season.’ When you get to this point, you’ve gotta win four in a row (to win the title). Every team out there is trying to beat you, and they can.’’

6A Conference first-round results

Saturday, May 8

(Seedings in parentheses)

Xavier Prep (1) 8, Yuma Cibola (16) 1; Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor (8) 7, Mesa Desert Ridge (9) 6; Phoenix Sunnyslope (5) 3, Chandler Basha (12) 2; Phoenix Pinnacle (4) 10, Mesa Mountain View (13) 0, 5 innings; Queen Creek (3) 7, Gilbert Perry (14) 1; Surprise Shadow Ridge (14) 1, Phoenix Desert Vista (6) 0; Mesa Red Mountain (7) 6, Scottsdale Chaparral (10) 5; Chandler Hamilton (2) 4, Tempe Corona del Sol (15) 0.

Quarterfinal schedule

Tuesday, May 11

All games, 4:05 p.m.

Sandra Day O’ Connor at Xavier Prep

Sunnyslope at Pinnacle

Shadow Ridge at Queen Creek

Red Mountain at Hamilton


Future bright for lacrosse despite title setback

 Xavier Prep’s young club lacrosse team gave every ounce of energy it had, but the power and speed of Gilbert Higley wore down the Gators, particularly in the second half, to claim the Arizona Girls Lacrosse Association’s Division 2 championship with an 18-9 victory on Friday night (May 7) at Higley.

It was the third time that Higley (12-2) defeated XCP (9-7) this season. It was the first time that Higley played for a championship and the seventh time for the Gators, who have won it all on two occasions.

The game, and the Division 1 contest that was played after, were part of the AGLA’s initial involvement in the annual Grand Canyon State Games.

Xavier had a 6-4 lead with 6:56 left in the first half, but Higley scored three straight goals for a 7-6 lead at intermission.

It was not a good omen, to be sure.

Higley scored four times in the first eight minutes of the second half while Xavier did not score until 17 minutes remained in the match. The Knights seemed to score at will after that.

Co-head coach Diana Oduhlo said as the Gators prepared for this latest match-up with Higley, everyone knew what was coming – what she called Higley’s “fast break.’’

“We did our best to stop it, but our legs got tired,’’ Oduhlo said.

The Gators indeed did seem a step or two behind while trying to track down the ball.

“And they (Higley) won more draws,’’ Oduhlo said of the equivalent of a jump ball in basketball.

Jen Nevatt, co-head coach with Oduhlo, said the first half was “back and forth. It was very exciting. We would like to be able to put it all together like that and be able to stay in the game.’’

Xavier got a big scoring night from sophomore Gigi Riviere, who had five goals. Sophomore Keilani Hong had two goals and sophomore Joan Walton and freshman Marlee McCloskey each scored one.

Xavier was very inexperienced to start the season “and none of us knew what to expect,’’ Nevatt said. “But the girls learned and played well, and to reach this point, we couldn’t be happier.’’

Said Oduhlo: “We had a young team, and it showed. But we were able to build a solid foundation. We are excited for the future.’’

 

 

Hamilton says goodbye to Gator tennis

 The Xavier Prep tennis team’s season reached its conclusion on Friday (May 7) with a 5-0 setback to Chandler Hamilton in a Division I semifinal match at Gene Autry Park in Mesa.

Xavier, the No. 3 seed, finished with a 14-3 record, which included two losses to second-seeded Hamilton and one to top-seeded Scottsdale Desert Mountain.

Desert Mountain and Hamilton played for the team title on Saturday (May 8) at the Paseo Racquet Center in Glendale, with Desert Mountain finishing as champion with a 5-2 win.

Coach Laurie Martin and her Xavier assistants spliced together a team that competed well despite quite a bit of youth during the season and periodic injuries.

Xavier had one senior, four juniors, two sophomores and four freshmen.

Division I semifinal

Friday, May 7

at Gene Autry Park, Mesa

Hamilton 5, Xavier Prep 0

Singles

Ana Badulescu, H, def. Danielle Dyer, X, 6-0, 6-1.

Vidtoriq Milionis, H, def. Victoria Chrostowski, X, 6-4, 6-2.

Nidhi Pulicherla, H, def. Megan Wheeling, X, 6-0, 6-3.

Esther Qiu, H, def. Belani Soto, X, 6-2, 6-0.

Sophia Reitano, H, def. Emilia Chrostowski, X, 6-3, 6-4.


Thursday, May 6, 2021

Beach coach, players are "getting it dialed in'

 The teams are down to a precious few, and every play draws more and more scrutiny.

The players must figure out how to maintain their intensity.

For Xavier Prep’s top-seeded beach volleyball team, the Gators are in the state-tournament spotlight as many of their predecessors have been. But success is not a given. The players must adhere to the preparation regimen that head coach Tim McHale preaches.

Xavier faced No. 8 seed Goodyear Millennium in a quarterfinal match at Xavier on Wednesday (May 5) and McHale knew that the Tigers were not about to roll over.

“We had some good practices (leading up to Millennium), which were “get it dialed in’’ practices, get more serious and have more focus about the job you have to do. We needed that, because Millennium is a good team,’’ McHale said.

Millennium took two of the individual matches to three games, but Xavier remained its composure and managed to hold on for a 5-0 win, keeping its unbeaten record intact at 14-0.  Millennium finished its season at 9-5.

Xavier now heads to the semifinals on Tuesday (May 11) at Queen Creek Casteel and will play fifth-seeded Chandler Basha.(13-2). Xavier defeated Basha 4-1 on April 28 in the regular season finale for both teams. Second-seeded Gilbert Perry will face No. 3 Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor. Both semis begin at 7 p.m.

Three of the final four teams are from the Premier Region, and Basha and Perry are in the Chandler Unified School District, with all beach teams from that district playing their home matches at Casteel. Xavier played twice at Casteel during the regular season, against Perry on April 1 and Chandler Hamilton on April 21.

The two matches that went three games against Millennium were No. 5 Mei Tsou and Trinity Tran and No. 2 Lexi Yoza and Landree Coats.

Tsou, a sophomore, and Tran, a freshman, won the first game 21-10, dropped the second 21-18 and took the third 15-7. Yoza and Coats, both juniors, played the first two games close, winning the first game 21-19, falling in the second game 21-17 and then winning the third game 15-10.

The marquee match-up was the No. 1s, Xavier senior Serena Turner and junior Summer McCann, and Millennium’s Bianca Perez and Jocelyn Chavez-Rivas.

Turner actually was not there when all the pre-match introductions were made. She was taking an AP (Advanced Placement) test on campus. During introductions, McCann waved a large sign with Turner’s face on it. Turner arrived shortly thereafter. She will graduate soon and then move on to the Bay area to play beach and attend school at Stanford.

Turner and McCann won 21-17, 21-16 to complete the match.

“We’re getting more of a level of consistency,’’ McHale said. “The girls have spent a lot of time with their playing partners. They are able to find ways to get there.’’

Wednesday’s results

Xavier Prep 5, Millennium 0

No. 1 pairing – Serena Turner-Summer McCann, X, def. Jocelyn Chavez-Rivas-Bianca Perez, M, 21-17, 21-16.

No. 2 pairing – Landree Coats-Lexi Yoza, X, def. Morgan Stewart-Eryn Jones, M, 21-19, 17-21, 15-10.

No. 3 pairing – Katie Anthony-Zaira Reyes, X, def. Annabella Blowers-Ava Kreinitz, M, 21-9, 21-10.

No. 4 pairing – Tiffany Tellez-Alexa Shiner, X, def, Nicole Gary-Elisa Saunders, M, 21-17, 21-18.

No. 5 pairing – Mei Tsou-Trinity Tran, X, def. Charlotte Goto-Anne Brauckmiller, M, 21-10, 18-21, 15-7.


Gators enter state softball as No. 1 seed

 Fortunately, Xavier Prep’s Gators will never know if a loss at Phoenix Pinnacle on Wednesday (May 5) in the regular season finale would have cost them the top seed in the 6A Conference state tournament that begins on Saturday (May 8).

A two-run rally in the top of the fifth inning took care of that, as the Gators finished it off with a 4-3 victory to cap a wild final week that also saw XCP defeat Mesa Red Mountain and Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor on Monday (May 3) and Tuesday (May 4), respectively.

So now Xavier, officially announced as the top team in 6A by the Arizona Interscholastic Association at midday on Thursday (May 6) will open play on Saturday at 10 a.m. against No. 16 Yuma Cibola (14-4).

The winner will advance to a quarterfinal game on Tuesday (May 11) against either Mesa Desert Ridge or Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor. The quarterfinals and semifinals on May 13 will be hosted by the highest seeds.

And the state championship game will be held May 17 at Arizona State’s Hillenbrand Stadium.

Key offensive factors for Xavier against Pinnacle were senior catcher Macy Lee and junior shortstop Bridget Donahey. Lee had three hits, including a pair of doubles, and drove in two runs. Donahey had one hit, and it was a run-scoring double.

Xavier coach Brad Downes used his three pitchers in the contest.

Sophomore Zoe Zowine started the game and pitched four innings, giving up three runs on two hits with three walks and a pair of strikeouts. Junior Emma Petersen was next, pitching two innings while giving up one hit, a walk and striking out two.

Ace Riley Flynn stepped into the circle for the seventh inning, with a win for the team and a save for her there for the taking. She gave up one hit but had no other trouble to get the save.

6A Conference state softball tournament

First round, Saturday, May 8

All games, 10 a.m.

(Seedings in parentheses)

Yuma Cibola (16) at Xavier Prep (1), Mesa Desert Ridge (9) at Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor (8), Chandler Basha (12) at Phoenix Sunnyslope (5), Mesa Mountain View (13) at Phoenix Pinnacle (4), Gilbert Perry (14) at Queen Creek (3), Surprise Shadow Ridge (11) at Phoenix Desert Vista (6), Scottsdale Chaparral (10) at Mesa Red Mountain (7), Tempe Corona del Sol (15) at Chandler Hamilton (2).

 

 

Xavier girls are for real in track and field

 Xavier Prep’s track and field team tuned up for next week’s Division I state meet with a solid performance on Monday (May 3) and Wednesday (May 5) in the annual Northeast Valley Championships at Phoenix Horizon.

Xavier finished sixth out of 21 teams with 56 points.

The top individual finisher for the Gators was junior Avery Allen in the pole vault, at a height of 10 feet, 6 inches. Top finisher in the running events was junior Tatum Goforth in the 800-meter run, with a time of 2:21.84.

The Gators now look ahead to the state meet, which will be held May 12 and 15 at Phoenix Desert Vista in Ahwatukee.

Team scores – Phoenix Pinnacle 111 ½, Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor 108, Cave Creek Cactus Shadows 74, Scottsdale Chaparral 65, Phoenix North Canyon 57, Xavier Prep 56, Anthem Boulder Creek 33, Phoenix Horizon 29, Phoenix Shadow Mountain 22, Phoenix Arcadia 21 ½, Scottsdale Desert Mountain 21, Phoenix Country Day School 20, Scottsdale Cicero Prep 19, Scottsdale Saguaro 14, Phoenix Paradise Valley 14, Glendale Deer Valley 10, Gilbert High 9, Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep 8, Phoenix Veritas Prep 4, North Phoenix Prep 4, Glendale Apollo 1.

Xavier finishers

100-meter dash – Maya Ofori, Fr., 11th, 13.47.

200-meter dash – Madigan Moran, So., 7th, 27.29.

400-meter dash – Lourdes Lauterborn, Fr., 8th, 1:01.69.

800-meter run – Tatum Goforth, Jr., 4th, 2:21.84; Lily Beaver, Fr., 10th, 2:26.24; Naomi Young, So., 14th, 2:29.39; Ansley Burns, Jr., 16th, 2:30.90.

1,600-meter run – Hannah Wheeling, Jr., 5th, 5:20.87; Jamie Stelnik, Sr., 7th, 5:24.85; Catherine Alaimo, Jr., 8th, 5:29.91; Macarthy Mahoney, Jr., 10th, 5:32.72.

3,200-meter run – Hannah Wheeling, Jr., 5th, 11:54.77; Macarthy Mahoney, Jr , 6th, 12:10.59; Catherine Alaimo, Jr., 9th, 12:11.16; Tatum Goforth, Jr., 12:23.71.

100-meter hurdles – Ellie Higgins, Jr., 7th, 17.62.

300-meter hurdles – Ellie Higgins, Jr., 11th, 51.86; Collins Entz, So., 12th, 52.35; Mia Portillo, Jr., 15th, 53.85.

4x100-meter relay – XCP 5th, 52.65.

4x400-meter relay – XCP 4th, 4:10.58.

4x800-meter relay – XCP 6th, 10:19.17.

High jump – Mackenzie Lopez, Fr., 7th, 4-10; Lourdes Lauterborn, Fr., 10th, 4-10; Ellie Higgins, Jr., 14th, 4-08; Morgan Finch, So., 18th, 4-06.

Long jump – Cierra Gonzalez, Jr., 10th, 15-06 ½.

Pole vault – Avery Allen, Jr., 2nd, 10-06.

Discus – Bethany Barnwell, Sr., 7th, 92-00; Elena Soderstrom, Jr., 9th, 88-05; Callie Ehmann, So., 32nd, 65-01.

Javelin – Callie Ehmann, So., 6th, 88-04; Ellie Higgins, Jr., 19th, 69-08; Rylie Wood, So., 24th, 61-02; Bethany Barnwell, Sr., 26th, 58-00.

Shot put – Elena Soderstrom, Jr., 5th, 30-00 ½; Bethany Barnwell, Sr., 17th, 25-03 ½; Callie Ehmann, So., 28th, 23-00 ½.

 

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Lacrosse escapes Pinnacle, will play for title

 Wow, that was a close one.

Too close for comfort.

Xavier Prep’s club lacrosse team thought it had its Arizona Girls Lacrosse Association Division 2 semifinal match well in hand on Tuesday night (May 4), with 13 minutes to go and an 11-3 lead over the host Phoenix Pinnacle Blue team.

But Pinnacle, which had defeated the Gators twice during the regular season, had other ideas. The Pioneers wanted a third win.

Pinnacle made its power move to score seven straight goals, the last one with 35 seconds left in the match, but Xavier held on for an 11-10 victory. Xavier advances to the Division 2 title match on Friday night (May 7) at Higley, the host team, at 6 p.m. Xavier (9-6) also lost twice to Higley.

Were it not for a Pinnacle goal being waved off by the officials earlier during the run, Tuesday night’s contest might have wound up in a tie, forcing overtime.

The Gators were smiling as they walked off the field, but also clearly were in shock.

That included co-head coaches Diana Oduhlo and Jen Nevatt and assistant Clay Zuba.

“My heart hurts, but in a good way,’’ Nevatt said. “It was an exciting one.’’

“Yeah, but it didn’t have to be,’’ Oduhlo said.

“At the start of the second half (a 7-2 Xavier lead), our players thought they had it in the bag, you know, “We got it.’ The decision making wasn’t there, not like we had that allowed us to get there, missed out on some of the simple things.’’

And so the young team learns by fire. Nevatt said that four players started the season not having played the sport before.

“You learn as you go along,’’ she said.

The team opened the season with an 11-7 loss to Higley and ended the regular season with a 14-10 setback to the Knights on April 30.

“We’ll have to clean up our mistakes, which is what we really didn’t do in that second one,’’ Oduhlo said. “They didn’t beat us. It was Xavier that beat Xavier.’’

Against Pinnacle, most of the Gators’ points came from most of their top scorers.

Sophomore Keilani Hong had four goals, freshman McKenna Boyer and sophomore Gigi Riviere had three each and freshman Marlee McCloskey had one.

 

 

Gators advance to team tennis semifinals

 It’s on to the Division I state team semifinals for Xavier Prep after the third-seeded Gators pinned a 5-0 defeat on No. 6 Mesa Mountain View on Tuesday (May 4) at XCP’s Stark Tennis Center.

Xavier (14-2) will play its semifinal match at noon on Friday (May 7) against No 2 seed Chandler Hamilton at Gene Autry Park in Mesa. Hamilton and top-seeded Scottsdale Desert Mountain are the only teams to defeat Xavier this season. Desert Mountain will meet Scottsdale Chaparral in the other semi.

Results from Wednesday’s match . . .

Singles

Ryan Kershner, X, def. Nicole Jones, MV, 6-0, 6-0; Danielle Dyer, X, def. Alexa Chock, MV, 6-1, 6-1. Victoria Chrostowski, X, def. Lanie Blomquist, MV, 6-0, 6-1; Belani Soto, X, def. Sierra Chock, MV, 6-1, 6-0; Sophia Kleingartner, X, def. Madeline Riggs, MV, 6-0, 6-1.

Big 7-run inning carries softball to victory

 Thanks to a seven-run outburst in the bottom of the sixth inning, Xavier Prep’s softball team was able to remain in front of visiting Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor and went on to finish off the Eagles for a 10-7 victory on Tuesday night (May 4).

The Gators’ final home game of the regular season at Petznick Field also was Senior Night, in which Jazmin Andrade, Sydney Johnson and Macy Lee were honored.

Andrade led the way on offense with three hits and four RBIs, including a double. Johnson had three hits and Lee had a hit and drove in a run.

Junior pitcher Riley Flynn picked up the win, giving up six hits (three home runs) and four walks with seven strikeouts.

Xavier (13-2) will play its final game of the regular season on Wednesday (May 5), a road encounter with Phoenix Pinnacle (15-4). First pitch is at 3:45 p.m.

On Thursday (May 6), the Arizona Interscholastic Association is due to release its final power rankings for the 6A Conference as well as the brackets for the state tournament, which is set to begin on Saturday morning (May 8) at the sites of the highest seeds.

That means Xavier will host a game at 10 a.m. The Gators have been the top-ranked team for most of the later weeks of the season.


 

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Freshmen Dyer, Soto became strong doubles team

 Xavier Prep’s tennis doubles team of freshmen Dani Dyer and Belani Soto fell just short of winning a state title on Monday (May 3), but their runner-up finish was something that few others could have accomplished, a tribute to the ability they developed this season along with their perseverance.

Dyer and Soto were the No. 3 seed and met top-seeded Olivia Kim and Julia Frazier of Scottsdale Desert Mountain, and Kim and Frazier prevailed 6-1, 6-3, at the Paseo Racquet Center in Glendale.

It has been a wild and crazy season for Xavier in the team competition, with injuries causing Coach Laurie Martin to mix up the singles order and use different pairings in doubles.

One of those pairings was Dyer and Soto. Martin and her coaching staff expected Dyer to be paired with junior Ryan Kershner, with Kershner also serving as the top singles player.

But Kershner was dealing with a nagging back issue that limited her participation for most of the season.

So Martin put Dyer and Soto together and look what happened!!

“I think we connected pretty well, even from the first time,’’ Soto said. “Each of us knew what the other could get to (opponents’ shots) or not get to. We only figure to get better from here.’’

Said Dyer: “I think we might have been a little surprised at first, but it worked out for us. And we have three more years to go.’’

Martin said “that for something that happened out of necessity, things went pretty well.

“We are proud of these girls and what they did on the big stage. They played with a lot of energy and excitement. What a great opportunity for them.’’

Dyer and Soto had their moments, trying to keep Kim and Frazier off balance with sideline and back-line shots. Some of them worked, others did not and the Desert Mountain duo utilized their length and reach to make it difficult for the two Gators to gain a lot of consistency.

It has been an amazing journey for Soto, who before coming to Xavier suffered a serious leg injury that took about 10 months to heal. The injury was a broken femur and broken growth plate that occurred in a sledding accident near the White Mountains community of Greer.

Soto had some initial concerns about whether she might be able to play again, but when she began the rehabilitation process started to feel more optimistic, combined with the fact that she still wanted to play for Xavier’s tradition-rich program with its recipe for success.

Part of the rehab process had her taking swings with her racquet while seated in a chair.

Team tournament

The team quarterfinals will be played on Tuesday (May 4), with third-seeded Xavier hosting No. 6 Mesa Mountain View at 3 p.m. Xavier defeated Mountain View 8-1 on March 31 at Mountain View.

The winner will advance to the semifinals on Friday (May 7) at Gene Autry Park in Mesa. Action begins at noon.