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.

Friday, July 30, 2021

Tennis construction a big upgrade for XCP campus

 Once again, Xavier Prep is leaving no stone unturned when it comes to upgrading its campus and creating an enjoyable place to be for students, parents, administrators, faculty and others.

There have been numerous construction and renovation projects over the years and the latest, which began toward the end of the 2020-21 school year and is expected to be completed by the end of October, is a combination of both.

The main focus of the attention is the Stark Tennis Center, toward the west side of campus. The six courts have been completely removed, with all new courts taking their place.

One of the initial parts of the project was to dig up the root system of several large ash trees on the northern edge of the courts (Photos by Sr. Lynn Winsor).

The Haydon Building Corp. of Phoenix, the Diocese of Phoenix and Xavier Prep are collaborating on the project, which will provide new taller fencing, add lighting to the courts to allow night play and reconfigure the courtyard. Also, the walkways on the east side of the administration building have been replaced after showing some damage or weakness due to the overgrown root systems of a group of large ash trees.

The poles that will hold up the new higher fencing dwarf the construction workers.

“They (builders) are doing a great job,’’ said Sr. Lynn Winsor, Xavier’s Vice Principal for Activities and Athletics. “They are turning our ideas into a beautiful back campus.’’

The grassy area of the courtyard will return, with new lighting of its own to allow school meetings and events to be staged in the evenings.

New lights (pole seen here) will allow tennis matches at night.

The old ash trees, which had a height of nearly four stories according to Winsor, are being repurposed to create new picnic tables and benches. The old concrete tables/benches had sunk into the ground, creating awkward viewing angles and were cracked and broken.

“By repurposing those ash trees, we will be more eco-friendly,’’ Winsor said.

Although the ash trees have disappeared, there will be about a dozen new trees, called pistache. They are not quite as big as the ash, but still have a height of 25-35 feet at maturity to provide plenty of shade. They grow well in the sun and have green leaves most of the year that in the fall turn to orange and red.

Damage from the ash trees' root systems led to better safety with a new walkway on the east side of the administration building.

There will be six-foot walkways around the tennis courts to allow coaches to get close to the action and advise their players in timeouts. Before, they would have to stand on a small incline and clutch the chain-link fence.

A bonus on three of the tennis courts will be markings that allow the booming sport of pickleball to be played.

“We have a lot of people who inquired about pickleball, including many alumnae, and so we’re going to go ahead and provide an opportunity for intramurals and physical education classes,’’ Winsor said. “Pickleball is one of the most popular participatory sports right now and I think we would be one of the first schools to have that. We also expect to have storage areas for tennis and pickleball.’’

As far as the lighting around the courts is concerned, large holes have been dug at various intervals to allow light poles to be installed and properly secured.

The annual freshman tennis season will be starting soon (varsity plays in the spring) and the 90 or so girls who are involved (no cuts) will be practicing and playing their matches at nearby Central High, the Phoenix Country Club and possibly North High as the construction nears completion.

Spoiler alert

There is another renovation project on the horizon.

Winsor said that a refurbishment of the school’s artificial turf Petznick Field (soccer, softball, lacrosse) will take place in 2022.

The underground support system will not be affected, with the new surface put down where the current one is located. There will be a newer type of cushioning on the artificial turf (coconut-related filler rather than bits of recycled black vehicle tires). And the new Petznick will include new “water cannons’’ to allow the field to be cleaned and allow the athletes to escape hotter conditions.

“Raul Vega (facilities supervisor) has done a great job with the field since it was put in,’’ Winsor said. “They (installers) said the field would have a life of a maximum of nine years and by taking care of it the way Mr. Vega has, we will have made it to 11 years (including the coming school year).’’

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Sports tryouts help ring in the new school year

 OK, Xavier Prep athletes – you will need to be ready to go at open gyms or full tryouts for the 2021 fall season. Most of the tryouts begin in the first couple of weeks of August.

Fall sports and spring sports are about equal in terms of the busyness with not many moments for someone to catch their breath.

The fall sports are badminton, crew/rowing (club), cross country, E Sports (club), freshman tennis (two teams, no cuts), Gatorline and Spiritline, golf, archery (club), XCP Hotshots/clay targets (club), mountain biking (club), swimming and diving and indoor volleyball. Head athletic trainer Laurie White also is looking for aspiring athletic trainers to assist her during the season.

Here is a quick look at upcoming tryouts for Xavier, including some for club teams . . .


New coach Brian McEnerney welcomes his athletes for tryouts (grades 9-12) from Aug. 9-11 at the Activity Center. Opening day goes from 1-3 p.m. with the other two from 3:30-5 p.m.

Athletes must attend all days of tryouts, and should wear appropriate T-shirts, tennis skirts, shorts or tennis shoes. Bring a racket if you have one. Xavier will provide one, if needed. Bring a full jug of water and perhaps a mask just in case to help deal with issues related to the COVID-19 virus.

Cross country

Your coaches are Dave Van Sickle, Vito Perrone and Eden Higgins.

Tryouts are Aug. 9-11 at the Brophy Prep track. No sleeping in – the fun begins at 5:30 a.m.

Freshman tennis

Tentatively scheduled for Aug. 23-26 at locations near Xavier, due to remodeling of the Stark Tennis Center and its surrounding areas. There likely will be two teams in the no-cut program that in the past has had upwards of 90 players involved.

No date of completion on the remodeling has been determined, and the process has been slowed of late by the monsoon storms.

The likely temporary homes for the girls will be neighboring Phoenix Central and the Phoenix Country Club. A third option could be Phoenix North.

As far as the preseason is concerned, positioning rounds will be from 3-5 p.m. for those who have at least some experience.

New and beginning players will begin practice Aug. 30 after school.

Come dressed in shorts and tennis skirts and T-shirts. If you do not have racket, Xavier will provide.

Coaches are Judy Hernandez, Barbara Holcomb, Amy Gallo, Lara Murphy and Ford Oliver.


Coaches are Kenna Douds and Mariah Sullivan.

Experienced rowers are welcome but not necessary. There will be a learn to row class on Aug. 28 at the Tempe Town Lake, Xavier Boat House. To learn more, visit


Coaches are Sr. Lynn Winsor, Tui Selvaratnam and Jane Ladensack.

Grades 9-12 must attend a mandatory meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 10, in Lutfy Hall at 2 p.m. No clubs are needed at this meeting.

Tryouts at Phoenix Country Club. Aug. 11 and 12 – Meet at Sr. Lynn’s office at 1:55 p.m., bus departs for course at 2:10 p.m. Tryouts until 5 p.m. Aug. 13 – Meet at Sr. Lynn’s office at 1:15 p.m., bus departs at 1:30 p.m. Tryouts until 4:45 p.m.

Swimming and diving

Coaches are Glen McCoy, David Smithers, Jenny James and Frank Pipitone (diving).

For grades 9-12. Aug. 10 -- After school until 4:30 p.m. Aug. 11-12 – Tryouts from 3-4:30 p.m., both swimmers and divers.

Wear a one-piece suit and a cap, and bring towels, sunscreen and water bottles.

Spirit and Gator lines

Coaches are Monica Gaspar, Dani Behrens, Stephanie Sassaman and Taylor Van Arsdall.

Freshmen and transfers go Aug. 2 at Vestar Hall, and on Aug. 3, tryouts from 4-6 p.m. at Vestar.

Indoor volleyball

Coaches are Lamar-Renee Bryant, Jamie Itule, Ana Panagiotakopoulos, Jenny Scott, Jesus Izaguirre, Lindsey Preach and Elyse Ford.

Open gyms, open to all, are Aug. 2-5, the first three days from 1-3 p.m. and the last from 2:45-4:30 p.m., all in the Activity Center.

Freshman tryouts, Aug. 9, 1-3 p.m., Aug. 10-11, 3:30-5 p.m., all at Vestar Hall.

Tryouts for grades 10-12, Aug. 9, 3-5 p.m., Aug. 10-11, 5-7:30 p.m., all at Vestar Hall.