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, August 20, 2021

Playing with guts will lead to volleyball glory for XCP

 The 2020 volleyball season caused most teams to struggle with uncertainty.

“It was tough sometimes wondering if you would ever be able to get back in the gym. It wasn’t promised to anyone,’’ said Xavier Prep coach Lamar-Renee Bryant.

As the 2021 season approaches, things appear to be much more stable by comparison. The Gators, who finished 10-7 (including postseason) after falling to Premier Region rival Gilbert Perry in the 6A Conference quarterfinals.

Now the Gators are set to play 17 regular-season matches, as well as a large tournament (Tournament of Champions at Mesa Westwood) before embarking on their annual state-tournament journey.

“We are excited to move forward,’’ Bryant said.

Xavier lost three players to graduation and two more left the program. That helped to open the door open for six new players – one senior, two juniors, one sophomore and two freshmen.

Bryant will have 15 players on the roster, including team captain Alexa Shiner (setter) and four other seniors – middle blocker Isabella Sinacori, outside hitters Tiffany Tellez and Emma Soderstrom, and defensive specialist/libero Hannah Ulisch.

Senior setter and captain Alexa Shiner is ready to make an impact for Xavier's volleyball team in the 2021 season. (Photo by Don Ketchum).

The Gators don’t have as much height as they have in some past years, and will need to make up for that with aggressiveness and most of all, defense, a team staple.

“Dig, serve, pass and defense at a high level have always been strengths for Xavier,’’ Bryant said.

Xavier will participate in an annual four-way team scrimmage with defending 6A champion Chandler Hamilton, Chandler Basha and Phoenix Sunnyslope on Aug. 25. The scrimmage usually is at Hamilton, but this year goes to Basha because Hamilton is having its gym floor resurfaced.

As the setter, Shiner will be the team’s “quarterback’’ as she has been in two previous varsity seasons.

Success as a setter comes, she said, “from knowing who’s around you, both your side and the other side. Your hands channel the pass and you try to make the right decision. You need to be consistent.’’

Shiner recently made her college commitment to Westmont in Santa Barbara, Calif.

“It is a good fit athletically and in academics,’’ she said.

But before she heads to Cali, Shiner would like to help the Gators unseat Hamilton.

“We are excited for another season,’’ said Shiner, who also played for XCP’s beach volleyball state champions earlier this spring. “We have come out (for preseason practice) and everyone connected with each other, even the new players. We are focused.’’

Xavier Prep volleyball 2021

Varsity roster (listed alphabetically)

Mia Accomazzo,  So., L/DS; Emma Caruso, Jr., MB; Ava Larkin, Jr., OH; Olivia Lenz, Fr., DS/L; Maddie MacDonald, Jr., S; Elle McCreery, Fr., MB; Theresa Romero, Sr., MB; Alexa Shiner, Sr., S; Isabella Sinacori, Sr., MB; Emma Soderstrom, Sr., OH; Kate Tax, Jr., OH; Tiffany Tellez, Sr., OH; Kristy Tom, Jr., S; Hannah Ulisch, Sr., DS/L; Finley Workman, So., OH.

Position key – L/DS – libero/defensive specialist; MB – Middle blocker; OH – Outside hitter; S – Setter.

Coaching staff

Head coach – Lamar-Renee Bryant. Assistant coaches – Anna Panagiotakopoulos, Jamie Itule.


(Subject to change)

Aug. 31 -- @ Mesa Mountain View, 6 p.m.

Seot. 2 – Mesa High @ XCP, 6 p.m.; Sept. 9 – Phoenix Mountain Pointe @ XCP, 6 p.m. Sept. 10-11 – Tournament of Champions @ Mesa Westwood and other sites, TBA; Sept. 14 -- @ Scottsdale Chaparral, 6 p.m.; Sept. 15 – Anthem Boulder Creek @ XCP, 6 p.m.; Sept. 16 -- @ Phoenix Desert Vista (Ahwatukee), 6 p.m.; Sept. 21 – Chandler Basha @ XCP, 6 p.m.; Sept. 23 -- @ Chandler High, 6 p.m.; Sept. 28—Gilbert Perry @ XCP, 6 p.m.; Sept. 30 -- @ Chandler Hamilton, 6 p.m.

Oct. 6 – Phoenix Sunnyslope @ XCP, 6 p.m.; Oct. 7 – Peoria Liberty @ XCP, 6 p.m.; Oct. 13 -- @ Chandler Basha, 6 p.m.; Oct. 14 – Chandler High @ XCP, 6 p.m.; Oct. 19 -- @ Gilbert Perry, 6 p.m.; Oct. 20 -- @ Tempe Corona del Sol, 6 p.m.; Oct. 26 – Chandler Hamilton  @ XCP, 6 p.m.



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