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, August 26, 2021

After Hamilton storm, Gators turn it around (a bit)

 Xavier Prep’s volleyball team opened the gymnasium door at Chandler Basha on Wednesday (Aug. 25) and encountered a booming thunderstorm.

What a way to begin a preseason scrimmage, facing defending 6A champion Chandler Hamilton, with its entire roster returning virtually intact.

Hamilton, led by the powerful swing of senior Jordan Middleton, the 2020-21 Gatorade Player of the Year, did just about everything it wanted in the two “games’’ against the Gators (scores were not officially kept).

To compound matters, Xavier was missing a few players for various reasons and had just nine active players, including two that were called up from the JV level.

The Gators did what they could, but . . .

“We were overwhelmed,’’ said Xavier coach Lamar-Renee Bryant matter of factly. “For our newer girls, it was like “Well, welcome to high school.’ ‘’

The Gators nursed their wounds (more mental than physical) and washed ashore to find opponents more to their liking in the four-team format.

They moved from the auxiliary gym to the main gym to face host Basha and rebounded with wins in both games. Then it was back to the smaller gym, falling to Phoenix Sunnyslope in the first game before rallying to finish with a tie in the second.

“It was a good litmus test,’’ Bryant said. “We were finally able to control some things. We had some good individual efforts, and we are definitely optimistic.’’

The regular season begins on Tuesday (Aug. 31) at Mesa Mountain View.

Bryant said she was “super excited’’ about the play of senior outside hitter Emma Soderstrom with her all-around play and leadership. On most occasions, she was the “go-to’’ person to send the ball where it was supposed to go and with the necessary zip to drive it.

Other notable efforts were turned in by junior Kristy Tom as the setter, freshman Olivia Lenz as a defensive specialist/libero, and senior middle blocker Isabella Sinacori.

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