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.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Frosh tennis players, coaches go the extra mile

 From the players to the coaches to the athletic trainers to athletic department staff members, the freshman tennis program has been truly a hard-working collective effort at Xavier Prep this season.

There are a little more than 60 players involved in the no-cut endeavor, and there are very few idle moments.

That is because of the status of the Stark Tennis Center, which has been completely demolished and is being rebuilt and upgraded on its former space at the west end of campus. The project has been transformed for several months, with a target completion date in mid-November.

In the meantime, everybody adjusts.

The three groups of teams – the Blue and the Green (competitive with more experienced players) and the Beginners (little or no experience and a primary learning level), have been practicing and playing home matches graciously provided by Central High, Xavier’s neighbor to the south, across the Grand Canal.

The location is within walking distance, but that can be a problem when you are carrying numerous equipment/clothing bags, so Xavier head coach Judy Hernandez and her assistants usually drive two buses over, one for the players and one to carry all the equipment.

Hernandez also chauffeurs the two competitive teams to their away matches. The Blue and Green teams usually have one road match per week and one home match per week. And the Beginners are out in full force for practice on Fridays.

“The situation is kind of nice,’’ Hernandez said. “We’ve got great girls this year. They’re freshmen, and they don’t really know anything different, having not played on the old courts. They know that in life, you are going to have to make adjustments.’’

Athletic department administrative assistant Ronna Layne does a lot of the legwork as far as scheduling/changes and setting up transportation are concerned. And Certified Head Athletic Trainer Laurie White and Assistant Trainer Hannah Duszynski shuttle fresh water and emergency ice over to the courts and are on hand in case of injuries. They communicate by walkie-talkie.

The beginning players work on hand-eye coordination, learn how to hold the racket, using the proper footwork and playing with lower-compression tennis balls to allow them to get used to the speed.

“Whatever the level the girls are at, we are hopeful they will continue to play after we are done here, whether its learning more through lessons or maybe having a chance to play at the junior varsity level (in the spring),’’ Hernandez said.

Both the Blue and the Green teams each won their first two matches. They were due to play again on Tuesday (Sept. 28) and Thursday (Sept. 30). The season will continue through October.



Fall 2021

Competitive (more experience)

XCP Green

Abby Alcock, Logan Basten, Juliet Chrostowski, Gabrielle (Elle) Dinan, Payton Farley, Kenzie Scott, Emilie Strecker, Lauren Strong Albers, Maya Superfon.

XCP Blue

Chayse Clingan, Julia Ganem, Gabi Hayden, Savannah LaBerge, Sydni Mackey, Malina McKenzie, Nitya Reddymasu, Lara Shennib.

Beginning Group 1

Milani Alvarez, Olivia Aramian, Kelsi Carter, Alondra Castaneda, Daniella Cecere, Samantha Colonna, Maya Dolasinski, Emma Doyle, Kalani Hernandez, Erika Kraseman, Brooke LaRocco, Roberta Lobo, Adelina Marquina, Addelyn Pederson, Lexie Polachek, Isabella Reinhart, Lollie Schubert, Sadie Sebald, Rachel Shprecher, Eva Turner, Phebe Urrea, Chloe Yoon.

Beginning Group 2

Rocio Aguilera, Alondra Babonoyaba, Madison Ballecer, Kelsey Ballecer, Aku Baral, Ana Bramlett, Winona Chu, Brishen Ehmann, Mary Endredy, Alexandra Estrada, Ingrid Garcia, Abril Gutierrez, Laila Mullady, Denisse Nieto Valentin, Rowan Ostendorf, Aliah Perez, Angelique Ramirez, Rachel Reynoso, Monae Saia, Liliana Solorio, Deborah Toscano.


Head coach – Judy Hernandez. Assistant coaches – Barbara Holcomb, Amy Gallo, Ford Oliver, Lara Murphy.

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