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.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Opening volleyball win pleases coach: "We got it done'

 This is one of those seasons when the schedule for Xavier Prep’s volleyball team is full to say the least, particularly in the first week.

The jam-packed marathon week includes three matches on back-to-back-to back days (Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday), followed by an appearance in the two-day Tournament of Champions at Gilbert Mesquite on Friday and Saturday.

The Gators’ opening match on Tuesday (Sept. 7) was at Scottsdale Chaparral. Xavier took the first two, stumbled a bit in the third before bouncing back to triumph in the fourth for a 3-1 overall win. Scores were 25-21, 25-23, 20-25 and 25-18.

“For the first time out, it was good. We got it done,’’ said XCP coach Lamar-Renee Bryant.

“There’s always a bit of nerves for the first game, and we were able to get past that.’’

Xavier’s top four seniors – outside hitters Tiffany Tellez and Emma Soderstrom, middle blocker Isabella Sinacori and setter Alexa Shiner – did what they are supposed to do.

Tellez, Soderstrom and Sinacori had 17 kills, 16 kills and 14 kills to combine for 55. Tellez also had three aces and 20 digs along the back row. Soderstrom had18 digs. Sinacori had four blocks. And Shiner had 41 assists.

“Tiffany really stepped it up,’’ Bryant said.

Freshman libero Olivia Lenz didn’t allow anything to faze her, despite her youth.

Both of the first two matches could have finished either way, with both teams hanging onto narrow leads at various points.

Xavier held the early lead in Game 3 and appeared as though it might be headed for a sweep. But Chaparral (5-5, including  4-3 in the House of Payne tournament in Chandler) managed to come back and take the lead, the Firebirds’ aggressiveness perhaps contributing to some Gator fatigue.

Xavier led through most of Game 4 and the lead was such that Chaparral began to fade a bit. Soderstrom finished off the Firebirds with a kill that went just inside the back line.

The Gators move on to Mesa to face Mountain View on Wednesday night (Sept. 8) then play their home opener on Thursday night (Sept. 9) against Phoenix Mountain Pointe.

XCP plays four matches at Mesquite on Friday (Queen Creek Casteel, Phoenix Sunnyslope, Mesa Skyline and Mesquite) and two more on Saturday morning (Phoenix Northwest Christian and Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep).

Bracket playoffs (single elimination) will begin at 1 p.m. on Saturday, but the site will be determined according to what a team does in the earlier pool play. Xavier will play in Pool C.


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