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, October 21, 2021

Volleyball needs to find a way to finish stronger

 When Xavier Prep’s volleyball team reaches the 20-point scoring level against tougher opponents such as Tempe Corona del Sol and Gilbert Perry, the Gators are having difficulty putting those teams away.

It happened at Perry on Tuesday night (Oct. 19) and again at Corona del Sol on Wednesday night (Oct. 20), when XCP was swept in three sets each time. The Gators reached the 20-point mark in each set against Corona, but could not put the Aztecs away.

Corona won by scores of 25-21, 25-23 and 25-20 to put Xavier’s record at 21-9 and Corona’s record at 23-6.

“We are getting so close . . . we are learning how to close out and win,’’ said Xavier Coach Lamar-Renee Bryant. “I wonder if part of the reason for not taking the next step is confidence. We need to follow our seniors. Playing against Corona, we know they are a good team, but so are we.’’

Corona took the early lead in the opening set, followed by a Xavier rally and lead. The decisive moments came about midway through the set, when Corona went on a 7-0 run. The Aztecs held firm after that, and secured the win when one of their returns landed just inside the Xavier sideline for the final point.

Xavier led most of the way in the second set, but Corona rallied when Xavier served long, Corona had a kill and two more points.

In the third set, when Xavier would take the lead, the Aztecs would come right back to tie it or get a brief lead of their own. The final tie came at 19-19, after which Corona scored five in a row, then finished it off with a kill a few moments later.

“We get in our own way and need to get over the doubt,’’ Bryant said.

Xavier’s final two matches of the regular season are at home, on Tuesday (Oct. 26) against defending state champion Chandler Hamilton and on Thursday (Oct. 28) against Mesa High. The latter match was originally scheduled in the early season but moved.

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