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, November 26, 2021

Xavier basketball needs what Toni Garcia brings

 Toni Garcia has a unique type of goal for Xavier Prep’s basketball team.

As the team’s only senior, she would like nothing better than to help the Gators win the 6A Conference state championship and make the claim that other seniors before her could not.

“Yes, I would like that very much,’’ she said.

It all starts on Tuesday (Nov. 30) when Xavier travels to face Mesa Westwood in the regular-season opener. After another road game at Phoenix Sunnyslope on Dec. 3, the Gators will play their first home game on Dec. 6 against Phoenix North.

Although you might not see her name among the team’s scoring leaders, what you will notice is a player with an unrelenting work ethic. She steps into the lane and under the basket, doing whatever she can to get rebounds, putbacks after Xavier misses and positions her body in such a way that seldom will allow an opponent to get a clear path to the hoop.

A player that every team needs.

Toni Garcia will have a leadership role in addition to her solid work ethic on the court (Photo by Don Ketchum).

Asked about the road she has taken to reach this point, Garcia says, “It has all gone by so fast. I remember the tryouts for the freshman team. I wanted to have fun with it and it has been. It has been kind of crazy at times. I remember being around 5-7 or 5-8 and was hoping to grow a few more inches.’’

She did just that and now checks in at around 5-11.

“I’m taller than some of the girls (opponents) and that helps me with the rebounds and the putbacks,’’ she said.

When she was a freshman, Garcia was quiet. Now her senior role involves speaking up as she did when the team gathered in a circle during a recent practice.

“I think coach (Jennifer Gillom) wants me to speak up,’’ Garcia said. “You know, “Be heard,’ pick them up.’’

Gillom said Garcia learned from older players in the past and can use that this season.

“We also think she has more potential on the floor,’’ Gillom said. “She can probably score more in the right situations, like maybe a 15-footer, also taking it to the basket.

“She wants to help the other players to get in a habit of wanting to do well. To hold each other accountable, like, “I’m doing my part and you do your part.’ ’’

Said Garcia, “We played as a team in the past, but this season, we seem to be doing that even more. We have 14 individuals coming together.’’

Spoken like someone who yearns to achieve her goal.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Soccer's Perez ready for productive senior season

 As far as memorable moments in sports are concerned, few reach the level of the goal scored by then-junior Hennessy Perez in Xavier Prep’s 2-0 victory over Scottsdale Chaparral to earn the Division I soccer title in 2020-21.

It came early in the contest (only 5:14 had elapsed), but the Gators held on and scored an insurance goal with 55 seconds left in the match.

After the final whistle sounded to signal another remarkable achievement for the Gators, Perez said she told her father “that it seemed like time had stopped.  I couldn’t believe that it happened at first. But it was real. I was really excited. Everybody was really excited.’’

Senior midfielder Hennessy Perez and her Xavier soccer teammates are excited about a chance to repeat as state champion (Photo by Don Ketchum).

The excitement has not disappeared. Perez, a midfielder, is one of four senior returnees and the Gators have a truckload of versatile underclassmen in their bid for the 12th state title in the school’s history.

“We are taking things serious,’’ Perez said. “There are a lot of new players and we (seniors) want to be as nice and helpful as we can so that the younger players can confide in us about whatever they need.’’

Last season “all went by so fast,’’ according to Perez, and now it seems like the pace is more traditional in nature.

“We are working hard,’’ she said. “It’s a mentality thing. You have to be in the right mindset. You want to make it more of a positive. We want to create a family environment, not something just for yourself.’’

She likes what she has seen from the team thus far.

“This is a good group of girls,’’ Perez said. “I think we have a good chance to defend our title. All our players are very skilled.’’

After Tuesday’s (Nov. 30) regular-season opener at home against Glendale Mountain Ridge, Xavier will encounter a tournament-type atmosphere with a rematch on the road against Chaparral on Friday (Dec. 3).

Perez will be there, ready to provide a steadying influence. That’s what seniors are supposed to do.

Monday, November 22, 2021

Xavier archers have clear focus in tournament

 Forty-three Xavier archery athletes gathered last weekend for the November state qualifier event.

Some archery competitions have resorted to virtual events, but this was in person. There were 20 other schools in addition to Xavier, with 307 archers from across the state, according to coach Kelsey Gerchar.

One of the top Xavier efforts was by a new archer, Olivia Fisko, who took second place in the Female High School Division for 3D with a score of 267.

Xavier had four archers finish in the top 10 in 3D, and four in the top 10 of the Bullseye category.

The top 3D archers were 5th-place Alexa Ojeda (257 with 10 tens), sixth-lace Ana Bhatti (257, 5 tens), 8th-lace Evelynn Papez (253, 6 tens) and 10th-place Adela Campo (251, 10 tens).

The top Bullseyes archers were 5th-place Felicia FitzGerald (271 with 9 tens), 6th-place Isabella Beninato (264, 11 tens), 7th-place Ana Bhatti (263, 7 tens) and 8th-place Adela Campo (262, 12 tens).

Congratulations to these great Gator archers!!

Wheels of fury carry successful XCP riders

 Time certainly did not stand still for the Xavier Prep club mountain biking team on Saturday (Nov. 20).

The Gators unleashed fury on the 12 Hours of Fury event at the McDowell Mountain Park in Fountain Hills.

According to Xavier coach Rich Perrott, the event is a relay race with quad teams, and the quads with the most laps win.

Xavier riders swept the top three podium (awards stand) spots for the Junior Girls category.

The winning group was Aria Tseffos, Mary Hill, Bailey Finch and Grace Morgan. Second place went to Rachel Reyes, Alyssa Isaac, Lizbeth Sanchez Garcia and Gabriela Evans. And third place went to Maggie Meaney, Megan Walker, IKirsten Findlay and eighth grader Maddie Weisman.

Mountain biking is a fast-growing sport, and Xavier is right in the middle of all the action!!

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Basketball team features strong group of young players

 The start of the 2021-22 basketball season is almost here, and Xavier Prep coach Jennifer Gillom figures her team might as well face a few early challenges instead of waiting around. In theory, it will help the Gators get better.

That challenge will be playing four of their first five games on the road (Mesa Westwood, Phoenix Sunnyslope, Phoenix Pinnacle and Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor) sandwiched around the lone early home game (Phoenix North).

Xavier will play 18 regular-season games, along with two tournaments, the Nike Tournament of Champions in the southeast Valley just before Christmas and a national tournament in Stockton, Calif., honoring the late Dr. Martin Luther King, in mid-January.

Xavier has been close to raising the 6A Conference state championship trophy over the last few seasons. It finished as state runner-up to Surprise Valley Vista in 2018 and 2019 and fell to Valley Vista in the semifinals to finish 13-4 last season while the Monsoon went on to win it all again.

The Gators are young (only one senior) but play much older, especially after last season, when some talented freshmen came aboard and made a big adjustment. Most of the better players saw action what seemed like 24-7 since the end of last season in club ball and Xavier’s participation in summer leagues.

Two key players (Mia Davis, Hannah Young) transferred to other schools in the Valley after the season. However, Davis apparently is out for the 2021-22 season due to a serious knee injury.

The Xavier returnees have Gillom eager to get the season going after she watched them in practices over the first two weeks of November.

“We have only been practicing two weeks and it has been fantastic,’’ said Gillom, who often is measured when handing out compliments. However, the ability possessed by this group makes it difficult to refrain from touting its potential.

“They look sharp together and the chemistry is very good,’’ Gillom said. “I’ve actually seen improvement in every player every day.’’

Two of the top three scorers are back as sophomores. They are Sarah Miller and Dom Nesland. The 5-foot-10 Miller averaged 13.5 points and the 5-9 Nesland averaged 9.2 while serving as the team’s primary point guard. Both also crash the boards with regularity. Miller averaged 5.5 rebounds and Nesland 4.0.

Sarah Miller (Photos by Don Ketchum).

Dom Nesland.

Junior Sienna Cherwinski also is a factor in the backcourt, particularly from long range. She connected on 25 3-pointers last season. Sophomore Maureen Ulrich provides some flexibility in the backcourt.

The lone senior is 5-9 Toni Garcia, who displays hustle, particularly under the basket, every time she steps onto the floor.

A promising sophomore is Gosie Alilonu. Junior forward Gabi Trbovic has a nice shooting touch, particularly along the baseline.

Two freshmen to watch are guard Lucy Sanford and forward-post Cece Mlat, who stands 6-feet-6 and is intimidating on defense and on the boards. Her offense is a work in progress.

“It’s pretty encouraging out there,’’ said Miller. “We pick each other up. We’re in good condition.  I think we’ve improved a lot since last year.

“We play good defense, and our offense is good. We can all score, which creates a dilemma for the opposing defense about who to cover.’’

She said she was drawn to Xavier by its all-around environment.

“It’s a great community atmosphere. I know I will go to college some day and will need to have good time management skills, and Xavier is already helping with that.’’

It is her goal to be a complete player.

“Coach gives me the option sometimes to look at what the defense is giving me and to try to take advantage.’’

Nesland is capable of being “Dom’’-inant at times. She refined her game over the summer, playing for a club team in the Bay area backed by former Phoenix Suns player and NBA coach Jason Kidd and will try to do more of that next summer for a Los Angeles-based team affiliated with Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi.

She already has been contacted by colleges and hopes to have a decision by this time next year, to allow her to play her junior and senior seasons “stress-free.’’

Before that, there is the business of helping Xavier extend its reach far into the state tournament.

Nesland said she will try to “get everyone involved on offense,’’ dishing the ball off at just the right moment.

“I think coach trusts me,’’ she said. “But there’s a lot to playing this game. You have to do a lot of everything to win.’’

If the season falls into place, the Gators will be doing a lot of everything to get a lot of wins.



Head coach – Jennifer Gillom. Assistants – Patrick Mangosing, Rikki Mulloy.


Gosie Alilonu, So.; Juliet Botiller, So.; Sienna Cherwinski, Jr.; Kalyn Doss, So.; Toni Garcia, Sr.; Annie Kopp, Jr.; Sarah Miller, So.; Cece Mlat, Fr.; Dom Nesland, So.; Aniyah Roberson, So.; Lucy Sanford, Fr.; Gabi Trbovic, Jr.; Maureen Ulrich, So.; Sofia Zielinski, So.


(Games at 7 p.m. unless otherwise indicated).

Times, locations subject to change.

Nov. 30 -- @ Mesa Westwood.

Dec. 3 -- @ Phoenix Sunnyslope.

Dec. 6 – Phoenix North.

Dec. 9 -- @ Phoenix Pinnacle.

Dec. 10 -- @ Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor.

Dec. 14 – Scottsdale Chaparral.

Dec. 18-21 – Nike Tournament of Champions, locations and times TBA.

Jan. 4 – Anthem Boulder Creek.

Jan. 6 -- @ Gilbert Perry.

Jan. 7 -- @ Chandler Basha.

Jan. 11 – Chandler High.

Jan. 12 – Phoenix South Mountain.

Jan. 19 – Surprise Valley Vista.

Jan. 21 – Chandler Hamilton.

Jan. 24 – Chandler Basha.

Jan. 27 -- @ Chandler High.

Feb. 1 – Gilbert Perry.

Feb. 3 -- @ Tucson High.

Feb. 8 -- @ Chandler Hamilton.



Xavier has the talent to repeat as soccer champ

 It took a lot of hard work for Xavier Prep’s soccer team to claim the Division I state championship last season.

And it will take just as much, if not more, of an effort to repeat in 2021-22.

Coach Barb Chura and the Gators think they are up to the task again, with many holdovers from a team that finished 10-2-1 in a pandemic-shortened season, won the sixth title under Chura and 11th in the school’s history. Chura was named Coach of the Year by

By the time the regular season begins on Nov. 30 with a contest against Glendale Mountain Ridge at Petznick Field, the Gators likely will have had less than 10 practices to fine-tune their skills from last season and the club circuit.

“I think this team is going to be good, really good, with some very good young players,’’ said Chura, who will be the sole voice on the sideline this year after the retirement of popular assistant Rafael Rios.

The team will be loaded with 10 juniors, have four seniors and several underclassmen, including a handful of quality freshmen. There also are two transfers.

Among the key returnees are senior defender/midfielder Ansley Burns, senior midfielder Hennessy Perez, senior defender Jayme Brown, junior forward Eva Allen, junior midfielder Bella Leonard and sophomore defender Talia Coury.

Leonard put her name in the video history books with a goal that sailed close to 40 yards as time expired in overtime to defeat Gilbert Perry 1-0 in the semifinal last season. The play was viewed over and over across the nation as part of ESPN’s Top 10 Plays of the Day.

Soccer is not a game for those who are out of shape, and Burns carries the cardio banner. She moved over to soccer after helping Xavier to a recent eighth-place finish in the Division I state cross-country meet.

While the team’s top two scorers, Allen and Leonard, return from last season, defense remains a key element.

And Brown is here to make sure the job gets done.

Senior Jayme Brown is one of Xavier Prep's top defenders (Photo by Don Ketchum).

“You can’t win without the defense,’’ she said. “If you’re going to score, you have to try to make sure the other team doesn’t score.’’

Brown and the other seniors will be counted on to provide leadership, something that Chura is sold on.

“I’m leaving it (talking about the carry-over from last season) up to the older girls,’’ Chura said. “They have the experience and have to have the mentality to pass along what certain things mean. They usually do a good job of it.’’

Brown, whose younger sister, Ally, is a freshman midfielder this season, has played closer to the outside of midfield on occasion, but has settled into the defender’s role.

“Those spots are similar in some ways,’’ she said. “But wherever you are, you have to make sure that you communicate with your teammates.’’

One of the biggest keys will be finding a player to step in at goalkeeper after the graduation of Jaden Campbell, who recorded several shutouts last season and was a candidate for azcentral’s Player of the Year.

Xavier will have four games before the Christmas holidays, then the schedule will pick up. Eight games will be played in the New Year. Chura is looking forward to all of it.

“There are about six programs that are top-notch, and we’re going to be one of them,’’ she said.


Head coach – Barb Chura.


Kate Willmering, So., GK; Sarah Castlen, Jr., GK; Ansley Burns, Sr., D; Lucy Brink, So., MF; Lourdes Lauterborn, So., MF; Collins Entz, Jr., MF/F; Madison Schenk, So., MF; Tatum Kramer, Jr., F; Keila Lopez, Sr., F; Charlotte Sredzinski, Fr., D/F.

Bella Leonard, Jr., MF; Julianne Veloria, Jr., D; Savannah Angell, Jr., MF; Tessa Montanile, Jr., D; Larkin Thomason, Jr., F; Hennessy Perez, Sr., MF; Bailey Wolcott, Jr., D; Eva Allen Jr., F; Michal Cagungun, Fr., F; Lainey Swanson, Fr., F/D; Talia Coury, So., D; Ally Brown, Fr., MF; Jayme Brown, Sr., D/MF.


(Games at 6 p.m. unless otherwise indicated).

Times, locations subject to change.

Nov. 30 – Glendale Mountain Ridge.

Dec. 3 -- @ Scottsdale Chaparral.

Dec. 7 – Phoenix North.

Dec. 10 -- Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor.

Jan. 10 -- @ Phoenix Desert Vista.

Jan. 11 – @ Phoenix Pinnacle.

Jan. 13 – Phoenix Mountain Pointe.

Jan. 18 -- @ Phoenix South Mountain.

Jan. 25 – Gilbert Perry.

Jan. 28 – Chandler Basha.

Jan. 31 – @ Chandler High.

Feb. 7 – @ Chandler Hamilton.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Xavier runners follow coach's advice at state meet

 The weather was a bit toasty for the start of the Division I girls state championship run on Saturday (Nov. 13) at 12:30 p.m.

So Xavier Prep coach Dave Van Sickle knew what he had to do.

“I told the girls to hold back during the first mile (the race was 5,000 meters) and save their energy for the last two, because some of the other teams would not be doing that, probably would fall back and give us a chance to do well. And it looks like they listened to me . . . for once,’’ he said with a laugh.

Led by senior Tatum Goforth, the Gators finished strong in fourth place behind winner Gilbert Highland, second-place Phoenix Desert Vista and No. 3 Peoria Liberty in front of large crowds at the Cave Creek Golf Course in north Phoenix.

The Xavier runners were all smiles as they gathered for a post-race photo with XCP Athletic Director Sr. Lynn Winsor.

Xavier runners and teammates gather for a team photo with Xavier Athetic Director Sr. Lynn Winsor, back row, in blue sport shirt. (photo by Don Ketchum).

“If they’re excited, then I’m excited,’’ Van Sickle said.

Goforth finished in eighth place with a time of 19:37.7, the highest finish by a Gator runner at state since Mia Olsen crossed the line in sixth place in 2019.

“I was thinking for a long time about this race, being my last as a senior at Xavier,’’ Goforth said. “I thought it might be hotter out there today, so all week, I made sure I was prepared. I prayed and stayed hydrated. That’s what you should do.’’

Goforth said she ran with friend and Gilbert Perry senior Taylor Lovell, who finished seventh. The two have played sports together in the past.

 “She’s a good athlete, a good runner,’’ Goforth said.

Lauren Ping of Desert Vista repeated as the individual champion, and her time of 17:37.4 was about three seconds shy of her course record. The field of runners totaled 137.

Highland’s team victory was an upset of sorts, finishing 2-3 to unseat Desert Vista.

Xavier results

Tatum Goforth, Sr., 8th, 19:37.7; Catherine Alaimo, Sr., 22nd, 20:36.8; Hannah Wheeling, Sr., 30th, 20:47.9; Reese Brown, Jr., 33rd. 20:58.9; Macarthy Mahoney, Sr., 38th, 21:11.5; Ansley Burns, Sr., 46th, 21:23.1; Lily Beaver, So., 54th, 22:56.3.

Team scores

Gilbert Highland 38, Phoenix Desert Vista 45, Peoria Liberty 90, Xavier Prep 131, Gilbert Perry 140, Mesa Mountain View 209, Mesa Red Mountain 213, Chandler High 213, Surprise Shadow Ridge 230, Tempe Corona del Sol 256, Chandler Hamilton 272, Mesa Skyline 302, Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor 334, Yuma Cibola 376, Phoenix Pinnacle 398, Anthem Boulder Creek 405, Scottsdale Chaparral 450.

Friday, November 12, 2021

Gators have lucky number with letters of intent

 Who says 13 is an unlucky number?

Certainly not Xavier Prep’s Gators, who listed a record 13 athletes signing collegiate letters of intent on National Signing Day on Wednesday (Nov. 10).

In what has been an annual tradition since 2000, athletes moving on to college gather for a ceremony on the stage of the Virginia C. Piper Performing Arts Center, signing their letters while wearing gear from their future school as family members and friends look on.

More ceremonies are scheduled in January and again in April.

Here are the girls new to the collegiate fold . . .

Swimmer Ashleigh Baros (Missouri-St. Louis).

Beach volleyball player Landree Coats (San Jose State).

Softball infielder Bridget Donahey (Northwestern).

Softball pitcher Riley Flynn (Harvard).

Gymnastics athlete Alicia Jasinski (Mary Hardin-Baylor for Acrobatics and Tumbling).

Tennis player Ryan Kershner (Boise State).

Rower Kathleen Morgan (Notre Dame).

Swimmer Gracie Munk (Northern Arizona).

Swimmer Hope Nolan (Fordham).

Softball outfielder-infielder Emma Peterson (Siena).

Softball second baseman Meghan Schouten (Boston College).

Volleyball setter Alexa Shiner (Westmont, Calif.).

Volleyball middle blocker Isabella Sinacori (College of Charleston).

Xavier lacrosse player drawing attention

 Is Keilani Hong the next great lacrosse player for Xavier Prep?

She could very well be, following in the footsteps of former Gator star Areta Buness, who went on to earn star status at Stanford University.

Hong, a junior this school year, has earned impressive recognition recently in the form of being named to the 2023 All-American Player Watch List by the Adrenaline sports event promotion and gear company.

Adrenaline is out of the San Diego area and became a force in the lacrosse world by recognizing up and coming players primarily in the western U.S.

As a sophomore last season, Hong was named the Arizona Girls Lacrosse Association Division 2 Attacker of the Year as the Gators were runner-up in the D2 state title match.

Congratulations, Keilani !!  Xavier fans are fortunate to be able to watch you play and improve over the next two seasons.

Gators fall in semis, but can feel good about season

 It would have been an opportunity for the Xavier Prep volleyball players to hang their heads in disappointment after the sixth-seeded Gators fell 3-1 to second-seeded host Chandler Hamilton in Thursday’s (Nov. 11) 6A Conference semifinal.

There was disappointment, to be sure. But the Gators walked out of the Hamilton gym with the knowledge that they had given it their all and made the Huskies squirm before the lights were extinguished.

Xavier finished the season with a more-than-respectable 24-11 record, while Hamilton (33-5) now moves on to the state finals on Saturday night (Nov. 13) at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum on the Arizona State Fairgrounds in Phoenix.

Hamilton has a chance to repeat as state champion when it faces top-seeded Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor, which rallied from two sets down to edge fourth-seeded Tempe Corona del Sol , 3-2, in the other semifinal.

Xavier had played Hamilton on three previous occasions this season, falling 2-1 in an early season tournament and suffering two 3-0 sweeps at the hands of the Huskies.

In Thursday’s semi, the Gators came out and did not back down in Game 1. With each point, win or lose, it was as if the players were saying, “Hey, we can play with this team.’’

The teams took their fans on a wild state fair tilt-a-whirl ride, trading the lead and going past what is the usual 25-point conclusion (by two points is necessary) before Hamilton survived with a 28-26 win.

Xavier coach Lamar-Renee Bryant smiled at the end of the evening when asked about what might have been.

“We battled. We made it interesting. We just took our foot off the gas,’’ she said.

The Gators brought with them a large, loud group of supporters, who assuredly kept the players’ energy at a high level.

Hamilton, awakened by the Gators’ aggressiveness, rolled to a 25-11 victory in Game 2 before Xavier came back for a 25-21 victory in Game 3. Xavier kept Game 4 close until the Huskies’ strength and power began to take their toll. Hamilton used a late, quick 4-0 burst to help it secure the match 25-16.

The start of the regular season was uncertain, due in part to COVID issues, and that slowed the Gators’ development to a degree. But they kept going, to where they reached the semis.

“All of the girls battled and that’s all I could ask for,’’ said Bryant, whose coaching effort this season might have been the best of her Xavier tenure.

She was thrilled by how the seniors took ownership in the product, providing good examples for the younger girls to follow.

One of the most improved players certainly was senior outside hitter Emma Soderstrom, who became the “go-to’’ power source at all the right moments. She also proved to be a complete player, excelling on defense.

Senior setter Alexa Shiner was a steady influence, putting the ball where it needed to be.

Senior defensive specialist/libero Hannah Ulisch came on strong in the latter half of the season.

And senior middle blocker Bella Sinacori had many impactful moments.

There are, as Bryant undoubtedly is relieved, prospects for a bright future in 2022. A handful of underclassmen stepped forward – freshman defensive specialist/libero Olivia Lenz, junior outside hitter Ava Larkin, junior middle blocker Emma Caruso, freshman middle blocker Elle McCreery and sophomore outside hitter Finley Workman.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Zing go the strings for XCP archers

 Xavier Prep archers rounded up their equipment over the weekend and had a strong effort in the Wickenburg Rodeo fun shoot.

Xavier was on target, finishing in the top 10 in the female high-school division for bullseye and 3D.

Adela Campo earned second place in 3D with a score of 257 (9 tens) and Ana Bhatti was third in 3D with 254 (9 tens).

In the bullseye event, Kylie Cavanagh finished in third place with a 259, including 12 tens.

Notable mentions in the 3D Top 10: Evelynn Papez, fourth place, 245 (8 tens), Cavanagh, fifth place 243 (6 tens), Isabella Ballesteros (new archer), sixth place, 228 (8 tens), Zoe Lopez, 8th place, 220 (4 tens), Miranda Papez (new archer), 9th place, 219 (3 tens) and Sophia Pauly, 10th place, 216 (4 tens).

Notable mentions in the Bullseye Top 10: Ana Bhatti, fourth place, 258 (6 tens), Evelynn Papez, 5th (251, 6 tens), Felicia FitzGerald, 6th place, 251 (5 tens) and Adela Campo, 9th place, 244 (4 tens).

Congratulations to all of the outstanding Xavier archers!!

Door opens to semifinals for Xavier volleyball

 Queen Creek’s volleyball team dropped its first two games against host Xavier Prep in their 6A Conference quarterfinal match on Tuesday (Nov. 9). It was logical to assume that Xavier would be able to sweep the Bulldogs without much of a problem.

That’s what Gilbert Perry thought, too, in its first-round match against Queen Creek on Nov. 4.

Third-seeded Perry won its first two games, but No. 14 Queen Creek rallied to win the match 3-2 and advanced to face No. 6 Xavier.

The Gators were well aware what had transpired at Perry, and were determined not to allow the same thing to happen to them.

Xavier maintained its focus and won 3-0 (25-14. 25-16. 25-20) to earn a spot in the semifinals on Thursday night (Nov. 11) at second-seeded defending champion Chandler Hamilton. The event begins at 6 p.m.

Xavier was the victim of 3-0 sweeps by Hamilton during the regular season, but still managed to put together a 24-10 overall record. Hamilton is 32-5 after a 3-0 win over No. 7 seed Peoria Liberty.

In the other semifinal on Thursday, fourth-seeded Tempe Corona del Sol (28-6) travels to face -top-seeded Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor (27-4). That contest begins at 6:30 p.m.

Corona del Sol advanced with a  3-1 win over No. 12 seed Phoenix Desert Vista and Sandra Day O’Connor advanced with a 3-0 win over Scottsdale Chaparral.

Perry’s loss to Queen Creek handed Xavier the quarterfinal match on a platter. Xavier was ready to take it and run with it.

Xavier coach Lamar-Renee Bryant looked up at the Activity Center bleachers afterward and watched dozens of blue-clad Gator fans spill out into the lobby with smiles on their faces.

“To have this extra home game, to have this crowd . . . that was big,’’ she said. “Our girls were aware of what happened (the Queen Creek-Perry match) and they worked hard to be able to take care of things.’’

Two of the Gators’ tallest players, 6-foot-2 freshman Elle McCreery and 5-11 sophomore Finley Workman, had worked their way into more playing time in the later stages of the regular season. And they were major factors against Queen Creek, making a big impact along the net. Each got 11 kills and 2 blocks.

“They stepped up,’’ Bryant said.

Senior Emma Soderstrom had 12 kills and 16 digs and senior Bella Sinacori had 7 kills and 3 blocks. Senior setter Alexa Shiner had 37 assists, senior defensive specialist Hannah Ulisch had 24 digs and freshman libero Olivia Lenz had four service aces.

Now comes Hamilton. The Huskies are powerful, to be sure. Do the Gators have any magic left?

“It’s that time of year when anything is possible, so why not us?’’ Bryant said.

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Bikers finish 5th, leave plenty of optimism for '22

 The Xavier Prep/Brophy Prep club mountain biking team finished a solid fifth overall among teams at the Arizona Cycling Association high school state championships on Sunday (Nov. 7) at the Wren Arena in the southern Arizona community of Fort Huachuca.

The top five teams were No. 1 finisher Flagstaff High (North Division), No. 2 BASIS Prescott (North), No. 3 Queen Creek Casteel (South Division), No. 4 Cave Creek Cactus Shadows (North) and No. 5 Brophy/Xavier (South). Brophy/Xavier had battled Casteel in the South all season.

Varsity riders competed on the 4.1-mile course (4.1 per lap) and 3 laps for the JV.

Top Xavier riders were Varsity’s Mary Hill, who finished 9th, and Aria Tseffos, who finished 13th.

In the JV-1 race, Grace Morgan started but did not finish. In the JV-2 race, Rachel Reyes was 25th and Bailey Finch was 30th.

Congratulations to head coach Rich Perrott (both BCP and XCP) and his staff of assistants. It was a great year that figures to only get better in 2022!

Sunday, November 7, 2021

XCP swim-dive finishes 7th, Munk has big day

 As the Division I state swimming championships got closer and closer, Xavier Prep’s Gracie Munk thought more about what it would be like “to put my hand on the wall first,’’ to signal a championship victory in one of her events.

During the day of the finals on Saturday (Nov. 6), “I was really nervous and excited,’’ she said.

It was the biggest meet of her life and of her senior season.

The time had come for her and the other seven finalists in the 100-yard butterfly to climb onto the starting block, toss all of those nerves aside and take the plunge.

Less than a minute later, Munk wondered no longer what it would be like to put her hand on the wall first. She was a state champion, covering the distance in 55.36 seconds. Senior teammate Hope Nolan had a quality swim, finishing fourth at 57.11.

Those efforts were among the highlights for the Gators at the Skyline Aquatic Complex in east Mesa.

Xavier finished seventh out of 27 teams with 147 points, behind state-title repeater Scottsdale Chaparral, Mesa Red Mountain, Phoenix Desert Vista, Mesa Mountain View, Phoenix Horizon and Gilbert Perry.

Glen Coy, who took over the program this year with assistance from David Smithers and Jenny James, was pleased with his team’s effort.

“Gracie did a great job and all of the girls swam really well. I just liked the way they raced,’’ Coy said.

The season, he said, “was fun and challenging. I really enjoyed it. It makes me look forward to future swims.’’

Munk didn’t stop with only one event. She finished second in the 100-yard backstroke (55.93) and helped the 200-yard relay finish second and the 400-yard relay finish fifth.

Those efforts capped off the rewarding week that began on Monday (Nov. 1) when she made her college commitment to swim for and study at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.

“It helped out there today (Saturday) knowing my teammates were supporting me,’’ Munk said. “We all put a lot of work into this.’’

Here are the Xavier state meet results:

200-yard medley relay (B final) – XCP 2nd (Sr. Claire Douglas, Sr. Ashleigh Baros, Sr. Grace Hull, Sr. Daisy Maldonado), 1:52.31.

50-yard freestyle (B final) – Lainey Wieland, Jr., 6th, 25.13.

100-yard butterfly (Championship final) – Gracie Munk, Sr., 1st, 55.36; Hope Nolan, Sr., 4th, 57.11. (B final) – Grace Hull, Sr., 8th, 1:00.23.

200-yard freestyle relay (Championship final) – XCP 2nd (Sr. Gracie Munk, Sr. Daisy Maldonado, Jr. Lainey Wieland, Sr. Hope Nolan), 1:38.05.

100-yard backstroke (Championship final) – Gracie Munk, Sr., 2nd, 55.93. (B final) – Carter Cook, Fr., 5th; Claire Douglas, Sr., 8th, 1:03.09.

100-yard breaststroke (B final) – Hope Nolan, Sr., 3rd, 1:08.14.

400-yard freestyle relay (Championship final) – XCP 5th (Sr. Daisy Maldonado, Fr. Ginger Mago, Sr. Hope Nolan, Sr. Gracie Munk), 3:33.99.

Team scores

Scottsdale Chaparral 357.5, Mesa Red Mountain 240, Phoenix Desert Vista 212, Mesa Mountain View 175, Phoenix Horizon 166, Gilbert Perry 162.5, Xavier Prep 144, Chandler Hamilton 111, Phoenix Pinnacle 104, Mesa Desert Ridge 90, Goodyear Millennium 86, Peoria Liberty 75.5, Tempe Corona del Sol 65, Anthem Boulder Creek 65, Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor 49.5, Yuma Cibola 45, Chandler High 39, Tucson High 34, Tucson Rincon/University 28, Maricopa High 21, Queen Creek 13, Gilbert Highland 5, Chandler Basha 4, Vail Cienega 4, Mesa High 2, Mesa Skyline 2, Surprise Valley Vista 1.

Friday, November 5, 2021

Another home match for XCP after Perry's exit

 Players and coaches from Xavier Prep were like everyone else across the high school volleyball landscape, monitoring scores from Thursday night’s (Nov. 4) first round of the 6A Conference state tournament.

The Xavier contingent was particularly interested in the match between 14th-seeded Queen Creek and No. 3 Gilbert Perry at Perry. The sixth-seeded Gators expected to play Perry, their Premier Region rival, in Tuesday’s (Nov. 9) quarterfinal round after a 3-0 sweep of visiting No. 11 Chandler Basha.

That side of the bracket sat unmoved for a long time as just about every other score came in.

The typical thought process would be, “Well, it’s probably taking so long because Queen Creek is beating Perry.’’

The score eventually was posted, and, Whhaaatttt?

The unthinkable became a reality.

In one of the biggest upsets of this or any season, Queen Creek captured the match, 3-2.

It wasn’t so much that the Bulldogs defeated Perry, but how they did it.

Perry (31-9) won the first two games, 25-18 and 25-22, but the roof caved in. Queen Creek rallied for 25-22, 25-20 and 16-14 wins to take the match.

Combined with Xavier’s 25-19. 25-19, 25-17 triumph over Basha, that means the Gators (23-10) will have another home match they didn’t think they would have. So Queen Creek (22-15) will come calling for the quarterfinal at 6:30 p.m.

The three other quarterfinals are No. 8 Scottsdale Chaparral at No. 1 Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor, No. 12 Phoenix Desert Vista at No. 4 Tempe Corona del Sol, and No. 7 Peoria Liberty at No. 2 Chandler Hamilton, the defending state champion.

It had been a week since Xavier had played its final regular-season match, a 3-0 sweep of Mesa High that ended a three-match losing streak, all sweeps, to Perry, Corona del Sol and Hamilton.

Was the break beneficial, allowing the Gators to recharge their batteries, or did it make them think too much about what was ahead of them? Sometimes, it can be the latter.

“It was a lot of waiting . . . we just wanted to play,’’ said Xavier coach Lamar-Renee Bryant.

Against Basha (18-20), the Gators seemed relaxed rather than uptight that often can come as part of the tournament opener.

“We were excited to take care of business,’’ Bryant said.

The serves and passes were on target, the kills and blocks were forceful and the digs were frequent.

Xavier accounted for 66 digs, including 21 by senior libero Hannah Ulisch, who was selected as the Player of the Game by her coaches.

Senior outside hitter Emma Soderstrom had a fine all-around match with 16 kills, 3 blocks and 16 digs. Sophomore outside hitter Finley Workman had 6 kills and 15 digs, senior setter Alexa Shiner had 30 assists and senior middle blocker Bella Sinacori had 5 kills and 2 blocks.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Xavier freshman tennis players start strong

 The future of Xavier Prep tennis is in good hands.

Two freshman teams were unleashed and proceeded to have outstanding seasons, 11-0 for the Blue Team and 8-2 for the Green Team, signaling optimism for the Varsity group over the next few years.

The Blue and the Green combined to have five unbeaten singles players – Julia Chrostowski and Gabrielle Dinan for the Green Team and Lara Shennib, Chayse Clingan and Nitya Reddymasu for the Blue.

All of this was accomplished without a “true’’ home, while the school’s tennis center was being reconstructed and upgraded. Most of the home matches were played at neighboring Central High. Among the top competitive opponents were Chandler Hamilton, Scottsdale Desert Mountain, Tempe Corona del Sol and Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep.

Between the Green and Blue teams and the non-competitive practice squads, 71 players participated. The 54 beginning players practiced on Fridays for seven weeks.

According to head coach Judith Hernandez, all of the inexperienced players learned how to hold a racquet, how to score, and how important that fitness and footwork are to the game. The learning curve continued with the reliance on the forehand, the backhand and the serve. Starting with Week 7, these girls played their first tennis game with their teammates.

Hernandez could not have done all of this alone. She had four assistants (Amy Gallo, Ford Oliver, Barbara Holcomb and Lara Murphy) and hard-working senior team manager Alison Harris.

”I am grateful to the coaches and (athletic) staff members who helped make Freshman Tennis possible during the construction of the new tennis courts,’’ Hernandez said.

She added that the goal of Freshman Tennis at Xavier is to provide players who have tennis experience the opportunity to compete with teams from other schools.

 “We are also very fortunate at Xavier to have the ability to offer a no-cut season (started years ago by Varsity coach Laurie Martin) to players who have the desire to learn a new sport. Tennis can be a life-long sport and we are privileged to have the support of the administration to offer Freshman Tennis.’’

And the goals of everyone can reach beyond the court.

“Connecting with students who enjoy the game is a wonderful way to build lasting friendships during the season,’’ Hernandez said. “The coaching staff couldn’t be more proud of the way the players have come together as teammates who supported each other on and off the court.

“The Green and Blue competitive teams had the opportunity to experience a tennis season that helped each of them learn about themselves as competitive players. It was important to us as a team to instill in each player to be a gracious loser as well as a gracious winner.’’

Gators face region rival Basha in v-ball opener

 The stage has been set for the 2021 6A Conference volleyball state tournament, and Xavier Prep initially will see some familiar faces and have the potential to see more down the road.

The Gators, who finished with a 22-10 record during the regular season, are the No. 6 seed, according to state bracketing released by the Arizona Interscholastic Association on Wednesday (Nov. 3).

As one of the top eight teams, they earned a first-round home match on Thursday (Nov. 4) at 6:30 p.m. against Premier Region rival Chandler Basha, which is seeded No. 11 at 18-19. The two played twice during the regular season, and Xavier scored 3-0 sweeps on Sept. 21 and Oct. 13.

If Xavier survives the first one, a showdown looms in the quarterfinals on Tuesday (Nov. 9) against another Premier Region rival, Gilbert Perry. The third-seeded Pumas are the two-time defending state runners-up and are aiming for their first state crown. Perry (31-8) opens state play on Thursday night at home against No. 14 seed Queen Creek (21-15).

Perry took care of Xavier during the regular season with a 3-1 win over the Gators at XCP on Sept. 28 and a 3-0 triumph at home on Oct. 19.

Xavier is led by head coach Lamar-Renee Bryant, and her assistants are Anna Panagiotakopoulos and Jamie Itule.

The Xavier roster consists of junior setter Kristy Tom, senior outside hitter Tiffany Tellez, senior outside hitter Emma Soderstrom, freshman libero Olivia Lenz, junior outside hitter Kate Tax, senior middle blocker Isabella Sinacori, senior middle blocker Theresa Romero, junior outside hitter Ava Larkin, junior middle blocker Emma Caruso, senior libero Hannah Ulisch, freshman middle blocker Elle McCreery, sophomore outside hitter Finley Workman, senior setter Alexa Shiner, junior setter Maddie MacDonald and sophomore libero Mia Accomazzo.

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Gator golfers stay close but fall just short in title bid

 Xavier Prep’s golf team made a strong bid for its second straight state Division championship and 38th in school history on Tuesday (Nov. 2), but the Gators fell a bit short and finished as runner-up behind Peoria Liberty by a scant three shots.

The tournament was played on Monday (Nov. 1) and Tuesday at the Omni Tucson National Resort’s Sonoran Course.

The finale ended up the same as it did after the first round – Liberty, followed by Xavier and Chandler Hamilton. The rest of the 12-team field didn’t really have a chance this time around.

About halfway through the final round, Xavier was tied with Liberty for the lead, but fell back a bit and did not recover.

The Gators had plenty of support from all of their teammates (18 total), who rode buses down to Tucson for the finale. Players were given T-shirts with their names on them and heard a few emotional words from the senior group after being a part of the runner-up trophy presentation.

“They (Liberty) played well and they deserved it,’’ said Xavier co-head coach Sr. Lynn Winsor.

Liberty senior Mattie Frick, who was the individual winner in 2020, dueled Hamilton’s Jennifer Seo throughout this tournament. Seo shot a 70 in the finale and hung on to win with a 134 total, and Frick shot 68 to finish at 138.

The top two finishers for Xavier were junior Annie Dawson, who was in a tie for fifth at 143, and senior Ivy Song, who was seventh at 144.

“We’re (Winsor, co-head coach Tui Selvaratnam and assistant Jane Ladensack) so proud of those two girls, so proud of all of them,’’ Winsor said.

Sophomore Kate Hauptman struggled in her opening round, but came back to shoot a 2-under-par 69 on Tuesday.

“That first round was hard for her, but she came back and played wonderfully,’’ Winsor said.

Sophomores Jayden Jevnick and Lena Durette shot 159 and 161, respectively.

Hauptman was tied for 14th, Jevnick tied for 26th and Durette tied for 28th, according to the iWannamaker score tabulation system.

“The competitiveness in golf around the state seems to be getting better and better every year,’’ Winsor said. “Everyone is going to have to be on their toes, and we know we will.’’

Team scores – Peoria Liberty 593, Xavier Prep 596, Chandler Hamilton 603, Phoenix Pinnacle 613, Anthem Boulder Creek 617, Phoenix Desert Vista 647, Gilbert Highland 651, Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor 681, Glendale Mountain Ridge 713, Gilbert Perry 715, Tempe Corona del Sol 717, Tucson Rincon/University 749.

Liberty runners zip past Gators in sectional

 Xavier Prep has some talented cross-country runners this season, and as it turns out, Peoria Liberty does, too.

In the Division I Southwest Sectional state qualifying event on Tuesday (Nov. 2) at Cesar Chavez Park in Laveen, Liberty had the top three individual runners in the 5K race that boosted it to the sectional title over second-place Xavier.

Next will be the gathering of D-I runners from around the state at the state meet on Nov. 13 at the Cave Creek Golf Course in north Phoenix. The D-l girls’ race will begin at 12:30 p.m.

Overcoming a 1-2-3 finish would be an accomplishment that few teams could muster. Liberty scored 25 points for the win, while Xavier totaled 38. Surprise Shadow Ridge was the only other team in double figures – with 82 points.

In addition to the top three runners, Liberty had nos. 8, 11, 31 and 39. The top three finishers for the Lions were No. 1 Madeline Reeves, No. 2 McKinley Blanton and No. 3 Laynee Hollech.

Xavier, meanwhile, had four runners in the top 10 – senior Hannah Wheeling, fourth at 19:49.6, senior Tatum Goforth, sixth at 20:05.4, junior Reese Brown, seventh at 20:05.7, and senior Catherine Alaimo, ninth at 20:16.5.

The remaining three Gator runners also fared well – senior Ansley Burns, 12th at 20:33.4, senior Macarthy Mahoney, 17th at 21:19.6, and sophomore Summer Goodman, 19th at 21:22.2. The race featured 80 runners total.

Team scores – Peoria Liberty 25, Xavier Prep 38, Surprise Shadow Ridge 82, Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor 119, Anthem Boulder Creek 142, Scottsdale Chaparral 148, Phoenix Alhambra 210, Phoenix Sunnyslope 237, Laveen Cesar Chavez 243, Tolleson High 272 and Surprise Valley Vista 279.

Monday, November 1, 2021

Gators just 2 shots behind leader Liberty in state golf

 The first round of the Division I state golf tournament is in the books, and it appears the championship could be decided by only a few strokes.

Defending champion Xavier Prep found itself right in the middle of all the action on Monday (Nov. 1) at the Omni Tucson National Resort’s Sonoran Course.

The Gators were in second place with a score of 303, two shots behind leader Peoria Liberty (301), with Chandler Hamilton (305) in third. Phoenix Pinnacle was in fourth, and the 2019 champ and 2020 runner-up has a strong enough lineup to make up its seven-stroke deficit in the final round on Tuesday (Nov. 2).

Xavier’s top finisher was senior Ivy Song, with an even-par 71. The three golfers contributing to the team total were junior Annie Dawson (1-over 72), sophomore Jayden Jevnick (8-over 79) and sophomore Lena Durette (10-over 81).

Sophomore Kate Hauptman (11-over 82) did not figure in the team scoring, but will try to turn things around on Tuesday. She finished third overall last year.

Liberty’s Mattie Frick shot a 1-under 70, and has a good chance to repeat as the individual state champion.

Xavier tee times on Tuesday: Dawson at 10:50 a.m., Jevnick at 10:40, Durette at 10:30, Hauptman at 10:20, Song at 11:00. Song will be in a group with Frick and Hamilton’s Jennifer Seo.