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 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.

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