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, August 12, 2022

Gillom heads Arizona Sports Hall of Fame class

 At last, a vote that people can agree with!!

And the beneficiary is Xavier Prep basketball coach Jennifer Gillom.

On Wednesday (Aug. 10), the former Phoenix Mercury star and Olympic gold medalist (as a player and coach) was one of six people to be voted by the public into the Arizona Sports Hall of Fame. The induction ceremony will be held Nov. 1 in north Phoenix.

Gillom said on Thursday (Aug. 11) that she was told by an official from the Arizona Sports Commission, the driving force behind the Hall of Fame, that she was the top vote-getter.

“It was overwhelming learning about this honor, and getting all of those votes was special in itself,’’ said Gillom.

Xavier Prep basketball coach Jennifer Gillom, who will be join the Arizona Sports Hall of Fame on Nov. 1.

Other inductees include former Arizona Cardinals star wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, late sports journalist Pedro Gomez, formerly of The Arizona Republic and ESPN, former Northern Arizona University basketball player Peggy Kennedy, long-time Chandler Seton Catholic girls basketball coach and former Arizona State player Karen Self, and sports philanthropist Michael Kennedy.

Among the previous inductees, Gillom is very pleased to join late former XCP and pro golf star Heather Farr (2013), current Xavier vice principal for activities and athletic director Sr. Lynn Winsor (2018), and former WNBA colleague Ann Meyers Drysdale (2021) in the prestigious Hall of Fame, which will grow in number from 126 to 132 with the newest selections.

A native of Mississippi who studied and played at the University of Mississippi, Gillom has made Arizona her second home for about 25 years.

“To be recognized by people in my second home has become quite an honor,’’ she said. “This is huge, and what a blessing.

“People are showing how they feel about you as a human being. My mother (in Mississippi) was ecstatic about this when I called her.

“All the things that have happened here with the Mercury and Xavier (separate coaching stints from 2004-10 and again from 2017 through the present day). I have been inspired in my life and I want to inspire others, be a positive influence.  It has been great coaching the girls here at Xavier.’’

Tickets for the event can be purchased beginning  Sept. 1 at

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Martin's memorial offers tears mixed with smiles

 There were tears, to be sure, but also plenty of smiles on the faces of the several hundred attendees at Saturday’s  (July 30) Celebration of Life for Laurie Martin, Xavier Prep’s late tennis coach who passed away on June 6 at the age of 59 when she fell at a family residence near Show Low.

The memorial was held at Founders Hall on the Xavier campus, and was viewed by about 100 more people on an Internet Live stream.

If anyone lived a full life, it certainly was Martin.

The theme of the day was, “Live Like Laurie.’’ Tables were decorated with some of her family photos and lavender wristbands with the theme printed on them. People could sign a card conveying a message to the family that will be part of an upcoming memorial book. Life-long photos of Martin flashed on screens around the room, along with a few brief videos in accompaniment to some of her favorite songs over the years.

RIP, Laurie Martin

She spent her early years in southern California but established roots when she moved to Tempe, where she graduated from McClintock High School and was active in numerous school activities. She also went on to graduate from Arizona State.

Some of Xavier’s administrators who worked closely with Martin were on hand for the event, including XCP President Sr. Joan Fitzgerald, XCP Principal Sr. Joanie Nuckols and Vice Principal for Activities and Athletic Director Sr. Lynn Winsor.

The crowd was told that Martin had a positive impact on everyone she met, and were asked if they thought they could be considered her best friend.

Winsor came forward and presented a “mini-biography’’ of Martin, who worked at Xavier for 17 years and produced five state championships and several state runner-up finishes.

Martin also drew praise for her example of family life with husband Stan (nearly four decades) and daughters Amanda, Courtney and Natalie and son Tanner, along with grandchildren.

“Her four children were her biggest fans,’’ Winsor said.

Son Tanner praised his mother, calling her his “Super Hero with Super Powers.’’

“She had a tireless work ethic,’’ he added, also mentioning her family dinners on Sundays.

Daughter Amanda, who with her sisters is a Xavier alumnus, played and coached tennis with her mother for the Gators and worked in the school’s human resources office before getting married, spoke of the birth of her first child when she was living out of state.

“My mom hopped on a plane – she did that for all of us – and came to where I lived when I had an emergency C-section,’’ Amanda said. “She used some of that energy of hers to decorate our house for Christmas.’’

Laurie Martin started a “no-cut’’ program for freshman players that would win her several awards for that maneuver. Every year, that program would draw at least 70 players.

“But she put her players first as people,’’ Amanda said. “When she first told people about the no-cut, they thought she was nuts. But look how that turned out. She wanted the players to gain some lifelong friends.

“And she lived her life with the utmost integrity.’’

Daughter Courtney called Laurie “a phenomenal grandma. I hope to be half the grandma she was to us. She had this commitment of living every day to its fullest.’’

Daughter Natalie said that her mother would be proud.

“She died knowing that we are all doing well,’’ Natalie said.

Natalie is amazed by her mother’s physical conditioning, including some noteworthy dance moves. She asked the attendees to stand and go through some of the moves, which got everybody laughing.

Former Xavier players Meg Yuan and Jordan Craft spoke of being coached by Martin, a part of what they estimated was about 2,000 players she coached at Xavier over her 17 years, producing a 271-16 record.

Laurie Martin also has been involved over the years at the national level through the United States Tennis Association, winning awards, and worked closely with Tracy Becker, a long-time friend and former teammate at McClintock. Becker listed many of the highlights with USTA.

Personal remembrances

As The XCP Files author, I would like to include a few remembrances of Laurie Martin.

Laurie always was good-natured and carried herself in a professional manner when I would come out for a match or write a feature story.

*In the early days of her no-cut freshman program, and when The XCP Files started, we would chat and combine those subjects. She touted the benefits of her program even then, and when she would go to national meetings of tennis officials, she would mention The XCP Files and told them how the coverage helps the development and maintenance of the school’s athletic programs.

Some of the other coaches were somewhat envious, as in, “Gee, we kind of wish we had that at our school.’’

I always appreciated that she would go to bat for me like that.

*At the Gators’ matches, you need not look too far to know where she was. Wearing her trademark straw hat, and sitting in a big folding chair for road and state matches, she would encourage her players with two simple words, “GO ZAVE-YURR.’’

*Another thing with the voice. It wasn’t screaming loud, but it got her point across. I would hear that same voice when she would give lessons on Wednesdays at courts across the street from our home (we both lived in the same Tempe development at the time). The voice was unmistakable as she instructed her adult players.

“She’s out there,’’ my wife, Carol, would say.

*Laurie and I shared an interesting fact: we both had a grandson with a creative, noteworthy first name – Wyatt. And I always tried to ask her how her Wyatt was doing.

*During this spring’s state doubles tournament, Xavier’s Ryan Kershner and Dani Dyer captured the championship. I went to Martin for a comment for my story, but she graciously suggested that assistant coach Ford Oliver should provide his thoughts, giving him a little “publicity.’’

That showed a lot of class.

So, in honor of Laurie, the next time you go to an XCP match, say, “GO ZAVE-YURR.’’

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Flag football on the way to becoming a big deal

 Before you know it, it will be 2023, time for the Valley to host a big football event.


But no, it won’t be Super Bowl LVII at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, on Feb. 12.

So would you believe . . .

How about Xavier Prep’s participation for the first time in a club football season?

Now we’re talking.

The Gators also will play about eight or so games next spring, with home contests on Petznick Field’s artificial surface that is being refurbished after about a dozen years of wear and tear, with completion expected by the end of the summer.

It is another example of Xavier athletic director Sr. Lynn Winsor and her staff to come up with as many opportunities for her athletes to thrive and perhaps earn scholarships at the college level, a primary element of Title IX, a national push by administrators such as Winsor to bring greater notoriety to women’s sports.

Flag football will be listed as a club sport, as is another spring team at XCP, lacrosse. Winsor doesn’t believe it will have any bearing on the girls to succeed – they just want to win. The eventual goal, of course, is to be recognized as a full sport by the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

“Kids have played the sport here at Xavier in the past (in physical education classes) and it was well-received,’’ she said. “After the (flag) announcement was made, we got several calls from kids who told us how excited they are.’’

Teams will have a roster in the low 20s, with games featuring 7 on 7. That should give the coaches the necessary flexibility they need.

Winsor already has lined up a coach.

He is Mike Patterson, who for the past eight seasons has been an assistant coach and assistant defensive coordinator for neighboring Brophy Prep’s traditional football program, and will continue in that role.

Patterson’s daughter, Mikayla, will be a freshman at XCP this fall and is expected to play for the Gators.

Coach Patterson said he has worked with “linebackers, defensive backs, everything’’ over the years. It will be refreshing for him to be involved with a full game plan.

“Sister Lynn and I met and want to move the program ahead. I think we have the same mindset,’’ Patterson said. “I’d like to have a few fall camps going, and if the girls come out and they like it, maybe they can get the word around (to interest others). Xavier has had a lot of talented athletes over the years.’’

One thing that team members should be able to do is run. That is one of the primary aspects of the game, such as defending against an opponent and chasing them down and reaching out to grab the flags.

Individual expenditures perhaps are not as draining as they might be for some sports. The primary cost would be for cleats and mouth guards. The teams will wear uniforms, provide footballs and flags, with the possibility of smaller protective headgear, not full helmets like the boys wear.

So which schools would serve as opponents for the Gators?

The Chandler Unified School District had most of its schools involved last season, Chandler High, Chandler Hamilton, Chandler Basha, Gilbert Perry and Queen Creek Casteel, along with Arizona College Prep. Two Ahwatukee schools, Mountain Pointe and Desert Vista, should be in the mix, as well as some of the Gilbert district schools. Patterson said Chandler Seton Catholic could be a possibility.

The season will run from the first week of March through mid-April. That means a lot of figuring out which Xavier teams will have which days and times for practice and games at Petznick – flag football, softball and lacrosse. Patterson said it is possible his team could possibly work into a schedule that includes Saturdays.

Field upgrades would include new water cannons to keep the artificial turf cooler, LED lighting, safety padding on the poles, among other items.

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Xavier hoops players become the Girls of Summer

 It will be about 4-5 months before the 2022-23 basketball regular season begins and we start to get a true idea of how good Xavier Prep’s Gators can be.

If you use the Gators’ performances as a measuring stick in three summer events, the latest wrapping up on Saturday night (June 25), there is a hint of optimism in the air.

Xavier finished 7-2 in the annual Thunderbird Summer League that culminated on Saturday night with a 51-35 victory over Phoenix Sunnyslope in the Blue Bracket title game. Xavier also was 2-0 in a recent Section 7 tournament appearance at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, and was 3-1 in the Lady Extravaganza tournament at Goodyear Millennium.

“This gives them (players) more confidence going into the season,’’ said Xavier coach Jennifer Gillom. “They can do it together if they stay focused and are more consistent.’’

Consistency will have to come out of necessity, given what appears to be a season-long knee injury to junior guard Sarah Miller, who emerged as one of the state’s top young talents last season.

Miller’s absence, plus junior point guard Dom Nesland’s intermittent participation in the summer due to club ball, gave an opportunity for some players who might not see as much playing time under normal circumstances to develop their skills in summer games.

That would be sophomore Lucy Sanford at the point, junior transfer Jasmine Olivar at guard, and a possible key reserve in the backcourt in sophomore Izzy Cerniglia, who seems very intent on earning herself a varsity roster spot.

Junior forward-guard Maureen “Mo’’ Ulrich made strides at both ends of the floor. She always has been a strong rebounder and defender, and now she is finding more ways to make an impact on offense.

Sophomore post player CeCe Mlat continues to evolve, and senior forward Gabby Trbovic has shown evidence that she is capable of being a big asset on offense.

Trbovich has been a decent shooter, sometimes hot and sometimes cold, but had not seen a consistency that the Gillom and the Gators have needed.

That was until recently in the T-Bird. In the last three games, she combined for close to 40 points, many of those on threes from along the baseline or the top of the key. She also has shown more aggressiveness with her rebounding and defense.

“She is a senior now and I think she realizes, “This is it for me’’ and knows that it’s time for her to step up,’’ Gillom said. “When she is shooting well, that helps spread the defense.’’

When the Gators flip the switch on defense, they play much better.

“You have that good defense and the offense follows it,’’ Gillom said. “We have been emphasizing that the whole summer.’’

So now the players will be able to relax a bit with a few pool parties and family vacations. And Gillom has plans to keep her summer routine intact.

That would be going back home to visit her mother out of state.

“Always good to see mama,’’ she said.

Saturday, June 25, 2022

XCP's blue hoops crew rises in Blue Bracket

 Call it coincidence, but Xavier Prep’s blue-clad Gators are nearing the championship game of the Blue Bracket in the Thunderbird Summer Basketball League.

The Gators stepped up in a big way on Friday night (June 24) with a 59-31 victory over Catholic rival Phoenix St. Mary’s to advance to Saturday’s (June 25) semifinals and, hopefully, title game.

Xavier (5-2 in the league) will face Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep at 4 p.m. in Thunderbird’s practice gym, next door to the main facility. A victory over Notre Dame would put the Gators in the title game at 8 p.m. in the main gym against either Anthem Boulder Creek or Phoenix Sunnyslope.

“We had a great effort at both ends (of the floor),’’ said Xavier coach Jennifer Gillom. “When we are playing like that, we can be hard to beat.’’

It also helps when the Gators get some productivity from their inside players instead of perhaps having to rely too much on their backcourt.

In this case, Xavier got 12 points from senior forward Gabby Trbovic and six from sophomore post player CeCe Mlat, who also had key blocked shots and rebounds.

“Those girls were huge out there tonight,’’ Gillom said. “That really helps us a lot.’’

Trbovic scored five of the team’s first seven points of the game, with her “patented’’ baseline shot as well as a give and go with senior guard Sienna Cherwinski.

Cherwinski led the Gators with 17 points. Junior guard-forward Maureen “Mo’’ Ulrich contributed 11 points.

Xavier totaled five three-point baskets, two each by Trbovic and sophomore point guard Lucy Sanford, and one by Cherwinski, who had missed some time previously due to summer school commitments, according to Gillom.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Hoops campers get comprehensive guidance

 The early summer is not a time for Xavier Prep’s Jennifer Gillom to get much relaxation. But that can be a good thing.

For most of June, the varsity basketball coach is multi-tasking. She leads the school’s varsity team in the evenings at the Thunderbird Summer League, and for two hours in the early afternoons for the week of June 20-23 puts younger players through their paces at XCP’s annual summer basketball camp in the Activity Center.

She has a good group of potential Gators for the camp, and gets assistance from some of her current Xavier varsity players – Lucy Sanford, Maureen Ulrich, CeCe Mlat, Gabby Trbovic, Gosi Alilonu and Annie Kopp.

There are about eight campers who will be entering their freshman year, eight more who are close behind in the eighth grade and a handful of younger players.

“There are some out here who have potential,’’ Gillom said.

It starts from the moment the players come through the door.

“Young players these days are more fundamentally sound than they were in the past,’’ Gillom said. “That is good. You don’t have to worry that much, just be able to work more on more advanced concepts and things they will be able to understand.’’

Some of the players will be ticketed for the JV-B (younger players/freshmen) and others for the JV-A (sophomores and perhaps a few juniors) this coming winter.

“We have ball-handling, shooting and running drills,’’ Gillom said. “We need work with our shooting form. We also are scrimmaging.’’

And there are various contests/drills to see which group can complete its task before anyone else. This draws enthusiasm for the varsity players such as the 6-foot-6 Mlat, a sophomore who ran along the sideline yelling encouragement and jumping into the air to give high fives.

“CeCe is really enjoying herself,’’ Gillom said, laughing.

“The thing about these older girls is that I think they are learning, too, and can pick up things they will be able to use in games later on, and to make good decisions.’’

Gillom prefers to play at a faster pace on both ends of the floor.

“I told ‘em I like to play the transition,’’ she said. “Get the ball out (from the basket to the wings) quickly and then score quickly. They are picking up on it. And to do this, you have to be emphasizing the footwork. These are things that they can practice the rest of the summer.’’

Xavier wins another, old hoops opponent awaits

 Xavier Prep’s basketball team wrapped up its “regular season’’ schedule in the Thunderbird (High) Summer League on Tuesday night (June 21) with a 43-31 victory over Phoenix Pinnacle, and now the Gators’ attention turns to an “old friend’’ with which they had a rivalry for many years.

Xavier (4-2 in the T-Bird) will meet fellow Catholic school Phoenix St. Mary’s as the summer league playoffs begin on Friday (June 24) at Thunderbird. The teams will have an 8 p.m. tipoff, with the winner moving on to the next round on Saturday (June 25) against Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep or Phoenix Horizon. Tipoff for the Saturday game is 4 p.m.

“We don’t know much about them (St. Mary’s) other than they are another team we are capable of beating,’’ said Xavier coach Jennifer Gillom.

St. Mary’s was on a three-season roll in the 2000-teens, winning state titles in 2011, 2012 and 2013. The last time Xavier defeated the Lady Knights was in the 2017-18 season with Gillom as coach. Xavier also earned victories in 2016-17, 2014-15 and 2013-14.

St. Mary’s is now in Arizona’s 4A Conference, while Xavier remains in 6A. Xavier has not won a state championship, but has come close, with back-to-back runner-up finishes in 2018 and 2018 under Gillom, in 1986 under John Chambers and in 1977 under athletic director Sr. Lynn Winsor.

Senior forward Gabby Trbovic energized the Gators early in the second half with a 3-point basket from the right corner. Xavier led by nine at that point, but Pinnacle came back within 28-26 when Xavier called a timeout.

Another corner trey by Trbovic got the Gators going again, and Xavier went on a 13-0 run to take control of the game.

Trbovic finished with a trio of threes and led XCP scorers with 11 points. Junior Jasmine Olivar had nine and junior Maureen “Mo’’ Ulrich and sophomore Lucy Sanford had eight each.

Asked what helped the Gators make that late push, Gillom said, “Defensive intensity is the key right now. We also want to go hard after rebounds, never let them (opponent) get comfortable.’’

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Gators wake up at just the right time

 Xavier Prep had dropped two of its first four basketball games in the Thunderbird Summer League and did not want another.

After building a 12-point lead over Peoria Sunrise Mountain in the first half and seeing the Mustangs rally to take the lead early in the second half, the Gators finally figured things out and went on to post a 48-33 victory on Monday night (June 20).

Xavier is now 3-2 entering its final “regular season’’ game on Tuesday night (June 21) at 7 against Phoenix Pinnacle. The Gators had a recent win over Pinnacle in the Section 7 tournament at State Farm Stadium in Glendale.

The T-Bird tournament shifts to a playoff format this weekend. Action for that begins on Friday (June 24) and continues Saturday (June 25).

In its opening game on Friday at 8 p.m., Xavier will play Catholic rival Phoenix St. Mary’s. The winner advances to a second-round game on Saturday at 4 p.m. against Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep or Phoenix Horizon. The winner of that second game would advance to the bracket championship game on Saturday at 8 p.m.

Xavier had a comfortable 12-point lead in the first half that wasn’t so comfortable after all as the advantage was reduced to five points at halftime, after which Sunrise Mountain actually moved in front early in the second half.

That stay was brief, however, as Xavier started to hit the boards and picked up the pace on offense in an 8-0 run.

“They were outmanning us on the boards and we decided to wake up,’’ said Xavier coach Jennifer Gillom.

Junior-to-be Maureen “Mo’’ Ulrich increased the team’s intensity on the glass. She produced putback attempts for herself or her teammates at the Xavier end of the floor and more rebounds at the Sunrise Mountain end proved to be beneficial as the Gators moved in for baskets to maintain momentum at their own end.

“She might be considered as a guard, but she is strong and tough at any position,’’ Gillom said of Ulrich.

Ulrich scored 23 points, and sophomore point guard Lucy Sanford scored 11.

Xavier also got a boost from senior reserve forward Annie Kopp, who scored a basket, helped out on the boards and fed senior Gabby Trbovic for a nice basket off an inbounds pass early in the second half.

“She did what she had to do, was aggressive, and that’s the kind of play we need from her,’’ Gillom said of Kopp.

Xavier was a bit short-handed in the backcourt. Junior point guard Dom Nesland did not play due to a club-team commitment, and senior shooting guard Sienna Cherwinski was not available to overall soreness, according to Gillom.



Friday, June 17, 2022

Nesland helps stabilize Gator summer hoops

Xavier Prep’s stay in the annual Section 7 Basketball Tournament was short-lived, but the Gators made the most of the time they did have with a pair of victories on Thursday (June 16) in the event at State Farm Stadium in Glendale.

The Gators defeated Phoenix Pinnacle 49-40 and Mesa High 64-48 and were due to play two more on Friday (June 17) but had to respectfully decline those games against Surprise Valley Vista and Coronado (Las Vegas) due to summer school commitments, according to Coach Jennifer Gillom.

Thursday’s play also marked the return of junior point guard Dom Nesland to the lineup. She played in the recent Lady Extravaganza tournament in Goodyear but was unavailable to play in the early portion of the Thunderbird Summer League in north Phoenix due to her participation in club competition out of state. She is expected to play when the Gators return to T-Bird in the coming week for a pair of games on Monday (June 20) and Tuesday (June 21).

So now, counting the Lady Extravaganza, the T-Bird league and the Section 7, the Gators are at 7-3. It certainly is something to build on.

And with fellow junior guard Sarah Miller out with a knee injury, Nesland appears to be a strong building block.

She scored 19 points in the win over Pinnacle and 23 in the win over Mesa. She basically was all over the floor and even left it momentarily in the first game when she crashed through an empty row of folding chairs along the side of the court.

The Gators’ shooting effort was one of their better ones of the summer, particularly with the long-range 3-pointers. They charted eight in the first game, including seven in the early part of the contest (16-minute halves were used). They came back for 10 more against Mesa.

With the 12-court setup for the event in the large open spaces of the stadium, one might think it could take awhile for the shooters to adjust with all the movement from other courts going on around them as well as the bright LED-type lighting.

Nesland was asked if she ever played in a similar environment.

She said she once played in an event such as this, but this took some getting used to.

“It wasn’t so much the movement surrounding you, it was more of the depth perception. You know, is the basket closer or farther?’’ she said.

She said it was good to see the 3’s dropping early in the first game.

“Yeah, sometimes you live by that, other times not,’’ she said.

Gillom said Nesland’s versatility “opens things up for us. It was good to see her back out there.’’

After the early run of 3’s, the Gators cooled off and Pinnacle was able to creep a bit closer.

“That was typical Xavier summer basketball,’’ Gillom said. “We need to learn to play a full game, not just three-fourths. It’s not a good way to do things.’’

Once the 3’s start clanking off the rim or simply drawing air, the players need to find something else.

“You have to be able to mix it up,’’ she said.

Sophomore guard Lucy Sanford did her part by hitting three 3’s.

Against Mesa, Xavier built a 10-point halftime lead after struggling late in the first half but regained its composure with six straight points to close it out on a 3 by Nesland, a follow shot by sophomore post player CeCe Mlat and a driving shot by junior guard Jasmine Olivar.

Xavier went on an 8-1 run to begin the second half to put things well in hand.

Olivar finished with 10 points and junior Maureen “Mo’’ Ulrich had 10 while continuing to work the boards.

“We did a much better job (than the first game) in both ends of the floor,’’ Gillom said.

The coach remains optimistic in regard to the development of the 6-foot-6 Mlat, who before coming to Xavier a year ago as a freshman had limited experience.

“We haven’t had many practices, so she has had to learn things while she’s playing (in games),’’ Gillom said. “She’s getting better out there and I think by the time the season starts (in late fall), she is going to be ready.’’

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Badminton "friends' discover details, put them to use

 With a good group of returnees and potential among last season’s junior varsity,  the future of Xavier badminton carries a good deal of optimism.

There might even be a player or two from a group participating in this summer’s badminton camp that could eventually add more stability to the team.

Second-year coach Brian McNerney was leading the players through various situations in the first of four days on Monday (June 13) that included learning about most of the equipment and putting oneself in the proper position to make the best shot.

While the players gripped their racquets, McNerney said that “mobility in the wrist creates power.’’

The campers worked on the basics of a serve. A maneuver that is successful due to a deft touch is the drop shot that barely clears the net and can make the opponents charge in.

And one of the favorite shots surely has to be the smash, which includes the coach’s claim of mobility in the wrist.

The group of about 11 campers then gathered for nearly an hour’s worth of competition, including some singles with a few doubles mixed in. He was assisted by a group of varsity and JV players from last season.

A key element of the return can be the backhand when trying to defend your side of the court and perhaps put the bird out of reach of the opponent would be the backhand.

“Most of this will get better with time,’’ McNerney told the group.

“It’s exciting for the girls to be out here. They are learning a lot about the game in a short time period and making a few new friends.’’

Summer basketball victory takes the (cup)cake

 It’s kind of hard to imagine a simple summer basketball league game having as much emotion as this one, but the evidence was there for everyone to see.

Coach Jennifer Gillom’s Xavier Prep Gators defeated Phoenix Sunnyslope 33-18 on Monday night (June 13) in the Thunderbird Summer League in north Phoenix, and it was a big turnaround after the Gators let a 15-point lead slip away in a loss to Goodyear Millennium in their previous game.

Gillom was excited about the reversal, but the emotion came out in the tears coming down her face and the hugs from her players and former players.

It was her birthday.

Wearing pointed party hats and big smiles, the players serenaded her with “Happy Birthday,’’ everyone munched on cupcakes and Gillom took a breath to extinguish a candle on hers. There were plenty of cell selfies to go around, and a former Gator player, Addie Putnam (Class of ’19), showed up with a bouquet of yellow flowers.

“That’s what I enjoy about coaching this team,’’ Gillom said. “Everybody supports the coaches and the coaches support the girls. It’s nothing less than 100 percent.’’

Most of the points against Sunnyslope came from the backcourt, with four three-pointers. Sophomore Lucy Sanford scored eight points, junior Maureen Ulrich had seven, and senior Sienna Cherwinski had five.

Gillom got some quality playing time from 6-foot-6 sophomore CeCe Mlat, with possibly the most time she has logged in a game (regular season or summer) since joining the program a year ago.

“She’s still learning, but she is getting more and more into the flow,’’ Gillom said. “Her defense is good, but it’s improving still and I think she’s starting to realize that she can become a capable offensive threat.’’

Xavier is 2-2 in T-Bird play with two games to go next week, against Peoria Sunrise Mountain and Phoenix Pinnacle.

Also, coming up before that will be some action to finish up this week.

On Wednesday (June 15), the Gators will play host to a team from Montana in a scrimmage.

Then, on Thursday (June 16) and Friday (June 17), Xavier will play in the Section 7 Camp tournament at the Arizona Cardinals’ State Farm Stadium home in Glendale. The Gators will play twice on Thursday at 4:30 and 8 p.m., with two more on Friday. A portion of that schedule may be altered to accommodate some academic testing on the Xavier campus.


Friday, June 10, 2022

Learning basics key for young volleyball campers

 During the month of June, Xavier Prep has quite a few summer sports camps from which athletes can choose, and one of the most popular is indoor volleyball.

XCP head coach Lamar-Renee Bryant, her assistant coaches and a handful of varsity players who will be back this fall have been working in the Activity Center during the week of June 6 with seventh and eighth graders during the midday hours and incoming freshmen in midafternoon. Starting on Monday (June 13) they will begin a four-day session at midday with fifth and sixth graders.

Bryant watched the 25 future freshmen go through their paces and was pleased with their athleticism and willingness to learn the Xavier Way. She said that many will report for official tryouts, which are expected to total about 60, as the calendar moves toward September.

Part of the summer volleyball camp process is learning how to wear Xavier Gator Blue (photos by Anna Panagiotakopoulos).

About 10 of the freshmen campers also signed up for additional duties as part of the beach volleyball camp at XCP’s nearby Cavanaugh Courts. Those are held in the early mornings before the heat becomes more of a factor.

“This is a good athletic group we have here,’’ Bryant said.

She added that the players enjoy working with the varsity returnees in terms of learning what to expect at Xavier and how they might fit into the equation.

“It helps our older girls, too, to be able to share their knowledge and give advice,’’ Bryant said.

One of the key returnees will be senior Ava Larkin, a setter and right-side hitter. She said she is in her eighth year to be involved with the summer camps.

“We want to make sure these girls feel welcome,’’ Larkin said. “This will help them have a better experience. When I was younger and I was here, it was great for the older girls to have helped me.’’

A handful of returning varsity players, such as Finley Workman (13) and Olivia Lenz (4), provided assistance to Gators head coach Lamar-Renee Bryant.

Incoming freshman Mattea Saunders first joined the summer camps a year ago.

She wants to treat everyone like she was taught – “be encouraging to everyone and be a good teammate.’’

Like many fellow campers, she has played club, but feels she can benefit from the Xavier experience as well as the club.

Incoming freshman Mattea Saunders (pink) got plenty of work with serves, above, and setting for her teammates, below.

The one position she would like to focus on is libero (you can never have too many quality defensive players like that).

“We are learning a lot out here,’’ she said. “You just want to be consistent all the way around.’’

Her fellow campers undoubtedly would agree.

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Big lead evaporates, Millennium edges XCP hoops

 Whatever Xavier Prep’s basketball Gators did in the first half of their Thunderbird Summer League game against Goodyear Millennium on Wednesday night (June 8), they could not repeat in the second half.

By the time the contest was over, the 15-point Xavier lead at halftime had disappeared and Millennium put its victory stamp on the Gators 47-45, outscoring Xavier 30-13 after intermission.

Xavier slipped to 1-2 in T-Bird summer play, with three “regular season’’ games remaining – against Phoenix Sunnyslope on June 13, Peoria Sunrise Mountain on June 20 and Phoenix Pinnacle on June 21. Counting its four games in the recent Lady Extravaganza tournament, Xavier is 4-3.

Xavier hit nine 3-pointers for the game, but most were in the first half. Only one was in the second half.

Xavier coach Jennifer Gillom likes to say that offense starts with defense, which was a key for the Gators in the first half. It was if they knew what the Tigers’ every move would be and utilized great footwork and quick hands.

Not in the second half, however.

Figuring it had nothing to lose, Millennium turned up the intensity in the second half and played strong defense of its own.

Xavier appeared timid at times, unsure what to do with the ball. On defense, the Gators looked like a different team, slow to react in many instances.

Guards led the way for Xavier on offense.

Incoming junior transfer Jasmine Oliver scored 14 points, including a pair of threes. Senior Sienna Cherwinski scored 12, all on threes.

So now it is back to the drawing board, and we will see how the Gators respond to the adversity.

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Gators' coach has to mix and match in summer hoops

 These are the times that try coaches’ souls.

Particularly in basketball summer leagues. Since participation by the players is pretty much voluntary, a coach is not sure what they will get from one game to the next.

Except for one injury, Xavier Prep coach Jennifer Gillom had close to a full roster for the recent Lady Extravaganza tournament in Goodyear.

With the Gators’ attention turning to the annual Thunderbird Summer League at Thunderbird High in north Phoenix, Xavier played its first game against Glendale Deer Valley on Monday night (June 6) with more missing pieces, forcing Gillom to negotiate the mix-and-match, followed by more mix-and-match.

The noteworthy injury (Sarah Miller knee) was still there, and likely will be for quite some time. Two key guards – Sienna Cherwinski (scholastic tests) and Dom Nesland (club team action) also were absent, and forward-guard Gosi Alilonu suffered what appeared to be an ankle injury that might cost her a game or two.

Still, Xavier came very close to pulling this one out before being nipped at the wire by the Skyhawks, 44-43.

Newcomer Jasmine Olivar (transfer from Fort Thomas), sophomore holdover Lucy Sanford and JV call-up Izzy Cernliglia shared time in the backcourt. And Maureen Ulrich, normally a tough-as-nails, rebounding forward-type, occasionally assumed some of the ball-handling duties.

So the Gators move on to another game on Tuesday night (June 7) against Cave Creek Cactus Shadows at 9 o’clock. A third game in as many days will be played on Wednesday (June 8) with a 6 p.m. contest against Goodyear Millennium.

Olivar led the XCP scorers with 14 points.

The Gators trailed by 13 points early in the second half  and rallied to take a 31-29 lead on a basket by Olivar. Deer Valley then regained the lead briefly and back and forth it went,

Deer Valley then converted a handful of free throws for the decisive one-point triumph.

“We didn’t have a lot of people but we were still in the game,’’ Gillom said. “Deer Valley is one of the better teams in this league.

“We have a bunch of “scrappers.’ They play hard every minute. I like it. If you can have a moral victory at this time of year, I guess you might say we got one.’’

Monday, June 6, 2022

3 Gators in race for spring Players of the Year

 Only a few days remain before Saturday’s (June 11) annual azcentral Sports Awards gala at Arizona State’s Gammage Auditorium, and Xavier Prep has three athletes meriting strong consideration for spring sports Players of the Year.

Two senior softball players who helped Xavier capture its second straight 6A Conference state championship were named All-Arizona, allowing them to qualify for the Player of the Year honor.

They are pitcher Riley Flynn and shortstop Bridget Donahey.

Flynn finished with a 21-3 record and 215 strikeouts and hit .418 with four home runs and 22 RBIs for the Gators. She pitched a no-hitter against Phoenix Desert Vista in the state tournament, and finished her career with a 61-9 record.

Donahey hit 14 home runs with a .524 average and played solid defense throughout the season to help stabilize the Gators’ infield.

Xavier also had an honorable mention selection – sophomore infielder Lauren Putz.

And Gators coach Brad Downes was among the top candidates for Coach of the Year.

XCP’s tennis team had another strong season under coach Laurie Martin, finishing as Division I state runner-up to Scottsdale Desert Mountain.

Leading the way for the Gators through most of the spring was senior Ryan Kershner, who is an All-Arizona selection and Player of the Year candidate.

She often faced the opponent’s top singles player and then turned around to play doubles with sophomore Danielle Dyer. That combination won the state individual doubles title.

Dyer was named as an Honorable Mention, as was senior Victoria Chrostowski, and Martin was a finalist for the Coach of the Year honor.

Saturday, June 4, 2022

Gators finish 3rd in their Lady Ex hoops bracket

 Followers of Xavier Prep’s basketball team think their team will have a chance to make a run at the 6A Conference state championship this coming winter.

However, followers of Phoenix Desert Vista feel the same way about their team.

Those two teams squared off on Saturday (June 4) in the Gold Bracket of the 9th annual Lady Extravaganza tournament at Goodyer Millennium.

The teams traded baskets throughout, before Desert Vista got the upper hand with a late-game sequence that produced a 43-40 victory.

Xavier had pulled even at 39 as the running clock continued to tick, and could have taken the lead but could not convert on four straight shots. Desert Vista gained possession and took the lead for good with its free-throw shooting.

That put Xavier in the game for third place in the Gold Bracket opposite Peoria Sunrise Mountain, which was playing back-to-back after a setback to host Millennium to begin the day.

The Mustangs gave it all they had, but Xavier, with a break of an extra hour between games, salvaged the third-place designation with a 60-54 victory.

Xavier finished with a 3-1 record in this year’s Lady Ex, the same record it had in the tournament in 2021.

There were things that the Gators could have done better – all teams can say that – but coach Jennifer Gillom was pleased with her team’s play, considering that the team really had only one practice to prepare to face some of the state’s top teams.

“We would have liked to have won that (Desert Vista) game, but I am happy that things turned out the way they did,’’ Gillom said.

Junior point guard Dom Nesland scored 12 points against Desert Vista and 14 against Sunrise Mountain. Junior forward-guard Maureen “Mo’’ Ulrich combined for 18 points in both games and hit the boards aggressively all day. Senior guard Sienna Cherwinski combined for 21 points.

If there was one player who perhaps stood out more than others was sophomore guard Lucy Sanford. She has come a long way since her freshman season and her playing time is expected to increase. At 5-foot-4, she isn’t intimidated by the bigger girls, has a nice mid-range shot along with longer range, and can slip inside for rebounds. She combined for 15 points.

“Lucy is getting better and better. She was huge for us out there today,’’ Gillom said.

So it was a good place to start for the Gators. Now they turn their attention to the annual Thunderbird Summer League in north Phoenix that begins on Monday (June 6). Xavier will play three games during the week, against Glendale Deer Valley, Cave Creek Cactus Shadows and Millennium. Xavier’s junior-varsity team also will be participating.

“As we get better this summer and get ready for the season, “I think we’re going to be a force to be reckoned with,’’ Gillom said.

Friday, June 3, 2022

Xavier hoops makes strong run in tourney at new gym

 On paper, it seems like not much will change for high school basketball teams from one season to the next, with summer tournaments and leagues in between.

But in reality, there might be more to it than meets the eye.

Take Xavier Prep’s Gators, for instance. They lost just one senior to graduation from their 6A Conference semifinal team, but enter the summer stretch with a few fresh faces and one of its top players sidelined with a knee injury.

That can make for some uncertainty. So the Gators took two of the three floors at Goodyear Millennium’s new $16.5 million gymnasium complex and proceeded to emerge unscathed with a 2-0 record in the 9th annual Lady Extravaganza tournament on Friday (June 3).

Xavier defeated Mesa Westwood 62-30 in its first game of the day, and after a two-hour break rallied to overtake Tucson Salpointe Catholic, 42-36.

The Gators move on to the Gold Bracket and are due to play two more games on Saturday (June 4) at Millennium. Tournament director Marc Beasley of Monarch Sports was feverishly working on the math from Friday’s Pool games to see which teams offered the best matchups.

Games will be at 11 a.m., noon, 1 p.m. and 2 p.m.

Xavier coach Jennifer Gillom was pleased by her team’s win over Westwood, and was feeling even better after the rally over Salpointe.

The 12-team tournament features the defending state champions in 6A (Surprise Valley Vista), 5A (Millennium) and 4A (Salpointe) and the 6A runner-up (Gilbert Perry).

The rest of the field certainly is no slouch with Xavier, Peoria Sunrise Mountain, Gilbert High, Chandler Hamilton, Mesa High, Chandler Seton Catholic, Phoenix Desert Vista and Westwood.

After the win over Westwood, Gillom said, “It was a good appearance with both sides of our team (offense and defense). Our communication skills are the key. When you have those, it makes you so much better.’’

Against Salpointe, Xavier jumped to a 10-0 lead, due mainly to a pair of three-point baskets by junior-to-be Dom Nesland and another from long range by senior-to-be Sienna Cherwinski.

But you just knew that Salpointe was not going to roll over, and the Lancers didn’t.

They rallied for a two-point halftime lead (20-minute halves with a running clock, as well as the new 35-second shot clock that will be implemented this winter.

Salpointe held a 29-21 lead about halfway through the second half. Xavier made a run to tie it at 31 on a three by Nesland, but one might have wondered if the Gators used up their energy in pulling even and might not have enough to complete the deal because the Lancers came back to lead by four.

A three by Cherwinski and a three-point play off a drive by Nesland put Xavier ahead for good, 37-35, at the 2:23 mark. Salpointe was then forced to foul, and the Gators made five of the next six free throws.

Junior-to-be guard-forward Sarah Miller has been sidelined with a sore knee, meaning sophomore Lucy Sanford and junior newcomer Jasmine Olivar will pick up the slack. Olivar looks to have some decent skills and comes over from 1A Fort Thomas in central Arizona after she helped her team to a runner-up finish last season and a title during her freshman year.

Gillom also likes the potential of incoming freshman guard Arianna Showater from the Tucson area.

“The girls found a way to win this one (Salpointe). We also have a strong bench and that helps the starters play with more energy when they come back in,’’ Gillom said. “We (coaches) are proud of this team and what we did today.’’

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Basketball season never seems to end for Gators

 Basketball has become a virtual year-round sport for many schools in Arizona, including Xavier Prep’s Gators.

XCP will begin its summer journey on Friday (June 3) with its participation in the annual Lady Extravaganza Tournament, which this year will be held at the new multi-million mega gym complex at Millennium High in the west Valley community of Goodyear.

Xavier is one of 12 teams participating. The Gators begin play with two pool games in Pool C, which also includes Tucson Salpointe Catholic and Mesa Westwood. Xavier will face Westwood on Friday at 4 p.m. and Salpointe at 7 p.m.

After Friday’s play, the field will be re-evaluated and teams will be seeded into three four-team divisions. Most teams are expected to play two games on Saturday (June 4). Games are tentatively scheduled for noon, 1 and 2 p.m.

Coach Jennifer Gillom will get the chance to evaluate her roster at this early stage. The Gators lost only one senior to graduation (Toni Garcia), but the rest of the roster is expected to return.

The Gators’ top players are expected to be (2022-23 year in parentheses), guard Sarah Miller and point guard Dom Nesland (both juniors), forward-guard Maureen Ulrich and guard Sienna Cherwinski (senior).

Xavier, which reached the 6A Conference semifinals last season and finished 19-6, also will play in the annual Thunderbird High Summer League in north Phoenix. The Gators are expected to play six regular-season games there plus playoffs. Xavier will play games on June 6, 7, 8, 13, 20 and 21.

The schedule opens with Glendale Deer Valley on June 6, followed by Cave Creek Cactus Shadows (7), Millennium (8), Phoenix Sunnyslope (13), Peoria Sunrise Mountain (20) and Phoenix Pinnacle (21).

Monday, May 23, 2022

New Gator grads Richardson, Schouten shine brightly

The excellence shown by Xavier Prep students from year to year never ceases to amaze us.

Two of the school's recent graduates joined the list of top students on Sunday (May 22) in the Arizona Interscholastic Association annual Awards Gala at State Farm Stadium, home of the NFL's Arizona Cardinals.

They were Helena Richardson and Meghan Schouten.

Richardson was XCP's Commencement Speaker on May 14, and was an AIA Student of the Year finalist.

Schouten was a leader on the softball field, having helped Xavier win its second consecutive 6A Conference state championship, also on May 14, and off the field. She was the Outstanding Student for the AIA's Leadership Advisory Committee.

She has signed a letter of intent to study and play softball at Boston College.

Among the top students recognized at the AIA Awards Gala on Sunday were recent Xavier Prep graduates Helena Richardson, left, and Meghan Schouten (Xavier photo).

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Softball's Donahey is Academic All-Star of Week

 Congratulations are in order for recent Xavier Prep graduate Bridget Donahey after the star softball shortstop was named by the media outlet as the Academic All-Star of the Week dated May 19.

With a grade-point average of 4.0, Donahey makes certain that she is as intense about her academics as she is with her softball. Donahey finished the postseason at 9 of 15 with six RBIs and two home runs as the Gators won the 6A Conference state championship for the second straight season.

She will attend Northwestern just outside of Chicago beginning this fall.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Awards come pouring in for Xavier lacrosse

 After starting the season 0-3, Xavier Prep’s club lacrosse team recently wrapped up a rags to riches finish with a 9-7 record, and the Gators had several players named on the Arizona Girls Lacrosse Association’s postseason honor lists.

(Photo illustrations courtesy of Arizona Girls Lacrosse Association).

The Gators had three players on the AGLA Division II All-State team – junior attacker Keilani Hong, sophomore midfielder McKenna Boyer and senior goalkeeper Ann Obiesie.

Xavier Prep lacrosse coach Diana Oduho, right, is happy with her team's success this season, which includes postseason awards by players, from left, Ann Obiesie, Peyton Bryant, McKenna Boyer, Joan Walton, Gigi Riviere, Marlee McCloskey and Keilani Hong. (Photo courtesy of Diana Oduho).

Those three also were named to the AGLA’s Division II All-Star team, along with junior attacker Gigi Riviere, sophomore midfielder Marlee McCloskey, junior midfielder Joan Walton and junior defender Peyton Bryant.

Hong was named the D-II Attacker of the Year and Obiesie was named the D-II Goalie of the Year.

Coached by Diana Oduho, Xavier also received the Honor of the Game award for teams.

Monday, May 16, 2022

XCP track and field finishes 11th in state meet

 Xavier Prep’s track and field team finished in 11th place in the Division I state meet on Saturday (May 14) at Mesa Community College.

The Gators scored 26 ½ points and stood behind state champion Gilbert Perry (87), Chandler High (74), Queen Creek (70), Phoenix Pinnacle (54 ½), Scottsdale Chaparral (37), Phoenix Desert Vista (37), Chandler Basha (36), Chandler Hamilton (31), Tempe Corona del Sol (29) and Surprise Shadow Ridge (28).

The meet lasted three days – May 7, May 11 and Saturday. Some finals events, primarily in the field events, were held earlier in the week, while Saturday’s finals feature mainly running events.

Freshman Marley Stoller had a big day in the final day, participating in a pair of top relay finishes as well as a sixth-place finish in the 400-meter dash.

The 4x100-meter relay team was sixth in a time of 49.15. The Xavier runners were Maya Ofori, Cierra Gonzalez, Stoller and Madigan Moran.

In the 400, Stoller had a time of 58.12.

And in the 4x400-meter relay, Xavier was sixth at 4:01.04. The Xavier runners were Mackenzie Lopez, Bella Gomez, Julianne Veloria and Stoller.

Earlier in the week, the Gators’ Avery Allen was second in the pole vault and Cierra Gonzalez was fifth in the high jump and sixth in the long jump.

Congratulations to all of these fine athletes and to head coach Dave Van Sickle and his group of assistant coaches.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Gators won't be denied as they win 2nd title in a row

 Simply undeniable.

For the second straight season, Xavier Prep’s Gators proved they are the best softball team in Arizona, capturing the 6A Conference championship on Saturday night (May 14) at Arizona State’s Farrington Stadium 13-0 over Chandler Hamilton in a game that was stopped after five innings due to the “10-run rule.’’

Xavier’s 10-0 win over Mesa Red Mountain for the first title in school history in 2021 also ended early with the 10-run differential. That game was at the University of Arizona’s Hillenbrand Stadium.

Brad Downes, who also coached the 2021 Gators, said he and his assistant coaches – Deryk Sexton and Tom Sahhar – were proud of the players.

“What we did with our seniors this year and our seniors from last year put this team on the map,’’ said Downes, who was sprayed with water by a player or two.

“We’re a different team than the one last year. When we started, there were some things that were new. But we also knew that if we worked hard, this (another state title) was a strong possibility.’’

Xavier put their fingerprints all over the 6A state softball championship trophy (Photos by Don Ketchum).

This year’s seniors played a pivotal role throughout the season. They were pitcher Riley Flynn, shortstop Bridget Donahey, infielder Meghan Schouten, first baseman-pitcher Emma Petersen and outfielder Elliot Smith.

The top effort against Hamilton was turned in by Flynn. She narrowly missed throwing her second no-hitter in the tournament, but Hamilton’s Liv Losorto smashed a drive off the ground and then Flynn’s glove, and by the time Flynn recovered, the throw to first was too late.

Flynn, a four-year player, finished with a 21-3 record and 215 strikeouts to go with last season’s 16-2 record and 178 strikeouts.

This season, she also hit .418 with 22 RBIs and four home runs, and had two hits against Hamilton. The first was a bunt single in a five-run first inning and the second was a double when she led off a second straight five-run inning in the second. The ball went over the third baseman’s head and down the left-field line.

So whoever chooses the Player of the Year need look no farther than Flynn’s doorstep.

She is not worried about anything like that right now. She wants to take all the emotion in, including the support from a big gathering of vocal Xavier fans sitting behind the Gators’ third-base dugout.

“That first championship in Tucson was so fun, at least for me, but this one is very special, too,’’ Flynn said.

Asked which pitch or pitches were working for her on this night, Flynn said, “I was spinning the ball pretty well, hitting my spots.’’

Gators signify their No. 1 spot in the state.

Saturday’s win, the fourth of the season over Hamilton, capped a big day for Flynn and the seniors. They also walked down the aisle in the school’s graduation ceremony on Saturday morning in Phoenix.

“I think most of us got up early, but we’ve done a lot of that the last four years,’’ said Flynn, who received the game ball from her coaches and teammates afterward. “The ceremony was great and then we started thinking about softball again. We knew what we wanted to do, what we needed to do.’’

Xavier had 10 hits on the night and got help from seven walks and a pair of Hamilton errors.

Schouten was 2 for 3 with two RBIs and scored three runs, Petersen had two hits and drove in a run, junior second baseman Lauren Putz had a double and a pair of RBIs, and freshman catcher Riley McKeever had a hit, a pair of RBIs and drew two of the team’s seven walks. Putz and Donahey also had a pair of walks.

In the second inning, Putz fouled a pitch off a lower leg/ankle and sat on the ground briefly as Xavier athletic trainer Laurie White tended to her. After a few minutes, Putz stood up and remained in the game.

Athletic director Sr. Lynn Winsor provided well wishes to the team afterward and said how proud everyone was of the team, including a number of former XCP graduates who were on hand.

Winsor also took a phone call from Xavier President Sr. Joan Fitzgerald, and the team greeted her with loud cheers. The players also posed for numerous photos, some including the state title trophy.

Next on the Xavier agenda this summer will be the addition of new artificial turf at Petznick Field, which is home for softball, soccer and lacrosse.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Gators to meet Hamilton in final softball challenge

 Xavier Prep’s softball team knows Chandler Hamilton about as well as anyone possibly can, and vice versa, after having played three times during the season.

So, hey, let’s get to it.

The fourth chapter will unfold on Saturday night (April 14) at 8 p.m. at Arizona State’s Farrington Stadium in the 6A Conference state championship game. Fourth-seeded Xavier (23-5) won all three, by 12-0, 8-2 and 4-3 scores, the last going eight innings in the first round of the state tournament on April 30. Hamilton (23-12) is seeded No. 13.

Xavier won the first state title in the school’s history last season, over Mesa Red Mountain. Hamilton won back-to-back crowns in 2016 and 2017.

Xavier has won eight straight games, while Hamilton is 5-0 since that first-round setback to the Gators.

Xavier’s top two players are seniors, pitcher Riley Flynn and shortstop Bridget Donahey.

Flynn earned her 20th win of the season in an 8-6 semifinal win over Queen Creek on Wednesday (May 11). She also has four home runs with 25 hits and 22 RBIs.

She was named this week as the’s Sports Athlete of the Week for May 12 after her efforts in the circle during the tournament. She is graduating on Saturday and will go to Harvard starting this fall.

Donahey responded with a key hit against Queen Creek, a two-run home run that highlighted a three-run Xavier rally in the bottom of the sixth inning. She has 14 homers and 46 RBIS and 27 extra-base hits. Donahey also will graduate Saturday and will attend Northwestern.

Hamilton has two pitchers who can get the job done – senior Allison Weyandt and junior Sophia Tassinari. And sophomore infielder Kate Vance is the team’s top hitter with 16 homers and 39 RBIs.