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.

Saturday, February 26, 2022

Xavier wins Sunrise Mtn. softball tourney

 The beautiful new park in north Peoria named Paloma was a perfect way to start the 2022 softball season on Thursday (Feb. 24) through Saturday (Feb. 26).

The 16-team Sunrise Mountain Invitational brought the defending 6A champion (Xavier Prep) and the defending 5A champion (Surprise Willow Canyon) together for a pair of games.

Willow Canyon won on Friday (Feb. 25), 5-0, when junior star pitcher Marissa McCann struck out 17 Gators.

That put Xavier on a lower peg in its bracket, and it survived two early games on Saturday to reach the tournament title game opposite Willow Canyon.

This time, it was Xavier senior pitcher Riley Flynn who drew much of the attention.

She did not pitch against Willow Canyon in the Friday game, but pitched a semifinal game against Phoenix Greenway, immediately followed by the title game against Willow Canyon.

She struck out 12 against Greenway in a 13-1 win that was shortened to five innings by the 10-run rule, then went on to outduel Willow Canyon starter Kayleigh Bowers for four innings and McCann for three to help the Gators claim the tourney championship, 7-5.

Xavier coach Brad Downes was happy to join his players in hoisting the Sunrise trophy and acknowledged that the team’s main goal is to lift another piece of 6A title hardware in May.

“We had a solid game against a good team,’’ said Downes, whose team went 5-1 in the tournament. “We did a good job coming back after that (Friday) loss.’’

He estimated that Flynn threw about 150 pitches combined through both games. Working quickly in both games helped, he added.

Star senior shortstop Bridget Donahey, known for her powerful swing, came as advertised.

She had a pair of hits, including a home run, against Greenway and an RBI triple and two-run homer against Willow Canyon.

Senior pitcher-first baseman-outfielder Emma Petersen, who was the victim of the earlier loss to Willow Canyon in the pitching circle, came back to defeat Surprise Shadow Ridge 8-4 in Saturday’s first game, preserving the pitching roles for Flynn in the games that followed.

Other notable efforts on Saturday were by junior third baseman-second baseman Izzy Hycnar, sophomore third baseman-second baseman Lauren Putz, and the work behind the plate by freshman catcher Rylee McKeever, who also showed promise as a hitter.

In Saturday’s first game against Shadow Ridge, senior second baseman Meghan Schouten had to leave the game in the top of the fifth inning after taking an awkward swing at a pitch. She was on the ground for a few minutes and walked off, later holding an ice bag to her left shoulder. Her status for the coming week is uncertain.

A special home opener

Xavier’s home opener will be played on Tuesday (March 1) against Mesa Westwood at Petznick Field (first pitch at 3:45 p.m.)

There will be a ceremony honoring the late former four-year Xavier softball pitcher Kylie Rodgers, who lost her long battle with Ewing’s Sarcoma cancer on Sept. 1, 2021. She had survived an early round of the disease and helped out with the softball team as a manager, only to have the cancer return. She still managed to earn two Associates’ degrees in 2019 and had plans to attend the University of Washington.

Rodgers’ jersey will be retired and the dugout will be dedicated in her honor

“We are looking forward to it. Kylie certainly was a big part of our team,’’ Downes said.

Most of the Gators were familiar with Rodgers and what she had accomplished, and the older players had been teammates. Some also know her brother, Noah, a student at Brophy Prep.

Friday, February 25, 2022

Heart, guts, adrenalin carry soccer champ XCP

 Jayme Brown has made a living on the soccer field, particularly in recent seasons, as a defender for Xavier Prep. When she touched the ball, it was to keep it away from the opposing offense.

So the senior was understandably surprised when Gators coach Barb Chura approached her with an idea in overtime of Thursday night’s (Feb. 24) 6A Conference state championship game against Gilbert Perry at Gilbert Campo Verde.

Chura wanted to make sure all of her contingencies were covered and sensed that the contest might be decided on a penalty-kick shootout, where each team chooses five players to take a shot against the goalie, one-on-one against the goalkeeper, with the team making the most goals ruled the winner.

“She (Chura) said, ‘If we go to (penalty kicks), you’re 5 (last) kicker,’ ’’ Brown said. “I kind of said to myself, “Really?’ ’’

Yes, really.

“I said, “You’ve got a strong leg and you can do this,’ ’’ Chura said.

As you can probably tell by now, the game indeed did go to the shootout after two scoreless 40-minute halves, two scoreless 10-minute overtimes and two scoreless 5-minute sudden death overtimes.

There was an assortment of close scoring opportunities earlier in the game that did not come to fruition due to the ball striking the goal or the teams being called for offsides.

Perry kicked first. That could be good, or not so good. If you miss a kick and have one stopped, as Perry did, the pressure is on you.

Junior Bella Leonard was first up for the Gators. She was the one who kicked the last-second 50-yard goal to give XCP a win over Perry in last year’s semifinals.

Leonard scored, and senior Ansley Burns did the same. Some nifty goaltending by the Gator keeper, sophomore Kate Willmering, ninth-seeded XCP led 2-0. Perry came back with two goals to tie it before Willmering batted the fifth kick away.

It was time for Brown to make an impact.

She approached the ball, took a swing with her right leg and straight and true, the ball made it to the back of the net.

The white-clad Gators won 3-2 on kicks to earn the 12th soccer title in school history and the seventh under Chura.

Brown certainly was excited about her decisive goal.

“My little sister (Ally, a freshman on the team) and I always talked about how nice it would be for us to win a championship together,’’ Brown said. “And we were able to do it.’’

Chura said that she “is happy for our school and our fans. A lot of families came out to see us.’’

And the Gators always have relied on their resolve.

“Heart, guts and adrenalin,’’ Chura said.

One of those who had all three was Willmering. When the team convened for pre-season workouts, Chura was not sure how the goaltending would play out, particularly after the graduation of All-State player Jaden Campbell.

Campbell joined the team as a volunteer assistant and worked with the keepers.

“We told her (Willmering) that she needed to step up, did that with a few others at some point,’’ Chura said. “We did it to make them better. I think when she reached the point of her teammates believing in her, she kind of took off. She and her teammates came out and worked hard every day.’’

Perry's semifinal upset eliminates XCP hoops

 Xavier Prep’s outstanding basketball season came to a screeching halt on Thursday night (Feb. 24) as visiting Gilbert Perry pulled a 50-45 6A Conference semifinal upset of the Gators at the Activity Center.

Perry (22-9) was the No. 11 seed, Xavier (19-6) No. 2. Perry now advances to the championship game for the first time in school history and will face defending champion Surprise Valley Vista on Wednesday (March 2).

Xavier’s Gators had so much wanted to be in that game, at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, known as the Madhouse on McDowell. For Xavier, it will be the Sadhouse on McDowell, because they won’t be there.

Xavier coach Jennifer Gillom can take a bit of solace in the fact that the team will lose just one senior to graduation, with a number of talented underclassmen returning.

Perry, which had lost two Premier Region games to the Gators on back-to-back nights as the calendar flipped from January to February, played one of its best all-around games of the season, getting a 23-point effort from junior post player Khamil Pierre. Senior guard Kira Patel scored 14.

And the Pumas’ defense rose to the occasion. Xavier seemed a bit dismayed because just about every time it brought the ball across halfcourt, it seemed to be double-teamed.

The game remained close throughout, although Perry expanded its lead in the fourth quarter. Xavier cut the lead to two, but could not pull ahead.

Sophomores Sarah Miller and Dom Nesland scored 17 and 12 points, respectively, to lead the Gators. Junior Sienna Cherwinski had 6, sophomore Maureen Ulrich and junior Gabby Trbovic had 4 each and senior Toni Garcia had 2.




Tennis, track & field, lacrosse set for '22 season

 Xavier Prep has always had a great tennis program. Now the Gators have a beautiful, remodeled facility to go with it at the Stark Tennis Center.

The team’s debut was to be on Wednesday (Feb. 23), but rain washed out the match against Phoenix Pinnacle. That will be moved to March 30, and now XCP is due to get its feet wet in the new facility on Tuesday (March 1) against Phoenix Desert Vista.

Also joining the tennis team in starting new spring season will be track and field and lacrosse (club).

Tennis is coming off a season in which the team was 14-3 and was the No. 3 seed in the Division I state tournament. The Gators fell to Chandler Hamilton in the semifinals.

Injuries led to Coach Laurie Martin having to mix and match with her lineup during the season, and it created a doubles team of a couple of freshmen who developed into a team that reached the state finals.

Belani Soto and Dani Dyer, now sophomores, fell in the state title match but served notice they will be competitive if Martin should call on them again this spring.

Among singles players are senior Ryan Kershner, who has signed a letter of intent with Boise State, sophomore Megan Wheeling and junior Sophia Kleingartner.

Track and field comes in with a number of good athletes for coach Dave Van Sickle, including numerous underclassmen.

The Gators will feature their usual group of quality distance runners (the team finished fourth in the state last fall) and are working to supplement with some possible point-producers in other events, including relays. So there is no time like the present to get moving on that goal.

Among the top distance runners are senior Tatum Goforth, senior Catherine Alaimo, senior Ellie Higgins, junior Emily Manuelito, junior Grace McClelland, senior Hannah Wheeling, and senior Macarthy Mahoney.

Goforth finished eighth among the cross country top finishers at state and the team had four others finish in the top 50.

Xavier is due to begin its season on Tuesday (March 1) with a dual meet against Gilbert Perry at the Brophy Sports Complex.

The lacrosse team finished as state runner-up to champion Higley High in the Arizona Girls’ Lacrosse Association’s Division 2 state championship game. Xavier finished the season at 9-7.

With a strong-looking roster coming back, it’s no wonder co-head coach Diana Oduhlo (with Jen Nevatt) said the coaches were “excited for the future’’ at the close of last season.

The Gators are led by junior Keilani Hong, who has been placed on the 2023 All-America Players to Watch List. Hong was named the Division 2 Attacker of the Year Last season.

She scored two games in the title match, and fellow junior Gigi Riviere had five in that contest.

Other players to watch are senior goalie Ann Obiese, junior Joan Walton, sophomore Marlee McCloskey and sophomore McKenna Boyer.

Lacrosse will open its season on the road on Tuesday against Phoenix Horizon at North Phoenix Prep.


(listed alphabetically)

McKenna Boyer, So.; Peyton Bryant, Jr.; Jenna Burch, Jr.; Gabby Celtruda, Sr.; Mattie Cork, Jr.; Bella Falcon, Jr.; Keilani Hong, Jr.; Ashley Mansour, So.; Marlee McCloskey, So.; Isabelle Nicoluzakis, Fr.; Hope Nolan, Sr.; Ann Obiese, Sr.; Gigi Riviere, Jr.; Francesca Rizzi, So.; Regan Simmons, Jr.; Payton Stewart, So.; Joan Walton, Jr.


(Subject to change)


(Arizona Girls Lacrosse Association)

Tue. 3/1 – Phoenix Horizon @ N. Phoenix Prep, 7 p.m.

Mon,3/7 – Chandler High @ XCP, 7 p.m.

Mon. 3/14 – Cave Creek Cactus Shadows @ XCP, 7 p.m.

Wed. 3/16 – Phoenix Desert Vista @ XCP, 7 p.m.

Fri. 3/18 -- @ Tempe Corona del Sol, 7 p.m.

Mon. 3/21 – Phoenix Horizon @ XCP, 7 p.m.

Thu. 3/24 -- @ Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep, 7 p.m.

Mon. 3/28 – Oro Valley Club @ XCP, 7 p.m.

Thu. 3/31 – Scottsdale Chaparral (D-2) @ XCP, 7 p.m.

Fri. 4/1 -- @ Tucson Salpointe, 7 p.m.

Tue. 4/5 – Tempe Corona del Sol @ XCP, 7 p.m.

Tue. 4/12 -- @ Cave Creek Cactus Shadows, 7 p.m.

Mon. 4/25 -- @ Scottsdale Chaparral (D-2), 6:45 p.m.

Wed. 4/27 – Tucson Salpointe @ XCP, 7 p.m.

Fri. 4/29 – Oro Valley Club @ Naranja Park, 7 p.m.


(listed alphabetically)

Julia Chrostowski, Fr.; Dani Dyer, So.; Lily Gabler, Sr.; Ryan Kershner, Sr.; Sophia Kleingartner, Jr.; Laura Shennib, Fr.; Belani Soto, So.; Kristina Stender, So.; Nyla Vranic, Jr.; Megan Wheeling, So.


(Subject to change)

Wed. 2/23 – Phoenix Pinnacle @ XCP, 3:30 p.m. (ppd rain, moved to March 30).

Tue. 3/1 – Phoenix Desert Vista @ XCP, 3:30 p.m.

Thu. 3/3 -- @ Scottsdale Desert Mountain, 3:30 p.m.

Tue. 3/8 -- @ Chandler High, 3:30 p.m.

Thu. 3/10 -- @ Gilbert Perry, 3:30 p.m.

Tue. 3/15 – Scottsdale Chaparral @ XCP, 3:30 p.m.

Wed. 3/16 – Phoenix Mountain Pointe @ XCP, 3:30 p.m.

Tue. 3/22 -- @ Glendale Ironwood, 3:30 p.m.

Wed. 3/23 -- @ Tempe Corona del Sol, 3:30 p.m.

Thu. 3/24 – Phoenix Sunnyslope @ XCP, 3:30 p.m.

Tue. 4/29 -- @ Chandler Basha, 3:30 p.m.

Sat. 5/2 – Tiger Quad tourney @ Goodyer Millennium, Noon.

Thu. 5/7 – Queen Creek Casteel @ Gilbert Regional Park, 3:30 p.m.

Tue. 5/12 – Chandler Hamilton @ XCP, 3:30 p.m.


(listed alphabetically)

Vivian Amoia, Fr.; Sarao Arleveld, Jr.; Sofia Asher, Sr.; Reese Brown, Jr.; Olivia Charles, Jr.; Sophia Corona, Jr.; Mia Feix, Jr.; Morgan Finch, Jr.; Susie Findlay, So.; Tatum Goforth, Sr.; Summer Goodman, So.; Mary Hill, So.; Nora Hinkle, Jr.; Zoe Lopez, So.; Sophia Maroufkani, So.; Riley Meza, So.; Maya Nagaraj, So.; Maya Ofori, So.; Sejal Patel, So.; Samantha Patton, Jr.; Mia Portillo, Sr.; Sofia Singh, So.; Marley Stoller, Fr.; Riley Ward, Jr.; Naomi Young, Jr.


(Subject to change)

Wed. 3/2 – Gilbert Perry @ Brophy Sports Complex, 4 p.m.

Sat. 3/5 – Aztec Invitational @ Tempe Corona del Sol, 10 a.m.

Wed. 3/16 – Phoenix Mountain Pointe @ Brophy, 4 p.m.

Fri. 3/18 – Brophy AMDG Invitational @ Brophy, 2 p.m.

Fri. 3/25 – Red Mountain Rampage @ Mesa Red Mountain, 10 a.m.

Sat. 3/26 – Chandler Rotary Invitational @ Chandler High, 9:15 a.m.

Fri. 4/1 – Ron Smith Classic @ Phoenix Shadow Mountain, 9 a.m.

                 Becky Matthews Invitational (Fr./Soph.) @ Phoenix Desert Vista, 11 a.m.

Wed. 4/6 – Phoenix North Canyon @ Brophy, 4 p.m.

Fri. 4/8 – Arcadia (CA) Invitational Day #1, 4:30 p.m.

                 Scottsdale Distance Classic @ Scottsdale Saguaro, 6 p.m.

Sat. 4/9 – Arcadia (CA) Invitational Day #2, 10 a.m.

Wed. 4/13 – Fr. Olivier Multis (Fr./Soph.) @ Brophy, 3:15 p.m.

Thu. 4/14 – Fr. Olivier Multis @ Brophy, 1:30 p.m.

Mon. 4/25 – NE Valley Region #1 @ Phoenix Horizon, 4 p.m.

Wed. 4/27 – NE Valley Region #2 @ Phoenix Horizon, 4 p.m.

Fri. 4/29 – NE Valley Region #3 @ Phoenix Horizon, 5 p.m.

Sat. 5/7 – State Meet #1 @ Mesa CC, 4:30 p.m.

Wed. 5/11 – State Meet #2 @ Mesa CC, 3:45 p.m.

Sat. 5/14 – State Meet #3 @ Mesa CC, 1:45 p.m.



Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Beach, softball still traveling the title road?

 The spring of 2021 was one of the most memorable times in Xavier Prep’s sports history, with softball putting its first title on the XCP board and beach volleyball winning it all for the eighth time in nine tries.

So will there be repeat performances by the Gators in 2022? We will find out before long. Beach was to have begun its season on Wednesday (Feb. 23) against Oro Valley (Tucson) Ironwood Ridge, but the match was postponed due to rain.

The same might be true for softball, which is entered in the annual Sunrise Mountain Invitational in Peoria, with games on Thursday (Feb. 24), Friday (Feb. 25) and Saturday (Feb. 26) at the new Paloma Park in north Peoria, near the intersection of Dixileta Dr. and the Loop 303.

Beach volleyball finished 16-0 last season with a win over Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor in the title match and has quite a few players returning, along with some who have excelled for the Gators’ indoor volleyball team.

One of the top returnees is junior Summer McCann, who also teamed with now-graduated Serena Turner to claim the 6A pairs championship. Other returnees of note are sophomore Finley Workman, senior Katie Anthony, senior Landree Coats, and junior Maddie MacDonald.

Players coming aboard from indoor are expected o include senior Alexa Shiner, senior Emma Soderstrom, freshman Olivia Lenz and senior Tiffany Tellez.

Tim McHale is back for another season as the head coach, with assistants Kelly Ross, Rachel McDonald and volunteer assistant Cierra Flood .

Softball had a monumental 19-2 season that was punctuated by a 10-0, 5-inning victory over Mesa Red Mountain in the title game at the University of Arizona’s Hillenbrand Stadium in Tucson.

The Gators feature two of the state’s top players in senior pitcher Riley Flynn and senior shortstop Bridget Donahey.

The team lost star catcher Macy Lee, who ripped a grand slam in the title game, to graduation. She is a freshman at Michigan State.

Plenty of big bats return, however, with Donahey, senior second baseman Meghan Schouten and a hit-to-all-fields leadoff hitter in sophomore Lauren Putz. Additional key contributors are expected to be senior outfielder-catcher Elliot Smith and senior outfielder Emma Petersen.

The Gators’ head coach is Brad Downes, with Deryk Sexton and Tom Sahhar serving as assistants.


(listed alphabetically)

Katie Anthony, Sr.; Landree Coats, Sr.; Salma De Los Reyes, So.; Ella Dickson, So.; Abby Gliss, So.; Dina Gorman, Jr.; Jaina Kaiser, Fr.; Olivia Lenz, Fr.; Lauren Lopez, Fr.; Maddie MacDonald, Jr.; Holly Matchinsky, Fr.; Summer McCann, Jr.; Mei Morales-Tsou, Jr.; Noelle Peterson, Jr.; Kaelyn Putz, So.; Paulina Ramirez, Jr.; Samantha Riggle, Fr.; Alexa Shiner, Sr.; Emma Soderstrom, Sr.; Tiffany Tellez, Sr.; Trinity Tran, So.;Angela Valentine, Jr.; Lauren Vanderwey, Jr.; Finley Workman, So.


(Subject to change)

Wed. 2/23 – Oro Valley Ironwood Ridge @ XCP, 4 p.m., ppd., rain.

Mon. 2/28 – Phoenix Sunnyslope @ XCP, 4 p.m.

Wed. 3/2 – Mesa High @ XCP, 4 p.m.

Wed. 3/9 -- @ Queen Creek Casteel, 4 p.m.

Fri. 3/11 -- @ Buckeye Verrado, 4 p.m.

Mon. 3/14 -- @Mesa Westwood, 4 p.m.

Wed. 3/16 – Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor @ Victory Lane Complex, Glendale, 4 p.m.

Mon. 3/21 – Phoenix Desert Vista @ XCP, 4 p.m.

Mon. 3/28 – Chandler Hamilton @ XCP, 4 p.m.

Fri. 4/1 – Gilbert Perry @ XCP, 4 p.m.

Wed. 4/6 – vs. Chandler Basha @ Queen Creek Casteel, 4 p.m.

Tue. 4/12 – vs. Chandler High @ Queen Creek Casteel, 4 p.m.


(listed alphabetically)

Bridget Donahey, Sr.; Nayeli Felix, So.; Riley Flynn, Sr.; Izzy Hycnar, Jr.; Grace Lobocki, Jr.; Rylee Matthews, Fr.; Riley McKeever, Fr.; Norah O’Donnell, Jr.; Emma Petersen, Sr.; Lauren Putz, So.; Rubi Roman, Jr.; Meghan Schouten, Sr.; Elliot Smith, Sr.; Avery Stayer, So.; Tabitha Von Kolen, So.



(Subject to change)

Thu.  2/24 – Sunrise Mtn. tournament vs. Phoenix Paradise Valley, 6 p.m., Paloma Park, Peoria.

Fri. 2/25 – Sunrise Mtn. tournament vs. Peoria Centennial, 10 a.m., vs. Surprise Willow Canyon, noon, Paloma Park, Peoria.

Sat. 2/26 – Sunrise Mtn. tournament bracket play @ 10 a.m., noon & 2 p.m., Paloma Park, Peoria.

Tue. 3/1 – Mesa Westwood @ XCP, 3:45 p.m.

Wed. 3/2 -- @ Phoenix Mountain Pointe, 3:45 p.m.

Tue. 3/8 -- @ Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor, 3:45 p.m.

Thu. 3/10 – Phoenix Pinnacle @ XCP, 3:45 p.m.

Tue. 3/15 – Phoenix Alhambra @ XCP, 3:45 p.m.

Fri. 3/18 -- @ Scottsdale Chaparral, 3:45 p.m.

Tue. 3/22 -- @ Chandler Basha, 3:45 p.m.

Fri. 3/25 -- @ Phoenix Desert Vista, 3:45 p.m.

Tue. 3/29 – Gilbert Perry @ XCP, 3:45 p.m.

Fri. 4/1 – Mesa Red Mountain @ XCP, 3:45 p.m.

Mon. 4/4 -- @ Chandler Hamilton, 3:45 p.m.

Thu. 4/7 – Chandler Basha @ XCP, 3:45 p.m.

Fri. 4/8 -- @ Chandler High, 3:45 p.m.

Tue. 4/12 -- @ Tucson High, 3:45 p.m.

Tue. 4/19 – Chandler High @ XCP, 3:45 p.m.

Wed. 4/20 -- @ Gilbert Perry, 3:45 p.m.

Thu. 4/21 – Phoenix Sunnyslope @ XCP, 3:45 p.m.

Mon. 4/25 – Chandler Hamilton @ XCP, 3:45 p.m.

Weather delays beach, tennis season openers

 The beach volleyball and tennis teams from Xavier Prep will have to wait to play another day after their season-opening competitions were washed out by rain on Wednesday (Feb. 23).

Defending state beach champion XCP was set to play Oro Valley Ironwood Ridge from the Tucson area, but will have the event rescheduled.

Tennis was due to have an enjoyable experience at the “new’’ Stark Tennis Center after the facility was remodeled during the offseason, but likewise will have to see what can be decided in terms of another date.

Gators gather themselves, pin loss on Pinnacle

 If there ever was a time when Xavier Prep basketball coach Jennifer Gillom wanted her players to listen to her, this was it.

During the second-seeded Gators’ 6A Conference quarterfinal game against visiting No. 10 Phoenix Pinnacle on Tuesday night (Feb. 22), she implored the team’s defensive players with shouts of, “Hands up! Ball! Ball!’’

Xavier had been struggling a bit, and she wanted the defense to come to the rescue, as it had done so many times before.

The Gators complied, and the team managed to hold on for a 52-39 victory to earn a spot in Thursday night’s (Feb. 24) semifinals.

Xavier (19-5) will return to the Activity Center for a game against No. 11 Gilbert Perry (22-9) at 7:30 p.m. The game has been pushed back by 30 minutes from a normal starting time of 7 p.m., in part to allow fans attending the state soccer championship game between Xavier and Perry at Gilbert Campo Verde to attend both soccer and basketball, if so desired. The soccer game will begin at 4:45 p.m. after being moved from Wednesday (Feb. 23).

As Premier Region rivals, Xavier played Perry twice in basketball during the regular season, in the case of this season on back-to-back nights on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1. Xavier won both.

Gillom was hoping that the semi will not be a repeat of the game against Pinnacle.

Of the defensive lapse, she said, “I shouldn’t have to tell them. They should know.’’

The victory, she added, “Isn’t something we should settle for. We need to be better.’’

Sophomores Sarah Miller and Dominique Nesland led the team with 22 and 12 points, respectively, and another soph, Maureen Ulrich, had six points, 10 rebounds and a pair of blocked shots.

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Soccer championship game moved to Thursday

 In order to avoid any last-minute changes in regard to a time change, the Arizona Interscholastic Association took a pre-emptive strike over the weekend to combat what is expected to be a significant winter storm on Wednesday (Feb. 23).

The 6A Conference state championship soccer game between Xavier Prep and Gilbert Perry has been moved to Thursday (Feb. 24) at Gilbert Campo Verde. Start time is 4:45 p.m. The original game time was to have been 5 p.m. on Wednesday.

Saturday, February 19, 2022

In soccer semis, XCP shows it's better than good

 There are good soccer teams, and there are the ones who raise their play to another level, especially when it counts the most.

Put Xavier Prep’s Gators in the latter category.

They rode another strong all-around performance to the brink of winning their second straight 6A Conference state championship with a 3-0 victory over Peoria Liberty in a semifinal match on Saturday (Feb. 19) at Gilbert Campo Verde.

By now, everyone knows that Xavier’s No. 9 seeding was slightly askew. They had to “qualify’’ for the state tournament with a “play-in’’ victory over Tolleson High, then defeated No. 8 Queen Creek, stunned top-ranked Scottsdale Chaparral and took care of No. 4 Liberty to earn another big chance at the big dance.

Xavier (11-3-2) will play third-seeded Gilbert Perry (11-1-1) for the title on Wednesday (Feb. 23) at Campo Verde, with a 5 p.m. start. Perry advanced with a 2-1 win over No. 2 Phoenix Desert Vista.

Xavier tied Perry 3-3 on Jan. 25, and Perry will be seeking to avenge a 1-0 loss to Xavier in last year’s semifinals on a high-arching 40-yard goal by Bella Leonard on the game’s final play. The miracle video was shown across the country on ESPN as part of the network’s top 10 plays of the day.

In Xavier’s Saturday semi, XCP took a 1-0 lead just 2:45 into the game on a goal by Leonard, now a junior. Then the Gators turned up the heat on their pressure defense.

Liberty rarely got close enough to even try a shot.

There was a corner kick and two throw-ins with about 13 minutes left in the first half.

With two minutes to go before the break, a Xavier defender knocked away a Liberty shot in front of the goal when Xavier keeper Kate Willmering was a bit out of place, and Willmering was back to stop another shot shortly thereafter.

Willmering, a sophomore, figured prominently in all of Xavier’s tournament shutouts, and on Saturday got help from junior Sarah Castlen, who worked the final two minutes.

Xavier continued to search for a two-goal cushion, and almost got it with 26 minutes left in the contest. Leonard set up junior Larkin Thomason with a beautiful pass, but the shot was just off and hit the goalpost.

Leonard tallied an assist on a goal by sophomore Madison Schenk with 23:27 left for the two-goal lead, and Thomason put the game on ice with a goal with 9:33 remaining.

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Time helps Gators solve soccer mystery

 There always seems to be a sense of mystery about state tournament games, and Wednesday night’s (Feb. 16) girls soccer quarterfinal had plenty of it as Xavier Prep and Scottsdale Chaparral staged a rematch of last year’s 6A Conference state championship contest won by Xavier.

At halftime, the clock at Chaparral’s football stadium decided to quit working. So the lead official had to keep time on the field.

Ninth-seeded Xavier Prep had a 1-0 lead at the break, thanks to junior Bella Leonard’s goal on a free kick with 13:21 left in the first half.

So the Gators and top-seeded Chaparral, who played to a 1-1 tie in the second game of the regular season, dove into the second half with blinders on.

How much time is left?

How about . . . now?

And so on, and so on. Nobody knew for sure.

Chaparral tried to press the issue, looking for any kind of break that would allow it to pull even. The Firebirds were more desperate as the night wore on.

The moment of truth had arrived.

The official, wearing an aqua blue shirt, raised his arm and blew his whistle.

It was over.

Xavier (10-3-2) had managed to hang on for a 1-0 victory to earn a spot in Saturday’s (Feb. 19) noon semifinal against fourth-seeded Peoria Liberty (17-5) at Gilbert Campo Verde. No. 2 seed Phoenix Desert Vista (15-2-1) will meet No. 3 Gilbert Perry (13-3-1)in the other semi at 2 p.m.

Chaparral’s Firebirds, meanwhile, finished at 14-5-2 and were not happy campers when they headed for the parking lot. They were hit with a yellow card for objecting to a few calls during the game and a red card was raised in their direction at the conclusion of the contest.

Xavier coach Barb Chura said her team executed a good game plan that put a premium on defense, particularly sophomore goalkeeper Kate Willmering, who made several saves at opportune moments.

“She played the game of her life,’’ Chura said. “She is young, but she has improved just about every time out there.’’

“I couldn’t be happier for our players. Everybody played as hard as they could. We have a lot of youth, and they are sohhhh good.’’

Basketball rolls to first-round victory

 Xavier Prep’s basketball team took a successful first step in the 6A Conference state tournament on Wednesday night (Feb. 16) with a 68-35 victory at home over Premier Region rival Chandler High.

Second-seeded Xavier (18-5), which had defeated No. 15 Chandler on two previous occasions this season, will move on to a quarterfinal game on Feb. 22, this one also at home in the Activity Center.

The opponent will be No. 10 Phoenix Pinnacle (22-8), which defeated No. 7 Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor 55-36 on Wednesday night at O’Connor. Xavier faced Pinnacle during the regular season on Dec. 9 and came away with a 76-46 victory.

Xavier had three players score in double figures against Chandler – all sophomores. Sarah Miller led the way with 25 points, Dom Nesland had 16 and Maureen Ulrich had 12. Nesland and Ulrich also had six steals each as Xavier totaled 23 on the night.

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

MaxPreps gives nod to XCP softball for 2022 season

 Winning a state championship has brought attention on a national scale to Xavier Prep’s softball program.

The Gators have been selected as Arizona’s top team by the MaxPreps Web site entering the 2022 season.

The publication also gave shouts out to senior pitcher Riley Flynn and shortstop Bridget Donahey.

Xavier opens its season on March 24 and 25 in the Sunrise Mountain Invitational, taking place at the new Paloma Park, located on Lake Pleasant Parkway and Dixileta Drive just south of the Loop 303.

Xavier’s first home game at Petznick Field will be held March 1 against Mesa Westwood.

Sunday, February 13, 2022

XCP perseveres, leaves Queen Creek in its own dust

 Ansley Burns has played soccer for a long time. The Xavier Prep senior has played all over the field, at just about all positions. She can kick and control the ball with either foot. When she touches the ball, she can get a good sense about where it is going to go.

In the first half of Xavier’s first-round 6A Conference state tournament game at Queen Creek on Saturday (Feb. 12), playing mainly on the side, she set up her teammates with good passes.

The ball did not find the back of the net, although on a few occasions it appeared to, but no goal was awarded.

At halftime, Xavier coach Barb Chura kept encouraging her players, telling them somehow, somewhere, they would find more opportunities. You know, just wait for it.

Then, on a dust bowl field full of potholes, the sun, thinking it was midsummer, continued to beat down on players and fans alike, the opportunity indeed did present itself.

At first, Burns did not realize that she would be the focal point. The Queen Creek defense did not, either.

Ansley Burns (Xavier photo).

Xavier moved the ball down the left side of the field and sent the ball across to the right side, where Burns was stationed. She received a pass and sent the ball all the way back to the left, with the ball heading toward the corner of the goal. Taylor Prigge, Queen Creek’s star senior goalkeeper who is headed for the University of Utah, could not get over in time and the ball had just enough room to get past her.

Bingo. Xavier, 1-0. With 13:10 left in the contest, it was now up to the ninth-seeded Gators to finish this thing off with good defense that would keep the ball away from the No. 8 Bulldogs for as long as possible. They did it!

Xavier soccer players spill onto the field after the team's 1-0 first-round victory at Queen Creek on Saturday. (Photo by Sr. Lynn Winsor).

As the last few seconds clicked away to zero, Xavier players on the sideline jumped with excitement and swarmed the field. Next stop: quarterfinals at top-ranked Scottsdale Chaparral on Wednesday night (Feb. 16).

“All along, we kept talking about finding the next pass (find the teammate in the best position to move the ball forward),’’ Burns said. “That’s what I was trying to do. Then I thought I might have a chance by sending it back across (the front of the goal).’’

She barely saw the ball reach its intended destination.

After the physical game that had both sides hitting the dirt (there was no turf to speak of), Burns said, almost sheepishly, “Well, I fell down. I was able to look over and see the ball go in.’’

Chura was pleased with the way her team played, “particularly with all of the physicality.’’

Another big factor for the Gators was the defense, led by freshman Ally Brown, who was assigned to cover Queen Creek’s top offensive player, Raegan Richardson, and kept her off the board.

So now it is on to Chaparral for a rematch of last season’s state title match won by Xavier, 2-0. The teams also played in the second game of the 2021-22 season, battling to a 1-1 tie. Xavier is 9-3-2, Chaparral 14-3-2.

6A Conference first-round scores

Saturday, Feb. 12

Scottsdale Chaparral 4, Maricopa High 0; Xavier Prep 1, Queen Creek 0; Phoenix Pinnacle 1, Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor 0; Peoria 3, Mesa Desert Ridge 1; Gilbert Perry 4, Anthem Boulder Creek 0; Chandler Hamilton 2, Gilbert Highland 1; Mesa Red Mountain 3, Tempe Corona del Sol 2 (OT); Phoenix Desert Vista 2, Chandler Basha 1.

Quarterfinal schedule

Wednesday, Feb. 16

All games, 6 p.m.

(Seedings in parentheses)

Xavier Prep (9) at Scottsdale Chaparral (1), Phoenix Pinnacle (5) at Peoria Liberty (4), Chandler Hamilton (6) at Gilbert Perry (3), Mesa Red Mountain (10) at Phoenix Desert Vista (2).

Saturday, February 12, 2022

Gators to play "old friend" Chandler in hoops opener

 The 6A Conference state basketball tournament has been set, and Xavier Prep finds itself in a very good spot.

The Gators are the No. 2 seed in the tournament, and that means they would have three straight home games leading up to the 6A finals, which will be held at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix.

Xavier will open play on Wednesday (Feb. 16) at the Activity Center, and the opponent will be very familiar.

That would be No. 15 seed Chandler High, which like Xavier is a member of the 6A Premier Region. Xavier won both meetings during the regular season, 92-22 on Jan. 11 at Xavier and 60-35 on Jan. 27 at Chandler.

Xavier went on to finish 8-0 in region play and enters the tournament with a 17-5 overall record under head coach Jennifer Gillom. Chandler, which defeated Surprise Shadow Ridge 55-44 in a “play-in’’ game on Thursday night (Feb. 10), is 15-11.

The winner of the Xavier-Chandler contest will move on to the quarterfinals on Feb. 22.

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Xavier coasts in "play-in,'' will face Queen Creek

 Xavier Prep’s Gators will play in the 6A Conference state tournament after an 8-0 victory over Tolleson High in a play-in qualifying game at Petznick Field on Wednesday night (Feb. 9).

The Gators (8-3-2) are seeded ninth and from here on out are expected to play on the road with a first-round game at No. 8 Queen Creek (9-2-1) at 3 p.m. on Saturday (Feb 12).

The last time the two programs met was nearly 10 years ago, on Dec. 4, 2012, when Xavier earned a 4-0 win over the Bulldogs in an early season tournament.

Now, the stakes are much higher – such as a trip to the quarterfinals, likely against No. 1 seed Scottsdale Chaparral, which opens tournament play on Saturday against No. 16 Maricopa High.

Xavier, the defending champion, earned that designation with a 2-0 win over Chaparral in last year’s title game. The two teams met again at Chaparral in the second game of the season this year, where they battled to a 1-1 tie.

The Xavier-Tolleson contest was shortened by 20 minutes to 60 with the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s new “Mercy Rule’’ in effect. Under that rule, the game ends when a team is in front by eight or more goals.

Sophomore Lucy Brink led a balanced scoring effort against Tolleson with a pair of goals.

Other Gators to light up the scoreboard were junior Bella Leonard, senior Hennessy Perez, junior Larkin Thomason, junior Savannah Angell, senior Keila Lopez and sophomore Madison Schenk.

Sophomore Kate Willmering and junior Sarah Castlen split goalkeeping duties to gain some valuable experience heading into state.

6A Conference state tournament

First round schedule, Saturday, Feb. 12

(Seedings in parentheses)

Maricopa High (16) at Scottsdale Chaparral (1), Xavier Prep (9) at Queen Creek (8), Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor (12) at Phoenix Pinnacle (5), Mesa Desert Ridge (13) at Peoria Liberty (4), Anthem Boulder Creek (14) at Gilbert Perry (3), Gilbert Highland (11) at Chandler Hamilton (6), Mesa Red Mountain (10) at Tempe Corona del Sol (7), Chandler Basha (15) at Phoenix Desert Vista (2).

Play-in results

Wednesday, Feb. 9

Xavier Prep 8, Tolleson High 0; Chandler Basha 5, Phoenix Sunnyslope 0; Anthem Boulder Creek 1, Surprise Shadow Ridge 0; Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor 7, Tucson Rincon/University 1; Gilbert Highland 5, Phoenix Maryvale 0; Mesa Desert Ridge 6, Yuma Kofa 0; Maricopa High 2, Tucson High 1; Mesa Red Mountain 5, Chandler High 0.




Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Gators perfect 8-0 in region, 17-5 overall

 Xavier Prep’s basketball team found a great way to end the regular season on Tuesday night (Feb. 8).

The Gators polished off host Chandler Hamilton 59-46 to finish with a perfect 8-0 record in the 6A Conference Premier Region and 17-5 overall mark, signaling that they should be a major factor when the state tournament begins on Feb. 16.

Xavier has been running at No. 2 behind defending state champion Surprise Valley Vista in the Arizona Interscholastsic Association power points list for quite some time. The final seedings are expected to be released later this week, after the eight “play-in’’ games on Thursday night (Feb. 10).

The top eight seeds will play home games in the first round and possibly beyond.

Against Hamilton, Xavier set the tone early, building a 15-4 lead at the end of the first quarter. The run was sparked by a pressing defense and an emphasis on cutting with crisp passing at the offensive end.

Xavier led 30-14 at the half, punctuated by junior Sienna Cherwinski’s 3-point basket just before the buzzer. Cherwinski also had another 3-pointer and finished with 10 points.

The margin grew to 22 points entering the fourth quarter, but Hamilton came back in the last period to make the score somewhat respectable.

Sophomore Ella Malee was the driving force behind the Huskies’ comeback attempt. She finished with 16 points, including four 3-pointers, three of those in the fourth quarter, Hamilton was unable to oare its deficit to single digits as the clock did not cooperate.

Sophpmore Sarah Miller led the Gators with 23 points. Senior forward Toni Garcia had one of her best games with nine points and four rebounds.

AIA 6A Conference girls’ basketball “play-in’’games

Thursday, Feb. 10

Seedings in parentheses

Tempe Corona del Sol (24) at Mesa High (9), Phoenix Sunnyslope (17) at Mesa Mountain View (16), Surprise Shadow Ridge (18) at Chandler High (15), Glendale Copper Canyon (21) at Glendale Mountain Ridge (12), Gilbert Highland (22) at Gilbert Perry (11), Tucson Rincon (20) at Tucson High (13), Anthem Boulder Creek (19) at Laveen Cesar Chavez (14), Chandler Basha (23) at Phoenix Pinnacle (10).




Tuesday, February 8, 2022

XCP soccer falls in finale, now it's on to "play-in'

 Xavier Prep’s soccer team is eager to play in the 6A Conference state tournament and defend its state title from a year ago, but the Gators will have to take care of some extra business to get there.

After dropping a 2-1 decision to host Chandler Hamilton in the regular-season finale on Monday night (Feb. 7), Xavier is forced to be in a “play-in’’ game on Wednesday (Feb. 9).

A win over Hamilton most certainly would have allowed XCP to skip the play-in phase, which is a perk of a top-eight finish, but now the Gators (7-3-2) are No. 9 and will play host to No. 24 Tolleson High (6-4-2) at 6 p.m. on Wednesday at Petznick Field. The winner will advance to the first round of state on Saturday (Feb. 12), which will be an afternoon contest (Time and opponent TBA).

Long-time Xavier coach Barb Chura has waded through the intricacies of how the tournament setup goes (power rankings decided on record and strength of schedule), but at the same time is a bit perplexed as to how the Gators have reached this point.

Xavier’s three losses all have been by 2-1 scores against top eight teams, and its ties also were against top eight teams (3-3 and 1-1 scores).

“You would think it might be a little better (in the rankings) based on our schedule, but this is what we are faced with,’’ she said after the setback to Hamilton and not knowing her fate at the time. “So it’s now the time of the season when anything can happen.’’

Of the Gators’ effort against Premier Region rival Hamilton, Chura said, “I thought we played really well. I was happy with the performance but disappointed with the result. We had, how many chances? We had a lot.’’

After a scoreless first half, Hamilton struck first in the second half, after only 1:08 had elapsed, for a 1-0 lead. With 29:10 left, junior Bella Leonard sent a shot from the far right side that crossed in front of the Hamilton goalkeeper and slipped inside the net on the left side to make it 1-1. Chura raised her fist in celebration.

With 15:53 left in the contest Hamilton came up what proved to be the game-winner after a scramble in front of the Xavier goal.

AIA 6A Conference play-in games

(Seedings in parentheses)

Wednesday, Feb. 9

Tolleson High (24) at Xavier Prep (9), Phoenix Sunnyslope (17) at Chandler Basha (16), Surprise Shadow Ridge (18) at Anthem Boulder Creek (15), Tucson Rincon (21) at Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor (12), Phoenix Maryvale (22) at Gilbert Highland (11), Yuma Kofa (20) at Mesa Desert Ridge (13), Maricopa High (19) at Tucson High (14), Chandler High (23) at Mesa Red Mountain (10).



Sunday, February 6, 2022

Super soph Miller is azcentral Athlete of the Week

 Xavier Prep sophomore basketball player Sarah Miller has been named as the azcentral Sports Awards Girls Athlete of the Week for Feb. 3.

Miller, who plays guard and forward, helped the Gators defeat 6A Premier Region rival Gilbert Perry on back-to-back nights. Xavier also had two other victories in the last week to go 4-0.

Miller scored 11 points in a win at Perry on Monday (Jan. 31) and 30 in a home victory over Perry the next night.

Xavier will play its final game of the regular season on Tuesday night (Feb. 8) at Chandler Hamilton.

Congratulations, Sarah! Keep up the good work!

Saturday, February 5, 2022

Hoops week was long, but it ended successfully

 In a week that had Xavier Prep’s basketball team playing four times, including a pair of make-up games and a trip to Tucson, the Gators finally earned a few days of rest with the last of their four wins on Saturday (Feb. 5).

The latest, a rare afternoon contest, saw Xavier run away from 6A Conference Premier Region rival Chandler Basha at Basha 70-37.

Xavier now has a 16-5 overall record and wraps up the regular season at Chandler Hamilton on Tuesday night (Feb. 8).

Basha (6-18) was playing with just seven players but gave a good effort despite its personnel disadvantage. The Bears had worn down by the start of the fourth quarter, when the “running clock’’ rule was implemented.

Xavier coach Jennifer Gillom was pleased with her team’s play against Basha, particularly the defense.

”It was a great team effort for us. Our defense is starting to click,’’ she said. “When we play our good defense, it carries over into other parts of our game.

“The last few games with the defense, it has been to our advantage. Now we will have Hamilton, a good team that is looking for a bit of revenge, I guess you could say.’’

Xavier defeated Hamilton 47-28 when the Huskies paid a visit to the Activity Center on Jan. 21.

Gillom also was happy with some of the offensive aspects against Basha, including ball movement.

Sophomore guard-forward Sarah Miller led XCP with 21 points. Sophomore point guard Dom Nesland scored 14 to go with her eight rebounds and five assists. Junior forward Gabi Trbovic helped out with six rebounds and four points.

Friday, February 4, 2022

MaxPreps lists Gators' Flynn as top softball player

 Believe it or not, softball already is in the early stages of its 2022 season.

And the MaxPreps media outlet is keeping pace.

It has selected the top player in each state going in, and has placed a Xavier player on that list going in.

Senior pitcher Riley Flynn is coming off a 2021 season in which she finished with a 16-2 record while helping the Gators with the 6A Conference state title, the school’s first in that sport.

Congratulations, Riley, and Xavier nation is looking forward to watching how you and your teammates fare this season!!

Soccer, basketball teams continue dominance

 Xavier Prep’s soccer and basketball teams stayed far ahead of their opponents on Thursday night (Feb. 3), setting themselves up for their few remaining regular season contests before the state tournaments begin.

The soccer team had its biggest output of the season, scoring 19 goals while shutting out host Phoenix South Mountain.

The Gators are now 7-2-2 before wrapping up the regular season on Monday night (Feb. 7) at Chandler Hamilton.

The basketball team, meanwhile, made its long trip to Tucson an enjoyable one with a 60-38 win over host Tucson High.

Xavier raised its record to 15-5, while Tucson slipped to 18-6.

The Gators had three players score in double figures – sophomore guard-forward Sarah Miller (24 points) and sophomore point guard Dom Nesland and junior guard Sienna Cherwinski (14 each). Cherwinski hit four 3-point baskets and Nesland two.

Nesland also had nine assists and four steals.

Senior forward Toni Garcia  had seven rebounds and four steals and sophomore guard Maureen Ulrich had seven rebounds.

Xavier has two remaining regular season games.

The first is a make-up game at Chandler Basha at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday (Feb. 5). And the regular season finale is on Tuesday night (Feb. 8) at Chandler Hamilton.

Thursday, February 3, 2022

XCP to say goodbye to former swim coach Seaquist

 Xavier Prep has had many athletes, coaches and administrators carry the school’s banner of excellence over the years, but one of the most decorated people was Gerry Seaquist, who guided the swimmers and divers to 10 state championships and a few state runner-up finishes.

Seaquist died on Jan. 26 at the age of 85, and a Memorial Mass will be held at Xavier’s Chapel of Our Lady on Saturday at 1 p.m. There will be a reception afterward.

He is survived by Sandy, his wife of 63 years, sons Joseph, Jeffery (Deborah) and John, 8 grandchildren and 4 great-grandhildren. Jeff Seaquist coached alongside his father for several years and earned many state titles as head coach.

Seaquist graduated from Arizona State in 1974 and served in the U.S. Army during the Korean Conflict.

Among his biggest achievements were the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s selection of him as the Girls Swimming Coach of the 20th Century and his induction in 2004 to the Arizona High School Coaches’ Hall of Fame.

According to Sister Lynn Winsor, long-time Xavier Athletic Director and Vice Principal for Activities, Seaquist was at his best while working with the athletes at the pool on a daily basis as well as working with them in the classroom as a history teacher at XCP.

“He coached a long time for us and the swimmers were dedicated to him,’’ Winsor said. “He ran a regimented practice but they had a lot of fun. They were spirited and I don’t think there were many teams who had more spirit than the Gators, no matter where they finished.’’

Basketball, soccer finish strong in January

 Xavier Prep’s basketball and soccer teams finished out the month of January with victories on Monday night (Jan. 31).

After defeating Gilbert Perry 52-47 in a make-up game at Perry, the basketball team moved on to February with a 61-27 triumph, again over Perry on Tuesday (Feb. 1) in a regularly scheduled game. It was the final home game of the regular season for basketball.

The basketball team raised its record to 14-5 and the Gators head out of town to Tucson on Thursday night (Feb. 3) for a game at Tucson High. Tucson has one of the state’s best records at 18-5.

In the second game against Perry, sophomore guard-forward Sarah Miller scored 30 points, while sophomore point guard Dom Nesland had 12. Each player had two 3-point baskets.

Nesland also grabbed 6 rebounds, and junior forward Gabby Trbovic had 5 rebounds.

The XCP soccer team raised its record to 6-2-2 with a 2-0 victory at Chandler High on Monday night. The Gators travel to face Phoenix South Mountain on Thursday night.