DON KETCHUM is a native of Phoenix. He was a sportswriter for The Arizona Republic/The Phoenix Gazette for nearly four decades. He covered high school sports on several occasions as well as the Arizona Diamondbacks, Arizona Cardinals and Arizona State sports. From 2008-14, he was a staff writer for, the web site of the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

It didn't seem like it, but Gators had to grind it out

 Xavier Prep beach volleyball coach Tim McHale likes to say that his team plays “side-out, grind-it-out volleyball.’’

The approach has served the Gators well in the past, leading to eight state championships in nine attempts, and continues to do so.

Whether a ninth title is in the cards remains to be seen, but the second-seeded Gators needed to maintain their focus across the board in a quarterfinal match against 10th-seeded Chandler Basha at XCP’s Petznick Field on Wednesday (April 20).

Xavier won the contest 5-0, but the score seemed much closer, like it could make a U-Turn at any moment.

Two of the three pairs matches went to three games, including the No. 1’s after the match already had been decided. The No. 3’s also went to three games, and No. 2 and No. 5 were on the verge of doing so.

“It was what we expected,’’ McHale said. “That’s the way it always seems against Basha. We have a lot of respect for their program. The 5-0 win was not an indication of how they continue to play against us.’’

Xavier (11-1) advanced to the Division I semifinals on Monday (April 25) against third-seeded Mesa Mountain View (11-1), which moved on with a 3-2 win over sixth-seeded Gilbert High. In the other semi, top-seeded Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor (11-1) faces No. 4 Tempe Corona del Sol (10-2).

Both semifinal matches will be played at Casteel High in Queen Creek (Power and Riggs roads) and will begin at 7 p.m. Semifinal winners will meet for the championship on Wednesday (April 27) at Casteel.

In the No. 5 pairs on Wednesday, Xavier’s Maddie MacDonald and Lauren Vanderwey got off to a good start for a smooth 21-6 win. Xavier held on for a 22-20 win in the second game. MacDonald looked strong at the net and scored the match-winner with a shot into one of the back corners.

In the No. 4 pairs, Basha self-destructed a bit early on with some off-target (primarily long) serves as Xavier’s Tiffany Tellez and Alexa Shiner prevailed. Tellez provided a key block to give XCP an 18-9 lead in Game 2.

Perhaps the match of the day was the No 3 pairs. Xavier won the first game 23-21 and Basha took the second 21-13 before Xavier won the third 15-10.

The Gators’ Noelle Peterson had a few key blocks and kills, and teammate Mei Tsou had what might have been considered the play of the day as Xavier was attempting to hold on in the third game. She hit a return shot that landed on top of the net and the ball began to roll . . . and roll . . . and roll. Finally, and triumphantly, it dropped to the sand on the Basha side.

After winning their first game, Xavier’s No. 4 pair of Katie Anthony and Trinity Tran found themselves trailing by about five points going down the stretch of Game 2. Somehow, they managed to regain their balance for a 21-19 win.

In the No. 1 pairs, Xavier won the first game 21-16 followed by a Basha rally that resulted in a 21-19 win. The Gators’ Summer McCann and Landree Coats won Game 3, 17-15.

Beach volleyball quarterfinal

Wednesday, @ Xavier Prep

Xavier Prep 5, Chandler Basha 0

No. 1 pairs – Landree Coats-Summer McCann, X, def. Madison Carrington-Meghan O’Meara, B, 21-16, 19-21, 17-15.

No. 2 – Katie Anthony-Trinity Tran, X, def. Macey Camacho-Chloe Murakami, B, 21-14, 21-19.

No. 3 – Noelle Peterson-Mei Tsou, X, def. Brinkley Graham-Rea Workman, B, 23-21, 13-21, 15-10.

No. 4 – Tiffany Tellez-Alexa Shiner, X, def. Madison Royer-Mia Theisler, B, 21-14, 21-9.

No. 5 – Maddie MacDonald-Lauren Vanderwey, X, def. Emma Nifill-Brianna Porter, B, 21-6, 22-20.

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