Bio

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 AIA365.com, the web site of the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

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.






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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 azcentral.com 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 azcentral.com’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.


Thursday, May 12, 2022

XCP's Allen 2nd in state pole vault event

 The Division I track and field state championship meet rolled on Wednesday (May 11) at Mesa Community College with final results in most of the field events and more preliminaries in the running events.

Xavier athletes had some strong finishers in the field events.

They included senior Avery Allen, second in the pole vault at 11 feet, 6 inches, 6 inches behind event winner Ena McMahon of Tempe Corona del Sol. Also, senior Cierra Gonzalez was sixth in the long jump at 18 feet.

In the shot put finals, senior Elena Soderstrom was 35th at 30-04 ¼ and senior Ellie Higgins was 37th in the javelin at 87-04.

There was one final running event, the 3,200-meter run.

Xavier junior Reece Brown was 18th at 11:32.03, followed by senior Hannah Wheeling, 22nd at 11:40.73, and junior Nora Hinkle, 43rd at 12:15.31.

There were a number of preliminaries in the running events.

Junior Julianne Veloria was 20th in the 100-meter dash at 12.52. She also was 22nd in the 200-meter dash at 26.36, with Gonzalez in 33rd at 26.77 and sophomore Bella Gomez in 39th at 26.96.

In the 400-meter dash, freshman Marley Stoller was 11th at 58.53 and Gomez was 29th at 1:00.89.

Senior Tatum Goforth was 17th in the early rendition of the 800 with a time of 2:19.73.

And in the 300-meter hurdles, sophomore Kaira Burrage was 20th at 48.29 and sophomore Mackenzie Lopez was 51st at 1:11.87.

The third and final day of the state meet will be held on Saturday (May 14) at MCC. All of the action is expected to be in the running events, with the first event starting at approximately 12:30 p.m.


Win over Q Creek gives Gators chance at another title

 Gator, Gator, chomp-chomp!

Xavier Prep’s defending 6A Conference softball title-holder, will be returning to the big game for the second straight year on Saturday night (May 14) at Arizona State’s Farrington Stadium in Tempe.

Could that mean it will be Gator, Gator, champ-champ?

We will see.

All systems are go for the fourth-seeded Gators (23-5), who outlasted No. 3 Queen Creek (27-6) 8-6, at the Fiesta Sports Complex in Mesa, eliminating the Bulldogs.

A win by Queen Creek would have forced a rematch with Xavier on Thursday night (May 12), with the winner advancing to the title game.

“I’m glad we don’t have to play them again. They are a good-hitting team,’’ said Xavier coach Brad Downes, whose team will face either Mesa Red Mountain or Chandler Hamilton for the title. Hamilton survived a 12-11, 10-inning marathon on Wednesday night to force Thursday night’s elimination game.

A game against Red Mountain for the title would be a rematch of last season’s game for all the marbles won by the Gators. And a game against Hamilton would be the fourth time those two have played this season, with Xavier winning all three, including the tournament opener.

If you walked up to the Fiesta field, sat down and watched Xavier and Queen Creek without knowing the situation, you might have thought this one was for the championship because of its intensity and all of the twists and turns that go with it.

There were five lead changes in the contest as Xavier pitcher Riley Flynn and her Queen Creek counterpart, Jenae Berry, engaged in a duel in the circle. However, not all duels focus on the scarcity of scoring – sometimes the ones like this one are just as entertaining, if not more so. You know, the last woman standing.

This time, it was Flynn, although not without some anxious moments in the top of the seventh.

In the bottom of the sixth, Xavier had gone from a 6-5 deficit to an 8-6 lead, thanks to a leadoff triple by sophomore second baseman Lauren Putz, a titanic two-run homer by -- who else? – senior shortstop Bridget Donahey and a sacrifice fly by sophomore outfielder Tabitha VonKolen.

Flynn strode out to the circle in the top of the seventh, hoping to get through one last inning.

She walked the leadoff hitter, who advanced to third on a one-out infield hit. The next batter was retired on a high popup to Donahey and Flynn got the one she needed the most on a swinging strikeout, her eighth of the game, and earned her 20th victory of the season.

“In a game like this, if you keep even-keeled, not let the moment get too big, you can come out of it,’’ Downes said.

Both pitchers had to deal with a very tight strike zone.

Downes said that Flynn was able to survive with her tough mental approach .

The coach was happy about the contributions of VonKolen, who bunts (sacrifice) much of the time but switched up and hit a leadoff triple in the fifth, although she remained stranded.

He also gave props to freshman catcher Riley McKeever for her run-scoring, opposite-field single to left field to give the Gators a temporary 2-1 lead in the second as well as her defensive work behind the plate that included helping to keep Flynn on track.


Sunday, May 8, 2022

State track & field meet continues this week

 The Division I track and field state meet had its first day of competition on Saturday (May 7) at Mesa Community College, with various preliminaries and a few event finals.

The meet will continue on Wednesday (May 11) at MCC and again on Saturday (May 14) at MCC with final events.

In the first day, Xavier Prep had a fifth-place preliminary finish in the 4x100-meter relay (49.22) with sixth-place finishes in the 4x400 relay (4:00.32) and the 4x800 relay (9:46.53).

And Xavier’s lone finals event representative, senior Cierra Gozalez finished fifth in the high jump at 5 feet, 2 inches.


Flynn outduels Desert Vista pitcher with no-hitter

 One small step, one giant leap . . .

If you use your imagination, the new softball field at the Fiesta Sports Complex in Mesa can resemble a moonscape rather than a landscape, with hardly any footprints as the game begins.

And on Saturday night (May 7), Xavier Prep perhaps changed the trajectory of the Division I state tournament in its direction. The defending champion, fourth-seeded Gators took a small step to gain their footing, followed by a giant leap toward their second title in a row while remaining unbeaten in the double elimination format.

They did it in an impressive fashion.

They defeated pitcher Jocelyn Briski and top-seeded Phoenix Desert Vista 3-0 despite striking out 17 times against the powerful junior.

And the reason there was a zero on the scoreboard for the Thunder was the work put in by Briski’s club team teammate Riley Flynn, who tossed a no-hitter and struck out eight. Only one Desert Vista runner reached as far as second base on the night.

Flynn, a senior, is now 19-3 with a 1.72 earned run average and 203 strikeouts in 142 2/3 innings, while Briski is 21-4 with a 0.42 ERA and 346 strikeouts in 151 2/3 innings.

Xavier (22-5) will get to rest up and practice until Wednesday (May 11), when it returns to Fiesta for a semifinal game against the winner of a loser’s bracket on Monday (May 9) between No. 7 seed Chandler Basha and No. 3 Queen Creek at Queen Creek.

Desert Vista (27-7) will play host to No. 13 seed Chandler Hamilton on Tuesday (May 10).

In the other winner’s bracket game on Saturday, No. 11 seed Mesa Red Mountain defeated Basha 4-1.

The Gators jumped on Briski quickly in the top of the first inning.

Leadoff Lauren Putz, No. 2 hitter Bridget Donahey and Flynn at No. 3 produced consecutive hits (Donahey’s was a triple) for two runs. Xavier added its third run in the second on a run-scoring single by Putz that scored Sofia Zielinski, who had singled with one out.

Briski tightened up after that, not allowing any Xavier hits over the final three innings (six total).

“As the game went on, she got better,’’ said Xavier coach Brad Downes. “So it was good for us to start the game strong.  And, of course Riley threw well as she has done all along.’’

Flynn said she put a twist on her approach from the one she used against the Thunder on March 25. Desert Vista ultimately won that game on a walk-off home run in the bottom of the seventh.

“I tried a lot of screwballs inside and that seemed to help,’’ Flynn said.

Briski is quite proficient with the bat and Flynn minimized any danger. She knocked down a line drive at her for the third out in the first, struck out Briski as the leadoff hitter in the fourth after an initial 3-0 count, and got Briski on a pop-up to Donahey at short to lead off the seventh.

Flynn also got some defensive work near the screen from senior third baseman Meghan Schouten and freshman catcher Riley McKeever. Both players looked as if they wanted to climb the screen like Spider-Woman, but did not have to – besides, that’s against the rules.

On McKeever’s second such play, in the seventh, she caught the ball, turned and threw it to first baseman Emma Petersen, who stepped on the bag at first to retire the baserunner for the final out after she had walked and apparently forgot the situation.


Tennis runner-up Gators not such an easy mark

 Instead of wallowing in discouragement as other state tennis runners-up might, Xavier Prep coach Laurie Martin did not want her team to sink to that level after the second-seeded Gators fell to No. 1 Scottsdale Desert Mountain 5-2 in the Division I championship match on Saturday (May 7) at the Paseo Racquet Center in Glendale.

“Lots of teams would die to reach the state championship (match) and we got there,’’ she said.

It was the 12th runner-up finish to go along with 21 wins. The Gators finished with a 16-2 record, with both losses coming to Desert Mountain (18-0), which won its fourth title since 2017.

There were some who might have thought that Desert Mountain would quickly dispense of the Gators, but that didn’t happen.

“We played hard and we stretched it out to about 3 ½ hours,’’ Martin said.

During that time, the Gators came up with some noteworthy achievements.

No. 1 singles player Ryan Kershner and No. 6 player Belanie Soto scored victories, and No. 5 player Megan Wheeling pushed her opponent to three sets in a marathon match.

So Desert Mountain did not win 5-0 and the match continued into doubles. All three doubles matches were relatively close before Desert Mountain’s No. 3 team finished before its nos. 1 and 2 teams.

“Desert Vista is a very tough team,’’ Martin said. “We knew we would have a battle ahead of us.

“Kudos to them. I was happy with where our girls finished.’’

Martin is due to have the core of her team back in 2023.

That would include Dyer, a sophomore who teamed with Kershner for the state doubles title, freshman Julia Chrostowski, sophomore MeganWheeling and sophomore Belanie Soto.

2022 Division I state championship

Scottsdale Desert Mountain 5, Xavier Prep 2

Saturday, at Paseo Racquet Center, Glendale

Singles

No. 1 – Ryan Kershner, X, def. Savanna Kollock, DM, 7-5, 1-6, 11-9.

No. 2 – Julia Frazier, DM, def. Danielle Dyer, X, 6-3, 6-4.

No. 3 – Tessa Wachtel, DM, def. Victoria Chrostowski, X, 6-0, 6-0.

No. 4 – Chae Rin Youn, DM, def. Julia Chrostowski, X, 6-2, 6-1.

No. 5 – Analise Wachtel, DM, def. Megan Wheeling, X, 6-7 (5), 6-0, 10-7.

No. 6 – Belanie Soto, X, def. Reese Schibel, DM, 6-0, 6-1.

Doubles

No. 3 – Chae Rin Youn-Reese Schibel, DM, def. Megan Wheeling-Kristina Stender, X, 8-2.

 

 

Friday, May 6, 2022

Gators go for tennis title vs. Desert Mtn.

 Xavier Prep’s tennis team is back in a familiar place for the program – in the Division I championship match.

The Gators made up for a loss in last year’s semifinal match against Chandler Hamilton with a 5-1 victory over the Huskies on Friday (May 6) at the Scottsdale Ranch Park.

Second-seeded Xavier will now face top-seeded defending champion Scottsdale Desert Mountain at the Paseo Racquet Center for the title on Saturday (May 7) at 11 a.m.

The only loss for Xavier (16-1) this season was to Desert Mountain 7-2 on March 3. Desert Mountain is 17-0.

Division I semifinals

Friday, at Scottsdale Ranch Park

Xavier Prep 5, Chandler Hamilton 1

Singles

No. 1 – Ryan Kershner, X, def. Shivika Agrawal, H, 6-3, 6-1.

No. 2 – Danielle Dyer, X, def. Esther Qiu, H, 7-5, 6-0.

No. 3 – Olivia Stephens, H, def. Victoria Chrostowski, X, 2-6, 6-1, 10-6.

No. 4 – Julia Chrostowski, X, def. Mikaela Correa, H, 6-4, 2-6, 10-3.

No. 5 – Megan Wheeling, X, def. Angelina Roehl, H, 4-6, 7-5, 10-4.

No. 6 – Belanie Soto, X, def. Aarya Patel, H, 6-1, 6-0.


Coats, McCann claim beach volleyball pairs title

 It was the way beach volleyball is meant to be played. It was mind-blowing, fire-stoking theater at every turn.

The Arizona Interscholastic Association’s Division I’s fourth pairs duels were on the marquee at Casteel High in Queen Creek on Thursday night (May 5).

Xavier Prep senior Landree Coats and junior Summer McCann took the banner of the mighty blue and ran with it. Actually they did more than run – much more -- against Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor’s Sydnee Broadway and Margo Smith, who had defeated the Xavier duo in the recent team championship won by the Eagles and had scored a win over Coats and McCann earlier in the season.

Summer McCann, left, and Landree Coats celebrate their thrilling victory (Photos by Jose Garcia, AIA365.com).

“After that loss in the state tournament, we said, “We still have pairs coming up,’ so we worked very hard toward that,’’ Coats said.

And so Xavier defeated Sandra Day O’Connor 26-24 in the first match of the best-of-three, five points past the regulation winning score, and took it even farther in the second game.

Back and forth it went. The score was 25 when a timeout was called so that officials could tend to a leg injury to Broadway (she returned). Xavier head coach Tim McHale recalled part of the conversation with the girls.

“Summer said, “We are not going to three (a third and decisive game that goes to 15 points),’ ’’ McHale said. “That attitude is what you gotta have.’’

Faces full of sweat and sand and guts full of grit, the Gators finished the job and won this marathon, 29-27. They rejoiced, as did their fans, when Xavier scored the final point.

McCann, left, and Coats let their emotions loose at the realization they have scored the title-clinching point.

Having a victory medal strung across her neck and shoulders was a special moment for McCann. She also won the pairs title a year ago with a different partner, Serena Turner, who graduated and now is at Stanford. They defeated a team from Scottsdale Desert Mountain to win the event.

McCann said Turner stood at about 6-foot-1, while Coats is about 5-8. Turner worked primarily at the net while Coats is all over the place. Neither McCann nor Coats hesitates to dive for shots that appear headed to the ground.

“That’s why we are “ballers,’ ’’ McCann said.

She said an example would be a furious rally by both teams, going back and forth between improbable shots before Xavier scored the point at 25 when Coats reached out for a backhand of sorts to send the ball to a deeper part of the Sandra Day O’Connor side.

McCann had success “dinking and dunking’’ short shots that landed mostly out of reach of the two Eagles in the frontcourt, while Coats made it a perfect combination, roaming for power shots at the net as well as providing defense with a number of blocks.

Next season will be McCann’s last at Xavier and she will play with a third different partner before heading off to Boise State. Coats already will be at San Jose State.

Coats admitted she was a bit “overwhelmed. It feels so good to win this, especially being my last game with Xavier. To have a senior season that would go this way with a player as good as Summer, is a surreal feeling.’’

The Xavier duo began its afternoon with a semifinal match against Caprice Lorenzo and Lucci Alexander of Mesa Desert Ridge and won 21-16, 21-14. Sandra Day O’Connor faced Queen Creek In its semi, winning 21-18 and 21-17.


Thursday, May 5, 2022

Softball can turn it on as situations dictate

 Xavier Prep’s softball players would prefer to not have to rally from behind as they have in their victories in the first two rounds of the 6A Conference state tournament.

But at the same time, it’s nice to know that the Gators are capable of turning things around when the situation calls for it.

After rallying for an eight-inning triumph over Chandler Hamilton in Saturday’s (April 30) opener, the Gators found themselves trailing 3-0 in the middle of the second inning against visiting Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor in Wednesday’s (May 4) second round.

Xavier then scored five runs in the bottom of the second and then pulled away for a 9-3 victory at Petznick Field.

The defending state champion, fourth-seeded Gators (21-5) advance to Saturday’s (May 7) winner’s bracket round against top-seeded Phoenix Desert Vista (27-6) at the Fiesta Sports Complex in central Mesa. First pitch is 6:30 p.m. Desert Vista edged Xavier 1-0 in a close battle on March 25 in Ahwatukee.

Sandra Day O’Connor (21-10), the 12th seed, slips into the loser’s bracket and will travel to face No. 9 Phoenix Pinnacle on Thursday (May 5).

Xavier coach Brad Downes said he told his players in the days leading up to the contest against O’Connor that the Eagles were a good-hitting team and that the Gators would have to match that if they expected to advance.

“I said they would try to get us early and they did,’’ he said. “Then to get that five-spot got us going a little.

“From playing last Saturday to today (Wednesday) it seemed like a long time, and a loss would have made it feel even longer. So I am glad we are in the winner’s bracket.’’

Xavier will be riding the pitching arm of senior Riley Flynn, who earned her 18th win of the season. After giving up three runs on three hits over those first two innings, including a two-run home run by Riley Valentine, she rebounded to give up just three hits the rest of the way. She did walk six (including two intentional to Valentine) but finished with13 strikeouts.

She avoided further damage when Sandra Day O’Connor left the bases loaded in the second, fourth and sixth innings.

While Sandra Day O’Connor has no such luxury of a day of rest for its pitchers, Xavier should have Flynn ready to go on Saturday as the Gators face Desert Vista star Jocelyn Briski.

Wednesday’s win “was good for us, because we get to preserve Riley’s arm,’’ said Xavier senior shortstop Bridget Donahey.

Donahey had three hits, including a double and a two-run homer to left field in the fourth that was hit so high and so far that it might still be in orbit. It was Donahey’s 13th homer of the season to go along with 42 RBIs.

Asked if she knew the ball was going to travel a long distance when she made contact, a smile crossed Donahey’s face and she said, “I think I did.’’

As for the intentional walk (she ended up scoring in the big second inning), Donahey said she couldn’t recall any other times in recent memory but did have a few as a freshman.

She noticed that both groups of fans were not pleased when she got a free pass and when Valentine was twice walked on purpose by Flynn.

“It can get kind of wild when that happens,’’ Donahey said.

Flynn had a pair of doubles and three RBIs, and senior outfielder Elliot Smith had two hits.


Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Xavier tennis to play in semifinal rematch

 With a 5-1 quarterfinal victory over visiting Tucson Rincon/University on Tuesday (May 3), the Xavier Prep tennis team moves on to Friday’s (May 6) Division I semifinals against Chandler Hamilton with a chance to make up for a loss to Hamilton in last year’s semis.

Xavier is seeded No. 2, Hamilton No. 3, and Rincon/University finished at No. 10.

Xavier (14-1) will face Hamilton (12-2) on Friday at Scottsdale Ranch Park, with the winner advancing to the finals on Saturday (May 7) at the Paseo Racquet Center in Glendale. Xavier defeated Hamilton 6-3 in the final match of the regular season.

Rincon/University No. 1 singles player Tanvi Narendran played a strong all-around match in a 6-3, 6-2 win over the Gators’ Ryan Kershner, but the Rangers were unable to sustain that consistency on down the line.

Xavier singles winners were Dani Dyer, Victoria and Julia Chrostowski, Megan Wheeling and Belanie Soto.

Victoria Chrostowski was a bit late getting started due to having to complete a mandatory AP test, but she was able to maintain her focus at No. 3.

Xavier head coach Laurie Martin praised Wheeling and Soto for maintaining their focus in keeping the Gators in front and avoiding the prospect of playing doubles.

“We knew that their girl (Narendran) was good at No. 1 and that they (Rincon/University) have a very solid team,’’ Martin said.

2022 Division I quarterfinals

Tuesday, at Xavier Prep

Xavier Prep 5, Tucson Rincon/University 1

Singles

No. 1 – Tanvi Narendran, RU, def. Ryan Kershner, X, 6-3, 6-2.

No. 2 – Danielle Dyer, X, def. Sophia Lee, RU, 6-3, 6-1.

No. 3 – Victoria Chrostowski, X, def. Aiko Levin, RU, 7-6, 6-1.

No. 4 – Julia Chrostowski, X, def. Allison Hitchcock, RU, 7-5, 7-5.

No. 5 – Megan Wheeling, X, def. Nina Perkins, RU, 6-1, 6-1.

No. 6 – Belanie Soto, X, def. Madison Kiburz, RU, 6-1, 6-4.

 

 

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Xavier duo reigns in tennis doubles title match

 All hail Xavier Prep’s latest tennis royalty!!

Welcome senior Ryan Kershner and sophomore Dani Dyer to the fold after their impressive 6-1, 6-2 victory over Scottsdale Desert Mountain’s Annalise and Tessa Wachtel for the 2022 Division I double s championship on Monday (May 2) at the Paseo Racquet Center in Glendale.

The Xavier players did it with an efficient combination of serves, strong backhands and pinpoint placements of shots along the sidelines and in the middle, where neither opponent could reach with regularity.

“They had good serves and returns . . . and put the ball in the right spot,’’ said assistant coach Ford Oliver, who has worked with the girls for much of their time at XCP.

A big day for Xavier tennis doubles: from left, assistant coach Ford Oliver, Dani Dyer, Ryan Kershner and head coach Laurie Martin (photo by Don Ketchum).

“We came into the match with confidence and became more confident as we played,’’ said Kershner, who will move on to Boise State after graduating from Xavier.

Dyer indicated that it was a matter of familiarity with each other.

“Ever since we were little, we were playing doubles together,’’ Dyer said.

This was Dyer’s second trip to the doubles final. Last year, Dyer teamed with current sophomore Belanie Soto as Kershner dealt with a few nagging injuries. Dyer and Soto to Desert Mountain’s Julia Kim and Olivia Frazier, 6-1, 6-3.

“Last year, I was super nervous, but this year was a lot better because I knew I had been here before,’’ she said.

“Being back out here again didn’ affect her at all,’’ Oliver said.

He and head coach Laurie Martin also were pleased to see Kershner at the top of her game.

“It was her last game and it was good to see all her hard work pay off,’’ Oliver said.

In what became a pattern of sorts, Kershner said Dyer got things going for the pair by scoring some early points. That happened in both sets.

“Those points helped us keep their (Desert Mountain) rallies at a minimum,’’ Kershner said.

After the break between the two sets, Desert Mountain came out stronger in the second and grabbed a 2-1 lead. The key for Xavier was having Kershner and Dyer regain some of their momentum, and they responded by winning the next two games for a 3-2 advantage, then won the match going away.

Now Kershner and  Dyer will rejoin their Gator players for the second round of the state tournament for teams. Xavier, seeded second, will meet No. 10 seed Tucson Rincon University at Xavier’s Petznick Field on Tuesday (May 3) at 3 p.m.

The winner will advance to the semifinals on Friday (May 6) at Scottsdale Ranch Park, with a noon start time.


Lacrosse plays its heart out, suffers close playoff loss

 To say that Xavier Prep’s club lacrosse team came a long way in 2022 would be an understatement.

They lost their first four and five of their first seven, but by they reached their Arizona Girls Lacrosse Association playoff game on Monday night (May 2), they had reconstructed their record at 9-6.

Their opponent at Petznick Field was Tempe Corona del Sol. The Aztecs were the last team to defeat the Gators, rallying in the last few minutes for an 18-17 win on April 5.

As the playoff game wore on, it began to have a striking resemblance to that previous game. Xavier would go ahead by one or two goals, only to have Corona del Sol remain in contention.

Xavier held a 12-10 lead with 9:24 left in the game, but Corona del Sol rallied again.

They scored three straight goals by Jordyn Huguez, the last with 11 seconds remaining, and held on for a 13-12 victory. Huguez had seven goals on the night.

Corona del Sol (10-7) advances to the next round whie Xavier finishes at 9-7.

“I just knew it was going to go back and forth, that the final deficit would be small. Unfortunately, it was us (lose),’’ said Xavier coach Diana Oduho.

She met with her players afterward and said she told them, “You played your hearts out.’’

Joan Walton led the way for the Gators with five goals, while Keilani Hong had two goals and four assists.

Oduho said she was proud of the play of senior goalkeeper Ann Obiese, “who played one of her best games.’’

Xavier’s strong second half of the season drew some notoriety for its individuals. The team had seven players selected to the annual All-Star Game, which will be played May 13 at Phoenix Desert Vista in Ahwatukee.

They are Hong, Gigi Riviere, McKenna Boyer, Marlee McCloskey, Peyton Bryant, Walton and Obiese.

The AGLA’s All-State Team will be announced at a later date.

 

 

Monday, May 2, 2022

Xavier beach pairs are back on the sand

 If you thought Xavier Prep’s chances of winning more matches in an Arizona Interscholastic Association state event had disappeared, think again.

Two XCP two-player “pairs’’ teams will be competing in the AIA Division I Pairs Championship beginning Monday (May 2) and continuing the remainder of this week.

Xavier’s top duo of junior Summer McCann and senior Landree Coats are the third-seeded team and received a bye to the second round on Wednesday (May 4) at 5 p.m. Xavier’s No. 2 tandem of Katie Anthony and Trinity Tran will play a first-round match on Monday at 5:45 p.m. against QueenCreek’s Elle Evers and Izabella Mahaffey.

All matches are at Casteel High School in Queen Creek, site of the Division I and Division II state championships that concluded recently.

McCann was part of the Xavier doubles team that included 2021 graduate Serena Turner and won the pairs championship. Turner now is playing as a freshman at Stanford University.

If Anthony and Tran win on Monday, they will advance to the second round on Wednesday. In that match, they would face No. 4 seed Bailey Decker and Reece Fischback of Mesa Mountain View, who receive a first-round bye.

Meanwhile, Xavier’s top duo will face the winner of Monday’s first-round match between Glendale Mountain Ridge's Gracie Birchfield and Madison Cartwright and Phoenix Arcadia’s Leslie Bugg and Rylie Sieben. That match begins at 5 p.m. on Wednesday. Winner of the second-round match goes to the quarterfinals, also on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.

Semifinals are on Thursday (May 5) at 5 p.m., followed by the title match at 6:30 p.m.