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, 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.

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