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.

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Liberty's stunning sweep leaves Gators reeling

 The question looms over Xavier Prep’s volleyball program like a big monsoon cloud after a surprising 3-0 sweep at the hands of visiting Peoria Liberty in XCP’s season and home opener at the Activity Center on Tuesday night (Aug. 30). Scores were 25-19, 27-25 and 25-18.

So where do the Gators go from here?

Xavier volleyball front-liners Finley Workman (13), left, and Camilla Cornejo-Farmer (2) right, attempt to block a return by Liberty opponent (Photos by Sr. Lynn Winsor).

It will be up to Xavier’s players and whether they can follow the instructions of head coach Lamar-Renee Bryant and her assistants.

Initially, the Gators will need to have a short-term memory because they travel to face host Gilbert High on Wednesday night (Aug. 31) at 6.

So where do they go from here?

Xavier's volleyball team lines up for the National Anthem before match vs. Peoria Liberty.

There were so many concerns that Bryant could toss a dart toward a bulletin board and wherever it landed, it would be a good place to start.

“They (Liberty) beat us in every facet of the game,’’ she said. “They outserved us, they outattacked us, they outpassed us and outblocked us.

“We don’t want to have this feeling again.’’

Liberty, which was the No. 7 seed in last season’s 6A Conference state tournament, fell to eventual state champion Chandler Hamilton in the quarterfinals. Xavier, the No. 6 seed, fell to Hamilton in the semifinals.

Xavier had played fairly well against Hamilton, Chandler Basha and Phoenix Sunnyslope in an annual four-team scrimmage last week at Hamilton.

Could it have given the Gators a false sense of security?
“Last week, those teams were not among the top four in the state,’’ Bryant said.

After a 25-19 setback to Liberty in the match’s opening game, Xavier showed some signs of life in the second game and took it down to the wire and a bit beyond, falling to the Lions 27-25. Had the Gators won that one, things might have been different in Game 3.

Xavier had a 17-12 lead in Game 2, but Liberty battled back. In Game 3. Liberty was in control, particularly after scoring the first eight points of the contest and won 25-18.


Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Versatile golf lineup carries Gators past Perry

 Xavier Prep’s golf team took to one of the Valley’s newer courses on Monday (Aug. 29) and rolled to a 21-shot victory over host Gilbert Perry at the Bear Creek Golf Complex in Chandler.

Xavier is now 2-0 in two-team “sectional’’ matches (vs. Perry and Chandler High), along with wins in the Brophy Invitational and Nighthawk Invitational tournaments.

It was an all-junior lineup for the Gators against Perry, with Grace Rubelsky taking medalist honors with an even-par 36 over the Bear Course. Kyla Layman and Kalyn Doss were next at 1-over 37, Lena Durette was at 2-over 38 and Reimi Bleyl was fifth at 7-over 43.

Other Xavier scores with their “extra’’ players:

Freshman Madalyn Gubernick, 2 under 34; junior Kate Hauptman, 1-under 35; senior Annie Dawson and junior Karter Nannen, both at even-par 36; freshman Isabelle Piazza at 1-over 37; junior Lauren Campbell at 4-over 40; freshmen Alanna Karuru and Giulianna Bulkley, both at even-par 36.

Also, junior Jayden Jevnick, 6-over 42; senior Sophie Stamatis, 7-over 43; sophomore Carrie Doss and freshmen Ellie Von Kolen and Sophie De Benito-Brooks, all at 8-over 44, and sophomore Aanvi Goel at 11-over 47.

Another tournament lies ahead for the Gators on Thursday (Sept. 1) and Friday (Sept. 2), the Brophy Rodeo, presented by Ping, at the Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale.


Sunday, August 28, 2022

XCP scores 11-shot victory in Nighthawk golf

 It’s always good to look ahead by playing the golf course on which the Division I championship will be held this fall.

And if Xavier Prep’s Gators can come up with a similar performance with everything on the line that they did over the weekend in the Nighthawk Invitational at the Omni Tucson National Resort, it will be another memorable achievement for the state’s most storied program.

Xavier recorded an 11-shot victory over Division II school Cave Creek Cactus Shadows.

The Gators had a 599 total, while Cactus Shadows had 610. Defending D-I champion Chandler Hamilton was third at 619 and Peoria Liberty was fourth at 637.

Friday’s (Aug. 26) first round was played on the Catalina Course and Saturday’s (Aug. 27) final round was played on the Sonoran Course.

Xavier had four individuals finish in the top 10. They were junior Kyla Layman who was tied for third at 142, junior Kate Hauptman, who was eighth at 149, and junior Lena Durette and freshman Madalyn Gubernick, who were deadlocked in the No. 9 spot at 150.

Nikki Kato, who transferred to Cactus Shadows from a school in Washington state and was that area’s Division 2 winner, took the Nighthawk title at 140, while defending Arizona D-I champ and national champ Jennifer Seo was second at 141.

Other Xavier golfers were junior Grace Rubelsky at 154, junior Jayden Jevnickj at 155 and junior Reimi Bleyl at 158.

Xavier will be back in action on Monday (Aug. 29) against Gilbert Perry at the Lone Tree Golf Course in Gilbert. First tee time is 3 p.m.


Soph Henry keys badminton push to respectability

 Xavier Prep’s effort in the Flying Feathers badminton tournament at Gilbert Highland over the weekend was an indication that the Gators are on the way to becoming one of the most improved teams in the state.

In the two-day tournament, XCP finished a very respectable fifth out of 16 teams and did not lose a match outright. Unfortunately, tournament rules were set up that handed Xavier a setback after it had a 3-3 tie with a strong Scottsdale Chaparral team in the winner’s bracket on Saturday (Aug. 27). The outcome was decided by the number of singles victories.

Friday’s (Aug. 26) opening round saw the Gators defeat Laveen Cesar Chavez 5-1 and Mesa Red Mountain 4-2 and tie Chandler Hamilton.

Junior Gigi Riviere won her singles match against Chaparral. In doubles, the team of sophomores Maggie Henry and Corinne Ladha earned a victory, as well as senior Lexi Garman and junior Kasia Smigielski.

The Gators then went on to defeat host Highland 5-1. They got singles wins from Henry, Ladha and senior Riley Dowdall and doubles triumphs from Garman and Smigielski and senior Sarah Castlen and junior Lila Williams.

Henry played outstanding throughout and was only one of nine players who were selected by the coaches for the All-Tournament Team.

“It was a great showing for the team,’’ said Xavier head coach Brian McNerney.

The Gators will have three matches this coming week, on Tuesday (Aug. 31) at Surprise Shadow Ridge, on Wednesday (Aug. 31) in their home opener against Gilbert High and another home contest on Thursday (Sept. 1) against Mesa Red Mountain. All matches start at 4 p.m.

 

Friday, August 26, 2022

Mountain biking continues to gain traction at Xavier

 There have been dozens, wait . . . more like hundreds of miles over all sorts of terrain, with many beautiful views as a bonus.

It has been a great way to build strength and endurance through a lifelong activity, along with building friendships for a lifetime.

Welcome to the Arizona Cycling League, where high school mountain biking club teams around the state compete each fall with four primary races (at two-week intervals) plus a state-championship race.

One of the consistently growing teams in the league that was founded in 2012 is a combination team that represents all-girls Xavier Prep and neighboring all-boys Brophy Prep. According to team director and head coach Rich Perrott, this season will be his program’s 10th.

Xavier's Gators get ready to take to the trail in a recent preseason workout at Papago Park in Phoenix (Photo courtesy of Coach Rich Perrott).


It’s always an exciting time, but the heartbeat could quicken, particularly on the XCP side.

“Overall, this might be the best team we’ve had,’’ Perrott said.

Xavier currently has 15 riders, but that could increase if more are added to the group after Monday’s (Aug. 29) Club Day at XCP.

Most of the practices are held out in the North Mountain Park area of north Phoenix, but there are days when the athletes come to the Xavier campus for “spin’’ sessions on stationary spin bikes as well as stretching and strengthening workouts, like the sessions on Thursday (Aug. 25).

There was a full house for a spin class for mountain bike riders at Xavier's upstairs workout room in the Activity Center (Photo by Don Ketchum).


Perrott said his two top riders for Xavier are Co-Captains Mary Hill, a junior who has been affiliated with the club since the sixth grade, and senior Grace Morgan, who is among the league’s leading JV cyclists.

“They give us more points and more competition,’’ Perrott said.

Morgan recalled the early days when she would fall frequently.

“I kept telling myself, “Don’t fall,’ ’’ Morgan said. “I started to go faster and farther. I did 10, then 12 miles (in workouts) and I am up to 18 now.’’

Starting at a young age helped Hill, who comes from a riding family (older sister Erin, rode for Xavier and now is a student at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff).

“I met a lot of friendly people who helped me along the way, and my sister helped me. I learned and continue to learn a lot,’’ Hill said.

Part of the learning process for Hill and others is repairing their bikes if they happen to malfunction for any reason. Riders are supposed to maintain their equipment through the races.

“The girls do know a lot of repair things and sometimes I think they just might be better at fixing than some of the boys,’’ Perrott said.

Hopefully they won’t have to put too much of that to use, with their efforts better served as they proceed over the courses and stay close to the front of the pack.

MOUNTAIN BIKING (Club)

Xavier in Arizona Cycling Association South Division

Sun. Sept. 11 – Race #1, @ Fort Tuthill, Flagstaff, 11:30 a.m.

Sat. Sept. 24 – Race #2, @ Secret Trails, Snowflake-Taylor, 11:30 a.m.

Sun., Oct. 9 – Race #3, @ Pioneer Park, Prescott, 11:30 a.m.

Sat. Oct. 22 – Race #4, @ McDowell Mountain Park, Fountain Hills, 11:30 a.m.

Sun. Nov. 6 – High school state championships @ Wren Arena, Fort Huachuca, 10:30 a.m.

ROSTER

Grace Morgan, Sr., (Co-Captain); Mary Hill, Jr., (Co-Captain); Alyssa Issac, Sr.; Bailey Finch, Jr.; Morgan Finch, Sr.; Margaret Meaney, Jr.; Megan Wubker, Jr.; Ella Schuster, Jr.; Lizbeth Sanchez Garcia, Sr.; Lily Foster, Sr.; Clara Findlay, Fr.; Suleliddy Quintero, Jr.; Kaytlyn Cooper, Jr.; Cynthia Vilchis-Moran, Jr.; Shakira Reyes-Castillo, Jr.


Thursday, August 25, 2022

Athletic, versatile Gators look good in volleyball

 When a volleyball team participates in a preseason scrimmage such as the annual four-team event at Chandler Hamilton on Wednesday night (Aug. 24), it can be difficult for a coach to assess the outcome, be it good or not so good.

Xavier head coach Lamar-Renee Bryant has been on both sides of the fence, and this time she was on the prosperous end of the scale at the event, which also included Hamilton, Chandler Basha and Phoenix Sunnyslope.

The XCP Files’ unofficial scorecard had Xavier winning four 15-minute “matches,’’ dropping one (by only one point) and tying one. Two wins over Sunnyslope, a split with Basha and a win and a tie with Hamilton.

Xavier opens its regular season with a home match against Peoria Liberty on Tuesday (Aug. 30) at 6 p.m.

“For the first day out, it was really good,’’ Bryant said. “Our young players meshed well with the older ones.’’

Two of the elder stateswomen were setter-outside hitter Ava Larkin and setter Maddie MacDonald, both seniors.

“They set the tone for us,’’ Bryant said.

It seemed like the Gators did a little bit of everything to make this work.

Defenders reached opponents’ returns with few errors. The sets were good. Serves were consistent for the most part. Follow-throughs on kill swings were good. Communication was good.

Perhaps the most impressive part was the team’s athleticism. The girls and coaches had been talking about that in the days leading up to the scrimmage.

They were quick and knew where they were supposed to be.

And many of the positions are interchangeable.

“There are quite a few setters, liberos, outsides (hitters) and middles (blockers) out there,’’ Bryant said. “It seems like we can work them in at just about any time. And they appear to have durability.’’

All of this said, plenty of work lies ahead.

“We will identify what we need to work on,’’ Bryant said.

Schedule additions

Xavier will be playing in two large tournaments filled with quality teams, one in mid-September and the other in late September-early October.

The first will be the Durango Classic in Las Vegas, Sept. 16-17. After an absence of a couple of years, due primarily to the COVID pandemic, the Gators are back.

The Nike Tournament of Champions would be next, Sept. 30-Oct. 1. It has been held at a handful of locations around the Valley, but this year it will be held at the new Bell Bank Park in east Mesa. That facility can accommodate volleyball, basketball, softball and baseball tournaments, among other events.


Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Gator golfers storm to victory in tournament

 Lightning streaking across the sky, followed by booming thunder . . . it could only mean one thing.

Xavier Prep’s golf team is back!

The Gators, who finished as state Division I runner-up last season after picking up 37 previous title trophies, are ready to make a run at No. 38.

They racked up a large lead in Monday’s (Aug. 22) first round of the Brophy Invitational and widened the chasm in Tuesday’s (Aug. 23) second round before threatening weather conditions put a halt to the last four or five holes at Phoenix Country Club.

The final tally then reverted back to the first round, when the Gators produced about a 50-stroke lead on No. 2 Scottsdale Desert Mountain and more than 100 strokes better than the remaining four teams.

Xavier returns to PCC on Wednesday (Aug. 24) for a two-team match against Chandler High.

Xavier co-head coach Tui Selvaratnam was pleased by the victory, but wished her players could have finished Tuesday’s round because they were playing better virtually across the board than they had in Round 1.

“Today (Tuesday) we did better as a team,’’ Selvaratnam said. “In the future, we need to remember that we need to be better on the first day, because it is important.’’

Xavier had the top four individual finishers, led by junior Kate Hauptman, who shot an even-par 71 in Monday’s first round. Hauptman was at 2-under through 15 holes on Tuesday.

Hauptman was followed by junior Jayden Jevnick, junior Grace Rubelsky, freshman Madalyn Gubernick and senior Annie Dawson.

“I think this was the first time in my four years at Xavier that we played a full 18 holes at Phoenix Country Club. Usually, it’s just nine holes,’’ said Dawson, who finished in a tie for fifth in last year’s state tournament  and after graduating from Xavier will study and play collegiately at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb. She committed to that school earlier this year.

Dawson agreed with her coach that she played better in the second round.

“My play with the irons, my chipping and my bunker play were improved,’’ she said.

She also is taking an active approach to her schoolwork and community work.

The team’s primary community project is to raise funds for The Birdie Project, where players seek pledges for various amounts for the birdies they pick up during the entire season (including tournaments) and it is compiled at the end of the season.

The money will go to the I Got This Foundation, started by former Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor player Amy Bockerstette, that helps bring golf opportunities to people with intellectual disabilities. Bockerstette has Down Syndrome, and played for the Paradise Valley Community College team. She was the first athlete with Down to be awarded an athletic scholarship.

“Amy is a super charming girl and this is a very worthy cause that will help her and others,’’ Dawson said.

Pledges and further inquiries for this fund-raiser can be addressed to the Xavier athletic office, c/o Annie Dawson, anniedgolf@gmail.com, and/or Tui Selvaratnam, tselvaratnam@xcp.org.


XCP badminton falls just short in opening match

 Xavier Prep’s badminton team gave an indication that it will be more of a competitive force this season when it faced host Phoenix Pinnacle on Tuesday (Aug. 23).

The Gators took two singles sets to three games and two doubles matches to three games before falling to the Pioneers 5-4.

Xavier’s No. 3, 4, 5 and 6 all won in singles play, but the three doubles teams could not get over the top.

Next up is the Flying Feathers tournament on Friday (Aug. 26) with a 10 a.m. start at Gilbert Highland.

Tuesday’s result

@ Phoenix Pinnacle

Pinnacle 5, Xavier Prep 4

Singles

Faith Kroening, P, def. Gigi Riviere, X, 21-9, 21-14; Ryleigh Dirks, P, def. Maggie Henry, X, 21-11, 14-21, 22-20; Riley Dowdall, X, def. Anya Kannan, P, 15-21, 21-17, 21-12; Corinne Ladha, X, def. Claudia Blaylock, P, 21-14, 21-14; Lexi Garman, X, def. Maia Broda, P, 21-18, 21-14; Sarah Castlen, X, def. Payton Crank, P, 21-19, 22-20.

Doubles

Dirks-Crank, P, def. Henry-Ladha, X, 21-17, 5-21, 21-11; Kroening-Kannan, P, def. Riviere-Ava Hilsabeck, X, 20-22, 21-13, 21-19; Broda-Blaylock, P, def. Garman-Dowdall, X, 21-10, 21-18.


Saturday, August 20, 2022

On-the-job training was helpful for badminton team

 Xavier Prep’s badminton team had little or no experience for the most part in 2021, but the Gators still managed to win eight of 18 matches and claimed the No. 15 seed in the Division I state tournament.

The Gators fell to second-seeded Gilbert Perry, which went on to earn its fifth straight state crown by defeating top-seeded Scottsdale Chaparral.

Despite that quick exit, Xavier gained much-needed experience and is better off for it as it enters the 2022 season. The Gators feature 20 players, with 11 gaining some experience counting some work on the JV.

There are five seniors, four juniors, nine sophomores and two freshmen.

Guess who? Seniors Gigi Riviere, left, and Riley Dowdall, are the faces of experience who hope to give Xavier Prep's badminton team a boost this season (Photo by Don Ketchum).

The team has been going through preseason workouts at the Activity Center and opens regular-season play on Tuesday (Aug. 23) with a road match at Phoenix Pinnacle.

“We’ve had a lot of good girls out there on the court getting ready,’’ said head coach Brian McNerney, who will be assisted by Beth Valdez this season.

Among the top players are seniors Gigi Riviere and Riley Dowdall and sophomores Maggie Henry and Corinne Ladha, according to McNerney. Another player who could be a key contributor is senior Ava Hilsabeck, who McNerney said “has worked hard all summer.’’

Sophomore Reagan Perez didn’t have a lot of experience as a freshman, but she went from being a top exhibition player who is someone who could earn a JV spot this season, which could lead to a look on the varsity under the right circumstances.

Riviere is expected to be the No. 1 singles player and one of the two top doubles players. Dowdall likely will be in the No. 2 spot in singles. The doubles lineup is expected to be in place after a practice session on Monday (Aug. 22).

“The early part of the season will be a tough challenge,’’ McNerney said. “We’ve been working on a lot of footwork and endurance work.’’

Riviere admitted she was a bit nervous at the beginning of last season. She had been the No. 1 JV player the year before and moved up to the No. 1 varsity spot, where her older sister, Sophie, had played.

“That was kind of a big jump, but I got stronger during the year and now I think I know more about what to expect,’’ Gigi Riviere said.

Dowdall and Riviere are working with many of the younger players.

“We want to win more games than last year,’’ Riviere said. “We want to pass our knowledge down and help them get to the playoffs. We are all very good friends.’’

Riviere has been working on her placement strategy (yes, there is one), and Dowdall is working on placements as well as her drop shots.

“Once you get your skills in place, you can get your strategy down,’’ Dowdall said.

BADMINTON

Tue. Aug. 23 -- @ Phoenix Pinnacle, 4 p.m.

Fri.-Sat. Aug. 26-27 – Flying Feathers Tournament @ Gilbert Highland, Times TBA

Tue. Aug. 30 -- @ Surprise Shadow Ridge, 4 p.m.

Wed. Aug. 31 – Gilbert High @ XCP, 4 p.m.

Thur. Sept. 1 – Mesa Red Mountain @ XCP, 4 p.m.

Tue. Sept. 6 – @ Mesa Desert Ridge, 4 p.m.

Wed. Sept. 7 -- @ Phoenix Carl Hayden, 4 p.m.

Mon. Sept. 12 – Queen Creek High @ XCP, 4 p.m.

Wed. Sept. 14 -- @ Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor, 4 p.m.

Tue. Sept. 20 – Chandler Hamilton @ XCP, 4 p.m.

Thur. Sept. 22 – Chandler Basha @ XCP, 4 p.m.

Wed. Sept. 28 – Glendale Mountain Ridge @ XCP, 4 p.m.

Thur. Sept. 29 – Gilbert Perry @ XCP, 4 p.m.

Mon. Oct. 3 -- @ Phoenix Sunnyslope, 4 p.m.

Thur. Oct. 13 -- @ Chandler High, 4 p.m.

XAVIER ROSTER

Head coach – Brian McNerney. Assistant – Beth Valdez.

Seniors – Gigi Riviere, Riley Dowdall, Lexi Coleman, Ava Hilsabeck, Sarah Castlen.

Juniors – Lila Williams, Kasia Smigielski, Chloe Andrews, Sofia Zielinski.

Sophomores – Maggie Henry, Corinne Ladha, Ella Wilson, Abby Alcock, Maddie Taylor, Natalie Weatherwax, Reagan Perez, Audrey Frevola, Samantha Riggle.

Freshmen – Ana Matuz, Kylie Weisheit.

 

 

Swim-dive coach: "Most everybody has improved"

 When Glen Coy took over the Xavier Prep swimming program in 2021, he spent much of the early season learning the names of his swimmers and learning in which events they would be the best fit.

“I didn’t have as much of a chance to do actual coaching as I would have liked because I was trying to get to know everything and everybody,’’ he said. “But this year is different.’’

Coy admits the Gators don’t have what would be called a superstar (but who does, other than four-time Division I state champion Scottsdale Chaparral?).

He looked out on the pool at Brophy Prep for a preseason workout on Thursday (Aug. 18) and said, “We are looking good. We have a lot of solid swimmers. They are hard-working. I think most everybody has improved on what we had last year.’’

Xavier, which finished seventh at state a year ago, has a handful of seniors this season, led by the trio of co-captains Dylan Miller, Lainey Weiland and Cassie Worth. All are freestylers who also can participate in relay events.

Xavier Prep swim-dive has three senior co-captains. From left, Lainey Weiland, Cassie Worth and Dylan Miller (Photo by Don Ketchum).

Coy also expects to get some productivity from sophomore Geni George, who missed virtually all of last season with an injury. He said she has looked good in some of the initial workouts. Most of the swimmers have participated in club competition since last season ended, including the Phoenix Swim Club.

Diving coach Frank Pipitone has two key seniors, Claire Chong and Michelle Mierzwa, and three sophomores, Payton Farley, Elle Houle and Maya Superfon. Coy said Pipitone is enthused about their potential.

“We’re all looking for a good season, making it back to state and doing better overall as a team,’’ said Miller.

Team traditions play a big part in bonding among the athletes, Miller said.

Worth said she, Miller and Weiland are each assigned to a group of underclassmen, helping them in whatever way possible and giving the younger swimmers an opportunity to ask questions, etc.

“We enjoy doing that,’’ Worth said.

She competes in the freestyle events and the backstroke on occasion.

Weiland said doing well at state “has always been a goal for me. Over the last year, I have continued to exercise and stay healthy, and be ready for the start of the season. We are all looking forward to it.’’

Xavier opens its season on Sept. 1 against Chandler High at Brophy.

 

Swimming & Diving

Thur. Sept. 1 – Chandler High @ Brophy Pool, 4 p.m.

Thur. Sept. 8 – vs. Mesa Red Mountain @ Mesa Skyline, 4 p.m.

Thur. Sept. 15 – vs. Phoenix Horizon @ Brophy Pool, 4 p.m.

Thur. Sept. 22 – vs. Gilbert Highland @ Greenfield Junior High, Gilbert, 4 p.m.

Sat. Sept. 24 – XCP/BCP Invitational @ Brophy Pool, Time TBA

Thur. Seot. 29 – Mesa Mountain View @ Brophy Pool, 4 p.m.

Thur. Oct. 13 – vs. Mesa Desert Ridge @ Mesa Skyline, 4 p.m.

Thur. Oct. 20 – Chandler Basha, Mesa Mountain View & Mesa Red Mountain, @ Brophy Pool, 4 p.m.

Sat. Oct 29 – AMDG Invitational @ Brophy Pool, Time TBA

XAVIER VARSITY ROSTER

Head coach – Glen Coy. Assistants – David Smithers, Jenny James. Diving coach – Frank Pipitone.

Senior swimmers – Perla Akiki, Waverly Bagley, Maryn Day, Dylan Miller, Elena Weiland, Catherine Worth.

Junior swimmers – Ava Gill, Bell Guerra, Brooke Person, Sophia Sweatlock, Audrey Schaub.

Sophomore swimmers – Kate Bierman, Carter Cook, Genevieve George, Malena Lebedeff, Lola Lysak, Ginger Mago, Meredith Scott, Krista Tymkiw, Natalie Weiland.

Freshman swimmers – Courtney Beaver, Grace Crowley, Sophie Dumanski, Raleigh Kaul, Adriana Lauterborn, Audrey McEwen, Corbin Smiley, Sophie Villanueva, Stelle Vinokur.

Senior divers – Claire Chong, Michelle Mierzwa.

Sophomore divers – Payton Farley, Elle Houle, Maya Superfon.


Thursday, August 18, 2022

Golfers need to be "ready to play every time out''

 Xavier Prep’s Gators will lace up their golf spikes and hit the ground at a full sprint to begin the 2022 season.

XCP will play in two tournaments and one two-team match during the first week as it tries to put itself in position to capture the 38th state championship in school history. The team finished second behind Peoria Liberty in 2021, by a scant three shots.

The team’s first challenge will be in the Brophy Invitational, on Monday (Aug. 22) and Tuesday (Aug. 23) at XCP’s Phoenix Country Club home.

On Wednesday (Aug. 24), the team will be back at PCC to face Chandler High.

And on Friday (Aug. 26), Xavier will travel to Tucson to play in the Nighthawk Invitational at the Tucson National Resort’s Catalina Course, one of two resort courses used for state tournament competition the last several years.

Xavier lost four players to graduation, and one (Ivy Song) participated in the state tournament. The rest of its lineup is intact, according to Tui Selvaratnam, the team’s co-head coach along with Sr. Lynn Winsor. Jane Ladensack is an assistant coach.

“We will have 20 players, including a freshman class with a lot of talent,’’ said Selvaratnam. “We will let the younger players see how Xavier golf shapes up.’’

It was another busy day for Xavier's Gators on the Phoenix Country Club putting green and co-head coach Tui Selvaratnam (blue shirt) tells her players how she wants them to make things happen. (Photo by Don Ketchum).


The top returnees will include senior Annie Dawson, who finished the individual battle in a tie for fifth place last season. Others who figure to make a significant improvement are junior Kate Hauptman (tied for14th), junior Jayden Jevnick (tied for 26th) and junior Lena Durette (tied for 28th).

“The girls will have to be focused and ready to play,’’ Selvaratnam said. “And that means being ready every time out.’’

Jevnick said the team’s close finish against Liberty is a motivating factor for coming back stronger this time around.

“I didn’t contribute the way I wanted, and now I need to come back and play the best that I can,’’ she said.

Hauptman shot a first-round 82 and came charging back with a final-round 69. She said she needs to be more consistent.

Sophie Stamatis, who joins Dawson as one of two seniors this season, said the support of the teammates, particularly at tournament time, can go a long way.

“It helps each other out,’’ she said.

She hopes to make a bigger contribution this year after improved play over the summer with her irons, her driver and her chipping.

Selvaratnam pointed to another player who has raised the level of play, junior Grace Rubelsky.

“She has improved a ton and is doing well with all parts of her game,’’ the coach said.

GOLF

Mon. Aug. 22 & Tues. Aug. 23 – Brophy Invitational @ Phoenix CC, Times TBA

Wed. Aug. 24 – Chandler High @ Phoenix CC

Fri. Aug. 26 – Nighthawk Invitational @ Tucson National Catalina, 1 p.m.

Mon. Aug. 29 – Gilbert Perry @ Lone Tree GC, Gilbert, 3 p.m.

Thur. Sept. 1 – Brophy Rodeo @ Grayhawk GC, Scottsdale, Time TBA

Wed. Seot. 7 – Chandler Hamilton @ Phoenix CC, 2:45 p.m.

Mon. Sept. 12 – Glendale Mountain Ridge @ Legend Golf Resort/Arrowhead, Glendale, 3 p.m.

Wed. Sept. 14 –  Chandler Basha @ Phoenix CC, 2:45 p.m.

Mon. Sept. 19 -- @ Phoenix Desert Vista, Foothills Club West GC, Ahwatukee, 3 p.m.

Wed. Sept. 21 – Tempe Corona del Sol @ Phoenix CC, 2:45 p.m.

Tue.  Sept. 27 – Goodyer Millennium @ Phoenix CC, 2:45 p.m.

Wed. Sept. 28 – Peoria Liberty @ Phoenix CC, 2:45 p.m.

Mon. Oct. 3 – Phoenix Horizon @ Kierland GC, Scottsdale, 3 p.m.

XAVIER VARSITY ROSTER

Co-head coaches – Tui Selvaratnam & Sr. Lynn Winsor. Assistant – Jane Ladensack.

Seniors – Annie Dawson, Sophie Stamatis.

Juniors – Reimi Bleyl, Lauren Campbell, Kalyn Doss, Lena Durette, Kate Hauptman, Jayden Jevnick, Kyla Layman, Karter Nannen, Grace Rubelsky.

Sophomores – Carrie Doss, Aanvi Goel.

Freshmen – Giulianna Bulkley, Madalyn Gubernick, Alanna Karuru, Natalie Lamadrid, Sophie PeBenito-Brooks, Isabella Piazza, Ellie Von Kolen.

Endurance, depth put runners near top of the list

 From 2010-21, Xavier Prep’s cross-country team earned four state championships, four runners-up trophies and had one third-place finish.

So it’s no wonder that Gators coach Dave Van Sickle knows of which he speaks when he says, “It’s always nice to get on the podium.’’

XCP last stood atop the podium in 2018, but appears to have a decent chance of reaching that lofty height again in 2022, led by three outstanding seniors with a strong supporting cast that could put a number of runners who could emerge in the top five of races at just about any time. Xavier’s deep roster features 34 runners.

The top seniors are Reese Brown, Kylie Graf and Nora Hinkle. They might be labeled as fitness fanatics, working their way up the ladder through the years.

Reese Brown

Kylie Graf

Nora Hinkle


Van Sickle, who also is the school’s track and field head coach, said Brown and Graf were sprinters on the track team who decided they wanted to be more competitive, so they combined that speed with the endurance of cross country.

And here they are.

Hinkle picked up the pace as a sophomore in a weight training class coached by Van Sickle.

“She has incredible aerobic power,’’ he said. “She was always on the treadmill. I couldn’t get her off of it.’’

Xavier finished fourth a year ago behind champion Gilbert Highland, runner-up Phoenix Desert Vista and No. 3 Peoria Liberty.

All figure to challenge again, but there is a key new element of which to take note.

Desert Vista, which had won the two previous years’ titles before last season, suffered a setback when star runner Lauren Ping said she will transfer to Chandler Valley Christian for her senior season after winning as a freshman, sophomore and junior.

“I think some of the (Division I) schools might be breathing a sigh of relief, thinking of who might have a chance to win the individual race,’’ Van Sickle said. “And Desert Vista should have a chance to start fresh.’’

Xavier will open its season on Sept. 3 in the Peaks Invitational at Buffalo Park in Flagstaff.

“Most of the teams (from northern Arizona) should be used to the course and the fact that it is a lot cooler . . . at least until the last mile,’’ Van Sickle said.

That’s when Xavier’s endurance could prove to be valuable.

CROSS COUNTRY

(Times TBA)

Sat. Sept.3 – The Peaks Invite @ Buffalo Park, Flagstaff

Fri. Sept. 16 – Woodbridge Classic @ Orange County Great Park, Irvine, CA.

Sat. Sept. 24 – Thunderbird Classic @ Mountain View Park, Phoenix

Fri. Sept. 30 – Desert Twilight Festival @ Coyote Run Golf Course, Leisure World, Mesa

Sat. Oct. 8 – Glendale Showcase @ Heroes’ Regional Park, Glendale

Sat. Oct. 15 – John Gleeson Lancer Invitationalk @ Rolling Hills GC, Tucson

Sat. Oct. 22 – Mt. SAC Invitational @ Mt. San Antonio College, Walnut, CA.

XAVIER VARSITY ROSTER

Head coach – Dave Van Sickle. Assistants – Andrea Williams, Eden Higgins, Vito Perrone, Nissa Kubly.

Seniors – Reece Brown, Olivia Charles, Kylie Graf, Nora Hinkle, Emily Manuelito, Alma Melendez, Cassara Ryan, Reyna Silva, Arianna Thompson-Bueno, Bella Titus, Naomi Young.

Juniors – Blakely Anderson, Lily Beaver, Sophia Corona, Susan Findlay, Bella Gomez, Summer Goodman, Jimena Gutierrez, Zoe Lopez, Adelaide Luna, Maya Nagaraj, Julia Russo.

Sophomores – Alondra Babonoyaba, Lily Bourque, Bri Burgoz, Ellie Hilsabeck, Maggie Mostoller, Caroline Vietor, Karina Zavieri.

Freshmen – Amelia Busch, Avianna Damon-Showalter, Sierra Luna, Ella Wadsworth, Laney Witman.


Xavier volleyball team looks to build momentum

 The Xavier Prep volleyball team is beginning to build momentum toward the start of the 2022 season.

There are many aspects to this process, including communication that is helped by team bonding activities, such as a recent pool party where cool was the rule.

The Gators also are more athletic than some of head coach Lamar-Renee Bryant’s previous teams. As the team had recent preseason workouts at neighboring Brophy Prep, Bryant had her players go through various agility drills as well as skipping rope. You never know when something like that could help you at just the right moment.

“That allows more girls to play at multiple positions,’’ said Bryant, who led the team to a 24-11 finish last season.

One of those players would be Ava Larkin, who will be playing some in the setter spot, along with fellow senior Maddie MacDonald.

Two seniors will see duty at the setter spot this fall, Ava Larkin, left, and Maddie MacDonald (photos by Don Ketchum).

Xavier will have eight players returning from last season, eight new players and two freshmen.

The 5-foot-11 Larkin agrees with her coach in regard to the team’s athleticism.

“We have a lot of potential, and being able to do more things helps,’’ Larkin said. “We are more dynamic that way. Being adaptable helps you be more well-rounded, helps you understand all parts of the game. It helps me be a better setter, and as an outside hitter from the right side.’’

Larkin uses her left hand/arm on most occasions, and puts a lot of speed on her shots. If you listen closely, you might be able to hear the ball “hissing.’’

Part of MacDonald’s approach to setting is having leadership, being vocal about her surroundings.

“You look at the situation, where everyone is, including the opponents, and you’re telling your teammates things that help them on the attack,’’ she said.

The Gators’ work ethic also is a key factor.

“We want to play “gritty volleyball,’ ‘’ MacDonald said. “We want to be able to outwork every team we play. That’s the way were trying to do it now (preseason).’’

-

Gators coach Lamar-Renee Bryant (blue shirt) provides instructions to her players before a preseason practice at Brophy Prep.

She is looking forward to the annual preseason scrimmage hosted by Chandler Hamilton, which this year will be held Aug. 24 and feature Hamilton, Xavier, Chandler Basha and a fourth team, which in recent years has been Phoenix Sunnyslope.

“Hopefully we will be able to get some of the kinks out,’’ she said.

Larkin said she is ready to see “how much we grow as a team. We are all pretty close off the court. I think we are going to take it pretty far this season.’’

On the defensive side of the net, the Gators bear watching with liberos/defensive specialists Mia Accommazzo (junior) and Olivia Lenz (sophomore).

Xavier begins its regular season at home in the Activity Center with a match against Peoria Liberty on Aug. 30, then takes to the road to meet host Gilbert High on Aug. 31.

Volleyball

Tue. Aug. 30 – Peoria Liberty @ XCP, 6 p.m.

Wed. Aug. 31 – Gilbert High @ Gilbert High, 6 p.m.

Tue. Sept. 6 – Laveen Cesar Chavez @ XCP, 6 p.m.

Thur. Sept. 8 – Mesa High @ XCP, 6 p.m.

Mon. Sept. 12 – Gilbert Highland at Brophy Prep, 6 p.m.

Wed. Sept. 14 – @ Mesa Mountain View, 6 p.m.

Tue. Sept. 20 -- @ Anthem Boulder Creek, 6 p.m.

Wed. Sept. 21 – Chandler Basha @ XCP, 6 p.m.

Thur. Sept. 22 -- @ Chandler High, 6 p.m.

Tue. Sept. 27 – Gilbert Perry @ XCP, 6 p.m.

Wed. Sept. 28 -- @ Phoenix Sunnyslope, 6 p.m.

Wed. Oct. 5 – Chandler Hamilton @ XCP, 6 p.m.

Wed. Oct. 12 -- @ Tempe Corona del Sol, 6 p.m.

Thur. Oct. 13 -- @ Chandler Basha, 6 p.m.

Tue., Oct. 18 – Chandler High @ XCP, 6 p.m.

Thur. Oct. 20 -- @ Gilbert Perry, 6 p.m.

Wed. Oct, 26 -- @ Chandler Hamilton, 6 p.m.

XAVIER VARSITY ROSTER

Head coach – Lamar-Renee Bryant. Assistants – Jamie Itule, Anna Panagiotakopoulos.

Seniors – Mei Prieto, DS/L; Kristy Tom, S; Ava Larkin, OH/S; Maddie Macdonald, S.

Juniors – Camila Cornejo Farmer, MB/OH; Mia Accommazzo, DS/L; Reese Bozak, OH; Bridget O’Sullivan, OH; Finley Workman, OH; Kaelyn Putz, S.

Sophomores – Olivia Lenz, DS/L; Annemarie O’Gara, MB; Elle McCreery, MB; Courtney Snopko, OH.

Freshmen – Mattea Saunders, DS/L; Vivian Hickman, OH.


Friday, August 12, 2022

Gillom heads Arizona Sports Hall of Fame class

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

And the beneficiary is Xavier Prep basketball coach Jennifer Gillom.

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

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

“It was overwhelming learning about this honor, and getting all of those votes was special in itself,’’ said Gillom, 58.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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