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, October 28, 2022

After loss to Hamilton, XCP v-ball looks to "play-in"

 The first time that Chandler Hamilton’s volleyball team played Xavier Prep this season (on Oct. 5), Hamilton more or less sleepwalked through the match and the host Gators made the Huskies pay with a 3-0 sweep.

On Thursday (Oct. 27) the teams squared off again at Hamilton in the regular season finale for both, and this time the Huskies were wide awake, having little trouble with the Gators in taking a 3-1 home victory on Senior Night.

Scores were 25-19, 19-25, 25-19 and 25-12.

Hamilton, the two-time defending 6A Conference champion, raised its record to 31-7, while Xavier fell just one win short of the 20-win level at 19-12.

The state tournament begins on Nov. 3, but in order to get there, Xavier must win a “play-in’’ game on Monday (Oct. 31) at Xavier against Glendale Mountain Ridge. The contest begins at 2 p.m.

The top eight teams listed in the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s power points rankings are assured a first-round home game. Xavier was the No. 9 team in the final rankings, therefore necessitating a play-in appearance. Mountain Ridge is No. 24.

All of the play-in games are scheduled Tuesday (Nov. 1), but Xavier’s contest had to be moved up one day due to important school events on campus Tuesday.

A trip to the state tournament is not automatic by any means, particularly if the Gators played the way they did against Hamilton on Thursday.

Xavier rebounded from its loss in the opening game to match and even surpass Hamilton stride for stride in Game 2. The Gators got a quick 5-0 jump and managed to maintain control.

Xavier was down 17-13 midway through the second half of Game 3 and even managed to pull even at 18. Hamilton then scored six straight points and headed toward the finish line soon after.

Hamilton went on another six-point run in the fourth game and Xavier did not challenge.

Xavier Coach Lamar-Renee Bryant was candid in her assessment.

“We gave up at the end,’’ she said. “That’s not who we are. It was disheartening. We lost our confidence and our leaders were quieter.’’

Some of the Gators put up decent numbers. Senior setter Ava Larkin had every one of the team’s 39 assists to go along with 3 service aces. Sophomore defensive specialist/libero Olivia Lenz had 28 digs. Sophomore middle blocker Elle McCreery had 12 blocks, junior outside hitter Finley Workman had 12 kills and freshman Vivian Hickman had 11 kills.

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