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, November 4, 2022

Xavier v-ball bids adieu to state tournament

 There only are a few opportunities for a volleyball team to step in during the last few minutes, take control of the game and perhaps the match itself.

Xavier’s Gators have been haunted by that scenario on occasion this season, and the most emotional, crushing instance of all came in the ninth-seeded team’s first-round match at No. 8 Queen Creek on Thursday night (Nov. 3).

Xavier won the opening game, dropped a close one in Game 2 and battled back and forth with the Bulldogs in Game 3.

As the score inched to a 24-23 Xavier lead, Queen Creek came back to tie it and on two other occasions before winning it 29-27 for a 2-1 advantage.

It took the Gators’ breath away. As Game 4 began, they watched Queen Creek score the first five points and never were able to catch up as Queen Creek took the match 3-1.

Final scores were 25-17 Xavier, 25-21 Queen Creek, 29-27 Queen Creek and 25-17 Queen Creek.

Xavier ended its season with a respectable 20-13 record. Queen Creek moved to 22-13 and will play a quarterfinal match against top-seeded host Tempe Corona del Sol on Tuesday night (Nov. 8).

“We had our opportunities to put the game away, but weren’t able to do it. We gave it our best effort,’’ said Xavier Coach Lamar-Renee Bryant.

Bryant will have 12 current underclassmen back next season, and she had a message for those players after Thursday night’s match.

“I want them to remember how they are feeling right now,’’ she said. “Last year, we played Queen Creek in the tournament (quarterfinals) and eliminated them. Those of them who came back this year remembered and look what happened. We’ve gotta do the same thing next year.’’

Queen Creek used the heavy hitting from 6-foot junior Blaykli Bobik and 6-2 sophomore Haleina Bowers to rattle the Gators.

Xavier attempted to use crosscourt misdirection on some of its returns, but Queen Creek caught up to the ploy later on.

Sophomore middle blocker Elle McCreery and junior outside hitter Finley Workman helped the Gators up front, and sophomore defensive specialist/libero Olivia Lenz came up with numerous digs to help Xavier stay out of trouble as much as possible.

First-round results

(Seedings in parentheses)

Tempe Corona del Sol (1) 3, Chandler High (16) 0; Queen Creek (8) 3, Xavier Prep (9) 1; Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor (5) 3, Gilbert Highland (12) 2; Gilbert Perry (4) 3, Phoenix Desert Vista (13) 0; Gilbert High (3) 3, Surprise Shadow Ridge (14) 0; Peoria Liberty (6) 3, Mesa Mountain View (11) 0; Phoenix Sunnyslope (7) 3, Surprise Valley Vista (10) 0; Chandler Hamilton (2) 3, Phoenix Pinnacle (15) 0.

Quarterfinal schedule

Tuesday, Nov. 8

All games, 6 p.m.

Queen Creek at Corona del Sol, Sandra Day O’Connor at Perry, Liberty at Gilbert High, Sunnyslope at Hamilton.

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