Undefeated Xavier Prep is on the road to their 12th state title
October 19, 2017 by Keaton Milburn, Arizona State University
PHOENIX – As the whistle blows the pressure is on for the girls of the Xavier College Preparatory varsity volleyball team.
Having an undefeated regular season, 14-0 and 33-3 overall, is something to be proud of, but having 11 state championships and being the number one volleyball team in Arizona’s 6A division is something to brag about. The Gators consistent victories don’t come easily though.
“We worry about our side of the net,” coach Lamar-Renee Bryant said. “So if you’re number one in the state, you’re number five in the state, you’re number 100 in the state you still got to work hard. We just believe in working hard every single day.”
Hard work comes with a motivating coach. Bryant has been with Xavier for 14 seasons. Eight of those, she coached the junior varsity team before moving to Varsity in 2011. Although the team hasn’t won a state championship since 2013, they are typically ranked between the top three spots in the state since Bryant took over.
Xavier is currently ranked No. 1 in the state and No. 8 nationally, but that has not always been the case. In 2011 they were ranked number one in the state but No. 62 nationally. Ever since coach Bryant took over, the team has only progressed in their national rank moving up to No. 8 currently.
“I couldn’t be more proud of my team for being number one in the state,” said Serena Turner, a freshman outside hitter for Xavier. “This is a huge accomplishment considering all the other amazing schools in our division.”
Turner and some of the other freshman players didn’t have to experience the loss at the semifinals last year in the team’s road to state.
In 2016 Corona del Sol was No. 1 in the state of Arizona and beat Xavier, then No. 3, in an intense five game match. Corona del Sol won the first two games with scores 25-23 and 25-18 before Xavier came back winning games three and four with scores 25-18 and 25-15. Corona ended up beating Xavier and went on to win state that year.
It takes more than just a few hours of practice everyday to win 11 state titles. Xavier has a leg up in the competition by engaging in the Durango Fall Classic Volleyball Tournament in California and the Nike Tournament of Champions here in Arizona. These tournaments host high school volleyball teams from all over the nation, which gives many teams a chance to compete with higher-level players.
“It just puts things in perspective of playing competition that’s often better than us,” Bryant said. “That tournament makes us a tougher team, we can handle adversity, we can handle big girls, and we know what to do to win.”
Xavier won the Silver Division Championship at the Durango Tournament and got third at the Nike Tournament of Champions. A more meaningful win for the team may have been the fact that they beat Corona del Sol at the Nike Tournament in a revenge match. These tournaments show that Xavier has what it takes to fight for the state title this year no matter the circumstance, but the team is taking it one step at a time.
“I focus my efforts on the next game,” senior and libero Alyna Draper said. “Not until the season is over will we change our mindsets for playoffs.”
The undefeated Xavier Gators will play the Hamilton Huskies in a rivalry match Tuesday October 24th to see if they can keep up their reigning number one spot.