Xavier Prep defeats defending champ Basha in VB opener

September 22, 2020 by Les Willsey, AZPreps365

Xavier Prep players are all smiles Tuesday night after finishing off a road win over Basha in the volleyball opener for both schools. (Azpreps365 photo).

Xavier Prep is more used to being a defending state champion in big school volleyball than anyone in the new millennium. The Gators have won 10 state title in 20 seasons since 2000. Thing was Tuesday night the Gators weren't last year's 6A champs. Their opponent - Basha - was.

Xavier, with a few pieces returning from last year's quarterfinal finish, took advantage of rebuilding Basha after two tight early sets and pulled away in the third to sweep the Bears, 26-24, 25-22, 25-13 at Basha High.

"We were like the little engine that could," Xavier coach Lamar-Renee Bryant said. "We kept pushing and pushing. At the start we were in the kiddie pool and by the end we were swimming in the deep end. I think as the match went on we got a little more comfortable with what we were doing. We need to do that earlier."

Returning starters - junior setter Alexa Shiner, junior middle blocker Isabella Sinacori and seniors Kaori Robertson (libero) Zaira Reyes (outside-setter) - gave Xavier experience to rely on in the opener. They were helped in the 2020 season debut by senior middle Phoebe Lewis, sophomore hitter Kate Tax and junior outside Emma Soderstrom. 

Lewis, who played for Xavier on the junior varsity as a freshman and then left the program the past two seasons, led the Gators with nine kills. Tax made the varsity last season, but didn't get many opportunities, was next with eight. Bryant said Tax reaped the benefit in the offseason of getting bigger and stronger with powerful hitting. Sinacori added six kills. Shiner checked in with 28 assists, seven digs and three aces.

Xavier built four-to-six-point leads in the opening set, but a 7-0 run by Basha threatened to rally the Bears to victory. Chloe Murakami, a transfer from Lake Washington High in Kirkland, Wash., served the points. Two were aces. Xavier scored four of the final six points and finished the set with two kills.

Tax led Xavier with six kills in the second set with Soderstrom, Lewis and Sinacori added three apiece.

Basha coach Terri Spann saw a lot of first-match jitters from the Bears and had to discipline a couple players for arriving late. The Bears returned two starters from last season - senioor libero Hayley Carrington and junior right side Meghan O'Meara.

"We were nervous, but Xavier played amazing," Spann said. "Overall we were inconsistent and didnt' have a good night hitting. I did a lot of substituting the last set, trying to find some consistency but it just wasn't there. We are rebuilding. We have a habit of starting slow, but get better as things go on."

O'Meara led Basha with nine kills and Jayden James added five. Neither enjoyed a strong hitting night. Both teams are back at it Wednesday. Basha is on the road at Corona del Sol while Xavier hosts Chaparral.