Experience surpassed effort as Xavier College Preparatory School defended home court against visiting Red Mountain High School with a decisive 8-1 win between two AZPreps365 Top 20 teams.
After the first game of the varsity singles runs, Xavier Prep went on a steak of winning 10 straight games, the last eight as sweeps.
The heart of the lineup provided Xavier with its best performances, as the team’s varsity second through fifth players had a 7.38 point average margin of victory. It was the bookends of the lineup that got into the most trouble.
The Gators’ top player, junior Sophie Riviere, claimed her fifth singles win of the season, and her second in the top slot, but it wasn’t until Red Mountain’s Brynn Dorsey pushed her to three games.
Dorsey, who has played as the Lions’ No. 1 most often this year, was her usual intense self. Bouncing around all corners of the court, the sophomore readily wielded a mash from the back corner to return a far hit birdie. Where she got caught up, though, was mid-range line drives, which sharply lodged themselves into the net a few times.
With her intensity came a few chances where playing aggressive led to giving up ground. Down 17-14 in her final game, Riviere sent a birdie high after a short push from Dorsey. Reaching for the shuttlecock before it dipped out of its trajectory, Dorsey lept, extending her right arm enough to spike the mid-range shot back at her opponent. The angle was just so that Riviere took only two steps in the second the birdie was hit to her before pushing it to the far left of Dorsey’s court, where she could only watch as she recovered from leaving the ground.
The point propelled Riviere to a 21-16 score in the singles win. From there, the Gators cruised. The play was loud and systematic, with girls calling out to each other while in play on their own or on the bench watching each other.
The Gators dominated the doubles round, with three sweeps and effective strategy. After almost every one of their own serves, the Xavier pair shifts from a front-back setup to a line, not to go without a loud “SIDES” from either player navy.
Red Mountain assistant coach Jackie Kennedy delineated the plays as she saw it from her view on the bench.
“When they're hitting them high into the air, they're supposed to move to the sides,” she said. “And then that way, when it's going high, then they're ready for the smash, and they can cover more space.”
Xavier’s strength was in their refinement. “This team is really good,” Kennedy said frankly. “They just have more experience.” An adjustment is in place for next practice, said Kennedy, echoing head coach Jake Kober, who preceded Kennedy on the way out of the gym to the bus.
“We’ve talked about it in practice, but not enough,” Kennedy said. “You know, it was kind of an eye-opener for us.”
Simon Williams is a sports journalism student at Arizona State's Cronkite School of Journalism covering Red Mountain High School athletics.