Xavier Prep was down earlier this week from a somewhat surprising sweep at the hands of defending state champion Horizon. Apparently the Gators have shrugged that defeat off.
Xavier regrouped after a 3-0 loss to Horizon on Wednesday, storming back Friday and Saturday to win the elite Platinum Division at the 5th annual Nike Tournament of Champions Volleyball Invitational at Court 1 in Tempe.
Competing in the same eight-team bracket with Arizona rivals Horizon, Hamilton and Sunnyslope, Xavier ended up taking on three of four out-of-state opponents to win the elite bracket. Xavier won the final in astounding manner, rallying from a 9-0 deficit in the third and decisive set to post a 25-23 victory over St. Joseph's Academy (St. Louis, Mo.). Xavier won the first set of the title match, 28-26, fending off two set points. The Gators dropped the second set 25-16 before showing plenty of grit for the comeback triumph.
“We came to the tournament on a mental and emotional roller-coaster,” Xavier coach Lamar-Renee Bryant said. “Our goal was to come here and play hard and be good teammates. We got smacked in the face a couple days ago. So to come back and win a tournament like this, it's a huge confidence builder.”
Lanier, a 6-foot-2 outside hitter in her second season as a varsity starter, was more often than not Saturday — unstoppable. She registered 17 kills in the title match and made it a double-double with 10 digs. Many of her kills were using her size and leaping ability to hit over St. Joseph's block. Lanier received the bracket MVP award for her efforts. Teammates Mia Teilborg added seven kills and Dani Westfall had five. Libero Chaney Hart came up with 12 digs. Xavier was a perfect 6-0 in the tournament, winning three matches each day.
Xavier didn't draw even or take the lead in the final set until a block evened the set at 22. St. Joseph's went back in front, 23-22, when a Lanier attack landed out of bounds. Xavier called time and proceeded to score the next three points on kills by Teilborg and the Gators shortest hitter, Anna Cutter. Xavier closed it out on a St. Joseph's hitting error.
Xavier reached the title match by sweeping Oaks Christian (Westlake Village, Calif) in the quarters and taking three sets to tame Marymount High (Los Angeles) in three sets. Horizon won its first match of the Platinum Division, was beaten in the semis in two sets by St. Joseph's and then topped Marymount for third place. Hamilton and Sunnyslope both lost first-round matches in the elite division. Hamilton defeated Sunnyslope in a consolation match.
Other Arizona teams winning in bracket play on Saturday at the 63-team tournament were Flagstaff over Sprague High (Salem, Ore) in the Silver Division and Mesa High knocking off Thatcher for the Gold Division title.