A chance meeting at a badminton tournament turned into the realization they went to the same school and eventually an unbeatable chemistry.
The coming together of Mountain Pointe sophomores Kiyoko Hashimota and Vashnavi Koka might have been happenstance, but the results are anything but coincidence.
The tandem won the Arizona state badminton double title on Oct. 22 at Independence High School in Glendale.
Hashimota and Koka were nearly untouchable all season long, rarely losing a game within a match, on their way to going undefeated and bringing home the state title.
"They are both very good players that play a lot together," Mountain Pointe coach Pom Brown said. "They have a strong desire to win and can be very aggressive when they need to be."
In the state tournament, they went 6-0 and beat Chaparral's Courtney Foltz and Alex Hoffman, 15-5, 11-15, 15-13, in the finals.
The winning point came on a return by Chaparral and when it landed out of bounds the rest of the team joined Hashimota and Koka as they celebrated with a hug and high fives.
"The birdie hit and it took a minute to realize that we won it," said Koka, who approached Hashimota at tournament in the seventh grade to start their friendship. "We kind of looked at each other and then hugged and celebrated."
Hashimota was the more reserved of the two right after the victory, but was just as pleased.
"Everyone said it looked like I was going to go back and serve," she said. "I guess I really didn't realize, but when I did I was pretty excited."
Clearly, Brown made the right decision to enter them in doubles instead of singles like they did last season. A player is not allowed to play both singles and doubles at the state tournament.
"You have to look and see what is best for the team as a whole," said Brown, who now has had three doubles teams win state championships. "They would have done well in singles, but they were clearly the best doubles team throughout the year so they deserved to win."
Hashimoto said she was glad to win the state title with her friend, but can't help but think about what she could have done in singles considering she twice defeated the singles champion, Xavier's Jessica Michael, during the season.
"I guess I was happy for her," she said. "She knows that I beat her but I have two more years to try and win one."
Brown has already said she will likely get her shot next year.
"They will probably play for the singles title next year," she said. "Kiyoko is good enough to win it. She was undefeated in singles, too."
The tandem had a similar start into the sport as their parents share a love for the game.
Hashimoto used to play for fun against her parents, who played as a mixed doubles team in their competitive playing days, but as she approached high school she became more serious.
"My dad really worked with me and made sure I knew how important it was to take it serious," said Hashimoto, who was the second seed in the singles tournament as a freshman but was upset in the third round. "It's where my background is at and what I am really good at."
Koka, who was lost in the second round of singles action as a freshman at state, was mostly a tennis player who played badminton sparingly before spending a year of schooling in India where badminton rules.
"I really got better during that time but I really need to improve in singles," she said. "I am looking forward to next year already."
While most sports have become a year round venture, badminton isn't quite there. However, there are open gyms and tournaments held at Independence High and some YMCAs.
It's how they plan to stay sharp while thinking about the possibilities of what lies ahead the next two seasons.
"It's exciting to think about what might happen," Hashimoto said. "I liked badminton better when it was just for fun, but if I am going to take it serious I might as well win as much as I can."
• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or JSkoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.