The meeting was inevitable.
The result was not as predictable.
Not when friends from the same school meet for a state championship as was the case on Saturday when Mountain Pointe seniors Vi Koka and Kiyoko Hashimoto met for the Division I badminton state singles title.
Hashimoto, the top seed, won her first state title after coming up short as a freshman and junior with an 11-3, 11-4 win over Koka, the second seed.
“It was hard,” said Hashimoto, who has beaten Koka all three times they’ve met in competition. “When my coach came over to talk to me in between sets, he was like, ‘How are you doing?’ And I told him, ‘It’s hard.’ I mean, it was really tough.”
The duo won a DI state doubles title together as sophomores and have become close friends over the years. They were inseparable during the season and when the brackets came out last week it was pretty clear they were headed for the ultimate head-to-head matchup.
Hashimoto, who lost in the semifinals as the No. 2 seed as a freshman, won 16 straight points to close out the first game and grab a 7-0 lead in the second game before closing out her friend.
“This isn’t as sweet, because I feel like last year would have been the sweetest,” Hashimoto said. “But it’s a good thing I had a second shot. If I was senior and it had ended the way it did, I probably wouldn’t have been happy.
“There was a lot of motivation to push for (the state championship this year).”
First-year coach Larry Holmes was stuck in the middle of it to a certain degree. He told the players, who hung out before and after the match as if they were getting ready for the Pride’s homecoming rather than a state title battle, he was staying out of it but visited each player in between matches.
“I told them they were on their own,” he said. “Go win it, have fun, but go for it.”
Koka, who finished third in singles last season, didn’t play her best. When she needed a change in momentum, she’d turn her back to the net, refocus but each time she turned around there stood Hashimoto.
“I was telling myself to settle down and play better,” she said. “I was just mad it wasn’t more like the Chaparral Invitational (that went three games),” Koka said. “That was a good game, a good fight. I wish it was more like that.”
Instead Hashimoto was crowned the fifth Mountain Pointe singles champion, 10th overall including doubles titles and the first singles champion since Alexandra Elston in 2006.
“It means so much to finally get it,” said Hashimoto, who rallied from an 8-2 deficit in the semifinals to win 13-12, 11-5. “I worked really hard to get to this point and it all worked out.”
The Pride’s run of two straight years with the top doubles team ended, but Lisa Chavez and Larae Keso managed to finish third to earn the 33rd medal (15th for doubles) in Pride history after losing to the Hamilton duo in the semifinals that eventually won the title.
“We tried to be partners a few years ago and it didn’t work out,” Chavez said. “We really communicated well and our chemistry was much better.”
Keso had sad the same sentiments and was happy with the finish.
“We played really well together,” she said. “At the beginning of the season I don’t know I’d envision us getting this far, but it did.”
Desert Vista sophomore Karen Guo lost in the singles quarterfinals to the eventual fourth-place finisher Areta Buness of Xavier and while she was disappointed Guo knew it will help her in the long run.
“I did better than last year and now I have two more years to get better,” she said. “I thought I could to better, but the experience was great.”
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