Pom Brown is a diminutive and lovely lady with a soft-spoken tone.
Until she puts her foot down.
On Thursday, Brown might as well have been a 6-foot-5, 300-pound offensive lineman instead of a Mountain Pointe badminton coach.
The Pride swept defending state champion Xavier 9-0 in a regular season home match as Brown had this one circled since the Gators knocked the Pride out of the state tournament in last year’s quarterfinals.
“We practiced really hard this week,” Sabrina Martinez said. “(Brown) really wanted to win this one. I think we made a statement and they realize we are a different team this year.”
It wasn’t the fact that Mountain Pointe lost to Xavier last season; it was when. She felt Mountain Pointe was the second best team in the state but a weak schedule led to few opponent’s victory points and what she felt was an unworthy seed at No. 9.
With the same schedule this year, Brown knew they had to beat Xavier in the regular season meeting in order to get a better seed otherwise a similar scenario could play out.
“Very important match, for sure,” she said. “We don’t have many big matches (remaining) so we had to beat them and Chaparral.”
The Pride beat Firebirds early in the year 8-1 and after taking out Xavier in a clean sweep that’s a cumulative score of 17-1 against last year’s state finalists.
“They have a great team with probably the two best players and a lot of depth,” Xavier coach Nancy Meyer said. “It’s been a long time since we have been swept. We had everyone here, but we lost everyone from last year’s team.
“We are rebuilding a little bit and Mountain Pointe has a great team.”
The Pride won after singles action losing only one set in the entire match as Kiyoko Hashimoto and Vi Koka dominated at No. 1 and No. 2 singles and in doubles.
“I love playing doubles,” said Koka, who celebrated her 16th birthday by beating Meghan Crown 11-6, 11-1. “There is so much more energy. Singles is fun too, but it is different and not as exciting. I am glad I won both.
“I was nervous at the start (of singles) and had trouble serving, but I settled down and played better.”
Koka had plans to have a family dinner at Sweet Tomatoes for her birthday with the hopes of getting her first car.
It was a nice way to finish off a great team win.
“The only thing that could make it better would be to get the car,” she said with a big smile. “Pom wanted us to win this one because it will help us with power points. She made sure we knew how important this match was for our season.”
Brown, who has one state title and two state runner-up finishes to her credit since taking over for Kevin Quick in 2007, said last year’s result forced her to re-evaluate how she did things.
“It bothered me because the computer had more control than we did,” Brown said, referring to the power points. “I looked at our schedule and realized there were some (must wins) on the schedule we had. I really wanted to make a statement with this one.”
The Pride have four returning varsity players and some young talent to even out the roster.
Hashimoto, Koka, Martinez and Tegan Wambold all played at the varsity level last season while Geneva Heinkel and Larae Keso have fared well.
“The experience is there and now they see how good they really are,” Brown said. “I think this really shows we can do something special this year.”
Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.