The badminton season has brought a lot of hardware to Ahwatukee over the years.
Will this year be any different?
With Mountain Pointe ushering in its third coach in three years and Desert Vista returning its No. 1 player among others after a bit of a down year, it might appear at first glance that this could be a down year on the badminton courts.
Don’t count on it.
The tradition and talent is there to keep it rolling when the state championships come around in the final week of October.
Desert Vista, which opens play Sept. 2 at Corona del Sol, is led again by Jeremy Williams, who has an 86-63 record as he enters his 12th year running the program.
The Thunder had a good mix of experienced and young players a year ago. It should pay off this year with about half of the varsity returning in 2014.
It starts with junior Karen Guo, who played at No. 1 most of last year, and she is backed by returning starters Juliette Xiong and Victoria Fagan, who are back for their senior and junior years, respectively.
The newcomers had some success on the junior varsity last season as seniors Maren Skidmore, Tamara Sleem and Laura Volant look to make the jump to the varsity lineup.
It puts the Thunder in good hands as Williams said the team has shown good work ethic and competitiveness during the early weeks of practice.
“With half of the varsity team returning and several JV girls moving up, we look forward to being the best we can be and improving each and every day,” he said.
Mountain Pointe won its eighth state title two years ago, and finished as state runner-ups last year while placing two individuals in the singles championship.
Longtime tennis coach Rick Carter takes over the program from Larry Holmes, who stepped down after one year after he replaced Pom Brown’s long run of success.
“The only similarity to tennis is the fact that you have a racquet in your hands,” Carter said. “It’s a totally different game. You can hit it as hard as you can and it almost never goes out. You have to keep your opponent moving up and back.
“My assistant coach is my wife, Jamiee, and she played at Corona and we’ve been going to the badminton academy with Guy Chadwick. We’ve learning the drills and playing at home a lot.”
The Pride had 28 players try out and Carter was facing the idea of having another to give individuals more one-on-one time.
Mountain Pointe, which opens the year Sept. 3 at home against Red Mountain, returns plenty of talent and experience, but it will be tough replacing state champion Kiyoko Hashimoto and runner-up Vi Koka.
The team still has some connection to last year’s squad with Larae Keso, Anjelica Gonzales, Kristen McCann, Alondra Armenta and Tara Garretson returning.
Keso was part of the doubles team that finished third in state last year and has a chance to move into No. 1 singles position.
“I feel like we have a great team,” Carter said. “I’ve been talking to Kevin Quick (who started the program) and some other great coaches to get a better feel for it. The talent is there and I want to make sure I give them every opportunity to succeed.”
• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or JSkoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.