Mountain Pointe's badminton squad might not be in the elite status of years past, but this might be one of coach Pom Brown's best coaching jobs.

The Pride began this season with zero varsity experience and yet with the Division I individual state tournament getting under way today and the Class 5A state team title chase starting Monday, Mountain Pointe is again near the top.

The Pride (11-2) began the week third in the power rankings with a match left on Wednesday.

Phoenix Xavier (12-1) and Scottsdale Chaparral (11-0) are the favorites, while Tempe Corona del Sol (11-2) and Mountain Pointe figure to be in the running as well.

"When we started the season, it was hard to tell how good we were going to be because we lost all of the varsity from last year," Brown said. "We also had two varsity players drop out during the season. So with two freshmen and two sophomores on the varsity, they performed extremely well to get where we are at. It will be difficult to beat the top two teams, but we are competitive and will do our best."

Mountain Pointe has made the state finals in six of the last seven years, wining four times (last one coming in 2007), so the program is always a threat.

Desert Vista ended the season with a 9-5 record and will make its sixth straight appearance in the state tournament, most likely as a double-digit seed.

The Thunder's regular season ended with a 6-3 defeat to Mountain Pointe last week.

The individual portion of the state tournament begins today at 9 a.m. at Independence High with the finals on Saturday, Oct. 23 at the same location.

Mountain Pointe will send seniors Mary Kenny and Meghan Twedt in the singles competition. Undefeated freshmen Kiyoko Hashimoto and Vaishnavi Koka should be the top seed in doubles with sophomores Sabrina Martinez and Geneva Heinkel as the second doubles team entrant.

Desert Vista's top players should be seniors Delany Stratton and Ashley Goldberg in singles. Senior Samantha Urban and junior Susan Tu were a state-qualifying doubles team last season.

Brown said the two freshmen feed off each other and have progressed rapidly this season.

"Kiyoko is very quick and has good strategy, while Koka has good shots and they work well together," Brown said.

The team tournament starts Monday with the top four seeds in the 16-team tournament host the first two rounds. The semifinals (Tuesday) and finals (Thursday) will be at Phoenix Horizon High with 6:30 p.m. start times.

It's hard to tell how the Pride will fare, but chances are the team will go far as usual.

"I have told the girls that sometimes you wait all year for a chance like this, and then one day you wake up and you're on the varsity," Brown said. "I am happy for what we have right now. No matter if we win or lose, it's a good start and a good journey for the future."

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