When the badminton season started in August Mountain Pointe had only one player with any varsity experience.
But the Pride team of all seniors became quick learners and made it to the state 5A-I title match where they finished second after losing to Phoenix Xavier, 5-2, in the championship match Wednesday night at Shadow Mountain High School in Phoenix.
“I don’t mean to sound cocky, but we really thought we’d be here,” said senior Sienna Martinez, the only varsity player returning from the Pride team that was a runner-up to Tempe Corona del Sol for the title last season.
The third-seeded Pride had eliminated second-seeded Millennium, 5-3, in the semifinals two nights earlier.
“Things didn’t go our way, but after Millennium, we were ready to go,” said Martinez, who beat Cate Welch, 11-5, 4-11, 11-5 in the No. 1 singles match.
Danielle Stewart eat Weslie Norris, 11-9, 11-8, to win the Pride singles match in the fifth spot on the playing ladder and send the match into doubles.
“We knew we had to do it in singles,” said Xavier coach Nancy Meyer. “They have a very strong doubles teams and we struggled against them in earlier dual matches and tournaments.”
The entire Pride team was made up of seniors who had played at the junior varsity level last season.
“We always beat everyone playing on JV, so we had confidence in ourselves and thought we would be here,” Holly Phillips said.
Xavier has always been a contender during the season, but this was the first state title the undefeated Gators (18-0) have won since 2004. Mountain Pointe was 16-3.
“We knew we had potential,” said Mountain Pointe coach Pom Brown. “They told me on the first day of practice that they wanted to win state and they just got better by playing better teams.”
Martinez and Phillips were leading, 9-2, in their first doubles match when Xavier’s Norris and Julia Friedman clinched the title with a 15-3, 15-6 victory over Stewart and Nadya Zolotova in the No. 3 doubles match.