Badminton squads climbing back to the top - East Valley Tribune: Ahwatukee Foothills

Badminton squads climbing back to the top

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Posted: Tuesday, August 28, 2012 1:50 pm | Updated: 10:37 pm, Thu Dec 13, 2012.

While just about every high school sport has become a year-round venture, badminton is still a two-month venture.

It requires a bit of an adjustment period when the teams get together each August as the hand-eye coordination and court awareness required to be a quality badminton player does not come easy.

“You have to train most everyone again,” Mountain Pointe coach Pom Brown said. “They come from softball or tennis or no sport, and they have to get used to the (speed) of the game.”

It’s certainly not the case for everyone, like Mountain Pointe juniors Kiyoko Hashimoto and Vashnavi Koka, who won the state doubles title last season.

Some just have a natural feel for the game, but those types of players are few and far between. Even in an Olympic year when the sport gets a little bit of national attention, finding depth can be difficult.

“We have about the same (size roster),” Brown said. “We like the players we have and we think we can be good.”

Mountain Pointe might be on a bit of a mission this year after going through a state finals drought. The Pride making the finals used to be an annual thing, considering it won three straight from 2005 to 2008 and finished as runner-up for the next two years.

But Mountain Pointe has come up short the last two years and it didn’t sit well.

“We thought we should have made it last year but the seeding was bad,” Brown said. “We will do our best to make sure we get a better one.”

The Pride was the ninth seed and lost to Xavier in the quarterfinals, but felt slighted on the seeding after beating second-seeded and eventual runner-up Chaparral during the regular season.

Mountain Pointe thinks it can make amends this year as there is some talent behind Hashimoto and Koka. Senior Geneva Heinkel starts as the No. 3 and senior Sabrina Martinez at No. 4. Sophomore Larae Keso and junior Tegan Wambold start the year with the final two spots.

The question of the season will be whether Hashimoto and Koka attempt to defend the doubles title or if they take their shots at a singles title.

“We will see,” Brown said. “We will enter some tournaments as individuals and see what the competition is like.”

Desert Vista is looking for a bounce-back year after missing out in the state tournament for the first time in six years.

A youthful roster came up a little short last season, but should be in a better position to compete at the level the Thunder are used to competing at most seasons.

“We have more experience this year and we are looking to have a better performance and record,” coach Jeremy Williams said.

The Thunder look to have an all senior lineup with several players rotating through as the No. 1 player.

“It changes every day,” Williams said. “They battle each other. There is no clear-cut No. 1 and we will probably have several No. 1s this year.”

Leading the way are Caitlin Fagan, Alyssa Goldberg and Aakriti Gupta, They were varsity players last year with the first two playing in the doubles state tournament on separate teams, while Gupta competed in the state singles tournament.

Now, they are the leaders of the team and pushing the rest of the lineup to meet its level of expectations.

Victoria Wadsworth and Suhitha Veeravelli were on varsity last year and played in the state tournament as doubles partners for Goldberg and Fagan, respectively.

Making the jump to varsity from JV are Kendall Stratton and Emily Urban, both of whom won 82 percent of their matches.

“We are in a good position,” Williams said. “We have all seniors this year with some good upcoming talent behind them.”

Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or jskoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

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