The Mountain Pointe badminton program showed on Saturday why it is favored to win the state team tournament this week after a terrific showing in the individual state tournament at Independence High.
The Pride’s double team of Geneva Heinkel and Sabrina Martinez came away with a state championship while singles players Kiyoko Hashimoto and Vi Koka finished second and third, respectively.
While the win by Heinkel and Martinez was certainly celebrated, Hashimoto’s runner-up finish to Chaparral senior Courtney Foltz was a bit disappointing.
The saying goes that revenge is a dish best served cold.
But for Foltz, Saturday’s payback was even better with a two-set victory (11-1, 11-1) of an on-court rival that ended with the 2012 badminton singles state championship.
Foltz entered this weekend’s state tournament at Independence High School as the No. 3 seed. One of her few defeats in the season came against the No. 1 player in the state, junior Kiyoko Hashimoto of Mountain Pointe. The two also played in the final of Chaparral’s annual invitational, and Hashimoto once again earned the upper hand back on Sept. 22.
Hashimoto cruised into Saturday’s final with five straight two-set victories and what looked to be the edge confidence-wise over Foltz.
But according to Arizona’s newest face of badminton, sometimes three times really is a charm.
“This match was completely different from the first two,” Foltz said. “I just tried to stay loose, play my game and dominate [Hashimoto]. After I lost to her at the Chaparral invitational, I knew what I needed to work on. And lately I’ve just been working so hard trying to prepare for this tournament. All of that really helped.”
Foltz, who helped Chaparral claim the doubles’ championship as a sophomore in 2010, said that despite her previous struggles against Hashimoto, she had complete confidence that this year would still be hers.
“I did have a lot of confidence, because I was a high seed in the tournament,” said Foltz. “To be able to win both the singles and doubles now is truly amazing.
“I’ve always loved playing this sport. It’s all about adrenaline and every single point matters.”
With the Division I singles crown now back on the Scottsdale campus, Foltz and coach Carrie Davis hope students will begin to rally around the badminton program.
“We just told her it would come down to who wanted it more, and she definitely did,” said Davis. “I think this is totally awesome for the program and shows that these kids know how to take of business.”
“At our school, when the football team does well, everyone comes to the games,” said Foltz. “Now that badminton has had success, hopefully the same is true and more people will sign up to play next year.”
Whether it was a case of the nerves or just the conclusion of a long, grinding season, Hashimoto struggled to find her game in the final, scoring a combined two points in the two-set defeat.
Despite her woes in the final match, the Pride’s junior star was reflective when talking about her state runner-up campaign.
“It was a really good year but also a really tough year,” said Hashimoto. “[Foltz] played really well in the final, and it was just hard for me to get back into it. I still have my senior year left and based on how we did today, we should be good again next year.”
In addition to Hashimoto’s runner-up finish, teammate Koka, who split a pair of matches against Foltz in the regular season, was defeated by Foltz in a thrilling three-set semifinal, but rebounded in the consolations to take home third-place honors.
It left it up to Heinkel and Martinez to come home with the championship hardware.
The Pride’s top-seeded senior claimed the doubles’ title for the school, after topping Xavier in two sets (17-14, 15-10) to give the school back-to-back titles after Hashimoto and Koka won it in 2011.
Heinkel and Martinez found themselves trailing the Gators’ Carina Arellano and Meghan Crown, 14-6, in the first set, but the four-year teammates and off-court best friends were resilient. They took the final 11 points on their way to becoming the No. 1 doubles team in Division I.
“We’ve been waiting four years for this,” said Martinez. “We said from the moment we tried out as freshmen, we were going to win state. The two of us have worked so hard together, so we weren’t about to let a silly start in the first game get to us.
“When the last birdie dropped in the final set, I couldn’t believe it. I was so happy in that moment, because all the hard work was finally done. We finally did what we set out to do.”
Dulberg is a freelance writer based in the Southeast Valley.