The only obstacle standing in the way of Phoenix Xavier Prep’s third consecutive team badminton state title was a feisty Mesa Red Mountain team looking to avenge a loss to the same Xavier squad just 23 days prior to Friday night’s championship match.
Xavier ousted Red Mountain 6-3 on Oct. 7.
For much of Friday’s title match, however, Red Mountain pushed against a resilient Xavier team, even holding marginal leads in many sets.
Heading into the doubles portion of the championship, Xavier held a 4-2 advantage, needing only one more victory to maintain its place atop Arizona’s badminton throne.
The doubles duo of Kirielle Singarajah and Katie Russell claimed the decisive victory in straight sets to seal Xavier’s win, 5-3.
“It feels awesome,” Xavier head coach Nancy Meyer said. “This team worked so hard this year. We lost four seniors. They had to work twice as hard this year to create what they did this year. It was a lot of work, but they did it. I’m so proud of them.”
The major question mark surrounding Xavier’s team was how they would replace four seniors from last season’s roster.
The response was a seamless transition en route to an undefeated season.
Friday’s championship was Meyer’s sixth state team crown, but this one was particularly special because of the growth her team showed throughout the season.
“These girls were a family, and they were good friends personally,” she said. “There was no push on my end. They raised the bar and pushed themselves. They’re crazy fun.”
Singarajah, who finished second in the state singles bracket last week, said envisioning a win was a factor in claiming another state team title.
“We kind of already saw victory and said, ‘All right, we can do this, we can do this,’ ” she said.
Singarajah added Friday’s victory was a sweet way to cap her high school badminton career.
“For the four of us being seniors, we’ve at least played three or four years. It was kind of surreal like this is our last high school badminton game,” she said.
Xavier survived every test it faced, including a regular-season bout against powerhouses Phoenix Desert Vista.
Last season, Xavier defeated Gilbert Perry to claim the state title. This season, it won the state title in Perry’s gym.
“Pressure’s on for next year,” Singarajah joked.
Xavier defeated Desert Vista (5-2), Cactus (5-0) and Millennium (5-0) before defeating Red Mountain in the championship match.
Red Mountain only had two blemishes on the season, both loses to Xavier.
First-year head coach Maggie Borze led Red Mountain to an impressive showing after she replaced Diane Gillen, who retired after last season. Gillen led Red Mountain to nine region titles.