DON KETCHUM is a native of Phoenix. He was a sportswriter for The Arizona Republic/The Phoenix Gazette for nearly four decades. He covered high school sports on several occasions as well as the Arizona Diamondbacks, Arizona Cardinals and Arizona State sports. From 2008-14, he was a staff writer for, the web site of the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Badminton players shift focus to another team title

Fresh off a strong showing by some of its players in the Division I state individual tournament over the weekend, the XCP badminton team now turns its sights to an attempt to claim a second straight team title.
Xavier is the top seed in the 16-team state event. The Gators will host first-round and quarterfinal matches on Monday (Oct. 27). Xavier also will host the semifinals on Wednesday (Oct. 29) and finals on Thursday (Oct. 30).  First-round games begin at 5 p.m., all other matches at 6:30 p.m.
“It is very exciting. I think this is the first time we have had it,’’ Xavier coach Nancy Meyer said of the team event, held in the remodeled Activity Center.
Is there a bit more pressure on Meyer’s players, given the fact they are the host team and the defending champion?
“Yes, there probably is,’’ Meyer said. “I just try to emphasize that they should play these games like they played during the season and in practice – just work hard and have fun.’’
Xavier will play 16th-seeded Goodyear Millennium in one first-round match at XCP, and No. 8 Phoenix Sunnyslope will face No. 9 Glendale Mountain Ridge in the other match.
The 16 teams in the tournament are Xavier, No. 2 Glendale Ironwood, No. 3 Tempe Corona del Sol, No. 4 Mesa Red Mountain, No. 5 Phoenix Desert Vista (Ahwatukee), No. 6 Mesa Skyline, No. 7 Phoenix Horizon, Sunnyslope, Mountain Ridge, No. 10 Phoenix Mountain Pointe (Ahwatukee), No. 11 Glendale Cactus, No. 12 Prescott, No. 13 Chandler Hamilton, No. 14 Gilbert Mesquite, No. 15 Gilbert Perry and Millennium.
Leading the charge for XCP will be top singles player Areta Buness. The senior was seeded fourth in the individual competition and finished as consolation champion. She defeated Red Mountain’s Samantha Berg 11-7, 7-11, 11-2. Buness dropped an 11-5, 11-1 decision to Desert Vista’s Karen Guo in the semifinals before Guo went on to win the individual title.
Junior Kirielle Singarajah was the No. 10 individual seed. She reached the quarterfinals, where she fell 11-4, 7-11, 11-5 to Hamilton’s Drishti Panse, the eventual runner-up.
In doubles action, XCP’s eighth-seeded Teal Weaver and Mallory Belknap reached the quarterfinal and unseeded Baani Khurana and Laura Pearl were tripped up in an earlier round.
Weaver and Belknap were defeated by No. 1 seed Elle Millon and Ashley Huynh of Hamilton 15-9, 15-11. Millon and Huynh went on to win the consolation title.
Khurana and Pearl were defeated 15-8 and 15-4 by Mountain Ridge’s Katha Patel and Valerie Rozon.
Meyer said Khurana and Pearl “were kind of a wild-card team for us. You never know what is going to happen, and I thought those girls did well.’’
The others in the tourney “were outstanding,’’ Meyer said “I think it was a great experience for all of them.’’
Perhaps an even greater experience awaits, if the Gators can win another team crown.

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