Xavier Prep has won two straight badminton state titles, three of the last four and four of the last six. In those other two seasons, the Gators were state runner-up.
It might be said that since the Gators lost five seniors to graduation, including top player Areta Buness, that 2015 might be a rebuilding year.
The schedule certainly will be a challenge, but XCP has a decent amount of experience plus a few new underclassmen to help things along.
Led by long-time coach Nancy Meyer, 56 girls tried out for the team and 23 made the list.
The Gators’ top player this year is expected to be senior Kirielle Singarajah, who won her singles match against Gilbert Perry in the state final and reached the quarterfinals in the individual competition, which was separate.
Meyer said Singarajah “hits with everybody (during practice), and lifts everybody’s level of play.’’
Singarajah worked hard over the summer playing at the Arizona Badminton Club in the southeast Valley, and received some instruction from Xavier volunteer assistant Francis Hartojo. Susie Murphy is Meyer’s main assistant.
“It’s time for us to get used to the intensity of the practices, get used to the conditioning,’’ said Singarajah, who is joined by fellow seniors Laura Pearl, Katie Russell and Sydney LaPierre.
“There are some people who think you don’t have to be in good condition, that we just walk out there. But you have to have stamina and you have to be able to move around quickly.
“There also is a lot of the mental aspect. You have to focus, have the right mindset and understand how the game works.’’
Xavier opens play on Thursday (Aug. 27) with a road match against Scottsdale Saguaro, and its first home match is on Sept. 3 against Phoenix Sunnyslope.
“Practicing is good, but there is nothing that can replace an actual match against someone. The intensity level goes up,’’ Singarajah said.