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.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

No "L' for Kirielle this time, badminton in finals

Xavier Prep badminton coach Nancy Meyer called it “unbelievable.’’
No. 1 singles player Kirielle Singarajah called it “the most stressful night of my life.’’
How else to describe what took place in Wednesday night’s (Oct. 28) semifinals of the state tournament at Gilbert’s Perry High?
Top-seeded Xavier was facing fourth-seeded Phoenix Desert Vista in an attempt to have a chance to move on to Friday night’s finals and perhaps win a third straight title.
Desert Vista featured Karen Guo, who won the individual title in 2014 and again last week for 2015. In the latest title match, Guo defeated Singarajah.
It was an emotional loss for Singarajah, but she had a chance to atone for that against Guo in the semifinals.
Singarajah, a senior left-hander, won the first game 13-10. But Guo came back to take Game 2, 11-7. The moment of truth had arrived. If Guo were to win this last game, it would put the momentum clearly on Desert Vista’s side. A Singarajah win would signal just the opposite for the Gators.
As one might expect, the game went back and forth. Singarajah would stop play in between points, go over to the sideline and cleaned off the soles of her shoes by stepping on a damp towel. She would say later that the floor was slick, but that she also used it as a way to focus on what she needed to do.
It worked. Singarajah won that last game 13-11, allowing her to exhale in a huge sense of relief, bring tears to the eyes of Meyer and assistant coach Susie Murphy and embraces from her teammates.
It gave the momentum to Xavier, and the Gators went on to a 5-2 victory, sealing the match with a doubles victory by Singarajah and senior Katie Russell.
Xavier will meet No. 3 seed Mesa Red Mountain for the title on Friday night at 6:30 at Perry. Red Mountain advanced by stunning host Perry, the No. 2 seed, 5-0.
It won’t be easy. Red Mountain, which fell to the Gators 6-3 on Oct. 7, will make XCP earn it.
“They are a very good team,’’ Meyer said.
Meyer added that Singarajah’s performance “was what I was hoping for. I knew she would be ready for it. This was her night. I told her (before the match), “You’re a senior and this is it. Just go out and play your game.’ And that’s what she did.
“All of our girls did a great job.’’
SIngarajah said in the individual finals vs. Guo on Saturday (Oct. 24), “I was a lot more optimistic. Maybe I was a little overconfident.’’
When Guo pulled even in the second game, Singarajah simply told herself, “You can do this,’’ as Game 3 fast approached. She wanted so bad to accomplish her objective, and she did it.

Semifinal results
Xavier Prep 5, Phoenix Desert Vista 2
Singles – Kirielle Singarajah, XCP, def. Karen Guo, DV, 13-10, 7-11, 13-11. Victoria Fagan, DV, def. Tatum Clarke, XCP, 13-12, 11-6. Cindy Wu, DV, def. Sydney LaPierre, XCP, 10-13, 11-7, 13-11. Katie Russell, XCP, def. Tabby Biggs, DV, 11-6, 11-5. Laura Pearl, XCP, def. Aarzoo Kumar, DV, 13-11, 8-11, 11-7. Emily Woodrow, XCP, def. Elizabeth Wadsworth, DV, 11-3, 11-4.
Doubles – Singarajah-Russell, XCP, def. Fagan-Wadsworth, DV, 15-4, 15-8.


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