The view from the top is breathtaking.
Xavier Prep seniors Tatum Clarke and Annie Kamps admitted it was not a level they thought they would reach.
But there they were, standing atop the podium in the No. 1 spot after winning the Division I state badminton doubles championship on Saturday (Oct. 22) at Glendale Independence.
Clarke and Kamps capped a big day with a 15-9, 15-10 victory over Gilbert Perry’s Dominique Garcia and Tori Albin in the title match. It was Clarke and Kamps’ second win over Perry on the day. Clarke and Kamps defeated Jillian Lagasca and Katie Cross in the semifinals.
Clarke and Kamps were the No. 6 seed and senior teammates Emily Woodrow and Kiana Valentova-Macdonald were seeded No. 1. Woodrow and Valentova-Macdonald fell to Garcia and Albin in the semifinals but rebounded to defeat Lagasca and Cross, 15-12, 15-17 and 15-5 in the consolation match.
Lagasca and Cross were seeded No. 2 and Garcia and Albin were seeded No. 5. So when Garcia and Albin faced Clarke and Kamps for the title, it was something that not many expected.
“We were kind of the underdog of the tournament,’’ Kamps said.
Said Clarke: “When we won in the quarterfinals, we said that it really didn’t matter if we won or lost after that because we still were going to get up on the podium.’’
But the fact that they won . . .
“It’s still kind of hard to believe,’’ Kamps said. “We’re state champs, oh my gosh!!’’
Clarke and Kamps were paired together all season, but the beginning was a bit uncertain.
“A lot of the girls from last year graduated, so we weren’t really sure what was going to happen,’’ Clarke said. “We sort of had some input into the one we would be playing with. I am more of an offensive player and Annie is very defense-oriented, so we thought that would be a good combination.’’
Even though the state team tournament begins on Monday (Oct. 24), these doubles results were a collaborative effort by all the players, according to coach Sue Contreras.
“I am so proud of them. They have been working really hard in practice,’’ she said.
The key for success in doubles is communication between the players.
“That’s one of the biggest things we work on during practice,’’ Contreras said. “Communication can be just as important as your badminton skills.
“These girls are unselfish. They want to win for themselves, their teammates and their school.’’
Contreras, Kamps and Clarke watched the Woodrow-Valentova-Macdonald consolation match with a great deal of interest.
“We’re glad that they won it,’’ Kamps said.
Contreras said that Woodrow and Valentova-Macdonald might have been trying too hard to win their semifinal match and reach the finals.
“When we got ready (for the consolation match), I just told them to take a deep breath and do the things they do well. That’s what they did,’’ Contreras said.
Clarke is looking forward to attending family gatherings with her sister, Madison, who graduated from Xavier in 2015. Madison Clarke won three straight state tennis singles titles.
“I can say, “I’m a state champ, too,’ ’’ Tatum Clarke said.
The Gators move on to the state team tournament, hosting the first two rounds (back to back) on Monday at the Activity Center. Xavier is the top seed and has a first-round bye, and a victory in the second round will send the Gators to the semifinals on Wednesday (Oct. 26) at Desert Vista High in Ahwatukee. A win there would earn a spot in the title match on Thursday (Oct. 27) at Phoenix Sunnyslope.
Contreras was asked if Saturday’s results would help create a bit of momentum for the team next week.
“I hope so,’’ she said. “With all the good players that were here . . . I think this shows that we can play with anybody at any time.’’