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.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Gator badminton to rely heavily on seniors

 The coaching staff for Xavier Prep’s badminton team is optimistic about the prospects of a strong team this fall, and why not? The Gators are loaded with experience in the form of their top six players, all of them seniors.

“We are excited,’’ said second-year varsity coach Laura Forbes.  “Because of the (Covid) virus, we had a long “wait and see’ leading up to when we started having open gyms and were juggling 40 kids back and forth. Then we had the tryouts and now are ready to start the season.’’

Xavier will be playing a compacted 11-game regular season with one mid-season tournament, with the season’s end coming seemingly almost before it gets started, on Oct. 22. The Gators will begin the schedule on Sept. 22 with a home match against Phoenix Pinnacle.

Some weeks will have three matches in the week.

Xavier had a good showing last season, finishing 9-5 with a No. 5 seeding in the state tournament in Forbes’ first season guiding the program.

“We’re looking toward a good, competitive season,’’ Forbes said. “We were fifth in the state last season and now we are talking about doing something better.’’

The team will play “ladder matches’’ every Friday during the season, and how well the players do in that could determine which ones will be on the top list the following week. Someone from the junior-varsity team could step up and make a contribution with the varsity.

“It keeps them all very competitive,’’ Forbes said.

The top singles player is expected to be senior Sophie Riviere (pronounced Revere, as in Paul Revere), and Riviere likely will team with senior Lina Vanderwey in the leading competitive doubles team.

“They are good at what they do,’’ Forbes said of Riviere and Vanderwey. “When they’re “on,’ when they’re focused, they can be very, very good.’’

Said Riviere: “It will be interesting to see how the season goes. I think we have more girls out here who are capable of making more of a contribution.’’

Xavier will not have spectators at its home matches, per a mandate from the Diocese of Phoenix. But XCP is planning to live stream those through a NFHS (National Federation of High Schools) network on the school’s Web site. However, matches at Chandler schools will carry on as before, with fans expected.

“Sometimes you get fired up for the big matches, but we will have to do that all the time, make our on motivation,’’ Riviere said.

She and Vanderwey played doubles only occasionally last year but now are ready to make their move each time out.

“It didn’t take long for us to find out that we work well together,’’ Riviere said. “We know how each other plays, what our strengths are.’’

After these seniors graduate, the cupboard won’t be empty in the following years.

“We feel we have some promising (young) talent,’’ she said.         

Xavier Prep badminton roster – 2020


(Listed alphabetically, not by placement order)

Zoe Barton, Sr.; Lauren Etsitty, Sr.; Malindi Kilb, Sr.; Sophie Riviere, Sr.; Lina Vanderwey, Sr.; Mia Velasco, Sr.

Junior varsity

Sophia Bonilla, Jr.; Caroline Cobb, Jr.; Jasmine Leyva, Jr.; Dani Rivera, Jr.; Sara Castlen, So.; Riley Dowdall,  So.


Alexis Garman, So.; Grace Riviere, So.; Kasia Smilielski, Fr.; Lila Williams, Fr.


Head coach – Laura Forbes. Assistant – Brian McNerney.

Student managers

 Jillian Brown, Sr.; Sienna Martinez, Sr.


(Subject to change)

Sept. 22 – Phoenix Pinnacle. Sept. 28 -- @ Mesa Red Mountain. Sept. 30 – Mesa Skyline. Oct. 1 -- @ Chandler Hamilton. Oct. 3 – Forner Invitational at Phoenix Sunnyslope. Oct. 6 – @ Glendale Mountain Ridge. Oct. 7 – Phoenix Sunnyslope. Oct. 8 – Peoria Liberty. Oct. 13 -- @ Tempe Corona del Sol. Oct. 14 -- @ Chandler Basha. Oct. 15 – Chandler High. Oct. 20 – Gilbert Perry.

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