Saturday’s Division I and II high school badminton championships delivered thrilling showdowns for each title at Desert Vista High School. The No. 1 and 2 ranked teams in both divisions battled it out, creating a frenzy among the crowd.
The Division I AIA Team Championship was claimed by the No. 2 seed Sunnyslope in a nail-biting 5-4 victory over No. 1 Hamilton. Sunnyslope and Hamilton had dominated the D-I season as the top teams.
In the Division II competition, Ironwood secured a dominating 5-0 win over Prescott.
“Since the beginning of the season, my girls displayed an unstoppable drive,” said Ironwood coach Brett Stafford. “They were aware of their exceptional abilities and arrived fully prepared. They were determined to seize this championship, and they truly gave it their all today.”
Ironwood’s Madison Nguyen, the number one player, secured the decisive victory by defeating Riley Crockett, the singles state champion. Crockett had clinched the title just a week before.
“Madison joined the varsity team as a sophomore, and I anticipate she will continue to excel and remain an exceptional player,” Stafford praised. “She’s only a junior, and her potential is remarkable.”
Angelica Mendell, Ironwood’s number two player, secured a victory against Maryn Schmitt with scores of 21-9 and 21-12. At the same time, Melanie Flores, the team’s third-ranked player, triumphed over Reese Sorensen with scores of 21-12 and 21-10.
“Angelica’s progress is astonishing,” Stafford marveled. “She held the fifth spot last year, and I didn’t expect her to rise so rapidly. She surprised me with her sheer determination and hard work. She truly deserves this achievement.”
He added, “Meanwhile, Melanie has been the backbone of our team since last year. She keeps the group united and accountable. I’m incredibly proud of her, and I will dearly miss both of my seniors.”
Alyssa Ridgley, the fourth-ranked player, and Mariyah Pera Ray, the sixth-ranked player, also secured victories, completing a clean sweep for Ironwood.
“Winning this state championship feels beyond amazing,” Mendell expressed. “We accomplished it together as a team, and I’m overwhelmed with pride. I love you all!”
Ridgley shared, “It feels surreal. I can’t fully process what just happened.”
The Division I match between Hamilton and Sunnyslope was a much tighter contest. These two teams had maintained the top two spots in the AIA rankings throughout the season. The match reached a deadlock at 3-3. In such cases, the focus shifts to the doubles matches as tiebreakers. The turning point came during the doubles, with Sunnyslope securing a crucial 2-1 victory.
“I turned to my fellow coach and said, ‘This is what a state championship should be like,’” Sunnyslope coach Sarah Schlesinger shared. “It was intense, it was thrilling, and the only way to determine the winner was by playing the game. I’m incredibly proud of the girls for keeping their composure and coming out on top.”
Samiya Bodhankar, Hamilton’s number one player and the 2023 Division I state singles champion, displayed her prowess by defeating Sabrina Case in consecutive sets with scores of 21-15 and 21-13.
Hamilton secured two more victories through their second and third players, Nihira Sane and Katherine Yi. They defeated Corinne Valente and Phoebe Roussin of Sunnyslope in straight sets, with scores of 21-11, 21-14, and 21-10, 21-19.
The underdog players from Sunnyslope, Annabelle Schlesinger and Mia Aronsohn, the fifth and sixth-ranked players, made a significant impact. They secured straight-set victories, outperforming Saharsa Pechetty and Haley Koh of Hamilton with scores of 22-20, 21-19, and 21-13, 21-10.
The highlight of the day was the three-set singles match, featuring a remarkable comeback by Sunnyslope’s fourth-ranked player, Jesse Jacobs. After losing the first set 16-21, she rallied to defeat Shreya Deshpande in the following two sets, with scores of 21-19 and 21-12.
The doubles matches started with clear-cut victories for both the number two and three duos, winning in straight sets.
Hamilton’s number two doubles pair, Bodhankar and Deshpande, overcame Case and Valente with scores of 21-7 and 21-12. Meanwhile, Sunnyslope’s third doubles pair, Schlesinger and Roussin, secured wins against Cassia Patzer and Brooklyn Tallman with scores of 21-13 and 21-5.
Everything came down to the number one players. Sane and Yi, representing Hamilton, the doubles state championship runners-up, faced off against Case and Valente of Sunnyslope, who claimed fourth place in the doubles state championship.
Case and Valente, after trailing 14-21 in the first set, launched a remarkable comeback by winning the last two sets with a two-point lead, ultimately sealing the victory.
“We feel like we are on cloud 9,” Valente exclaimed. “We took it one point at a time, and with continuous motivation and teamwork, we
Jessica Roberts serves up the latest in the world of tennis. With a love for the racket sport, she reports on tennis matches, player rankings, and Grand Slam events, ensuring readers stay informed about the tennis world.