Perry Reclaims Badminton State Title With New Lineup - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Perry Reclaims Badminton State Title With New Lineup

November 6th, 2018 SanTan Sun News
Perry Reclaims Badminton State Title With New Lineup
Sports and Recreation

By Eric Newman

STSN Staff Writer

As the Perry High badminton players hugged each other on the court in celebration, it was clear both the present and future look bright for the program.

Two Pumas underclassmen claimed the 2018 Division 1 state doubles title and a senior was singles runner up on Oct. 20 in individual play, followed a few days later by a repeat team state championship.

A year removed from a 15-0 season, in which they swept every round on their way to the state championship, the Pumas were tasked with re-tooling nearly the entire starting lineup. Most of the players were underclassmen, had little varsity experience and were new to the playoffs.

Seeded fifth in the state doubles bracket, Perry’s Nikhita Jayaraj and Ashley Rodarte – a freshman and sophomore, respectively – opened a 9-1 lead over Abby and Thalia Liu, twins from Hamilton High, and took the first game. The Pumas kept attacking and never looked back en route to a 15-5, 16-6 victory for the state title.

“I feel like our chemistry is so good,” Rodarte said. “Really, though, we just wanted to win however we could, and it feels good to do it, and we hope we can win a few more together in the next years.”

Using tough serves and painting the back corners with high shots, Perry kept the Huskies pair off the net. With either Liu sister stretching just to rally the birdie back over, either Rodarte or Jayaraj could cleanly smash it for an easy point.

“We knew we had to keep them deep so we could be in position to get our smashes. But it was also important to not give them anything too easy because they both have pretty good smashes, too,” Jayaraj said.

In singles, Perry senior Julia Mumme, last year’s runner up, made it back to the state final, this time against Corona del Sol senior Brennan Agnew, but unfortunately the result also was familiar for Mumme: a setback in the title match. Mumme took the first game, 11-9, and led the second, 9-7, needing just two points to claim the title, before Agnew rallied to a 11-9 victory in the second and cruised to an 11-7 win in the third set.

“It’s obviously hard to see Julia lose, because she’s worked so hard at it all these years,” Puma coach Lerina Johnson said. “But Brennan has, too, and we knew it would probably be these two in the final and it would come down to a close match like this that either could win. They’re 2-2 head-to-head now.”

Though a separate tournament, the individual championships gave the top players one more chance for experience against opponents they likely would play again in the team tournament.

“We kind of knew going in that it will probably be us and Corona again in the team final. We pulled out a 5-4 win against them earlier this year,” Johnson said.

In the team final, Mumme fell again in three games to Agnew, but the Pumas won four of six singles matches. Perry needed just one more doubles match win to seal the team championship, and got it with a straight-games victory at third-doubles.

“I’m proud of the way everybody’s played and grown. I didn’t know what to expect from the team this year, but they’ve worked really hard and have played really hard, too,” Johnson said of a team that will likely be back near the top of the rankings in 2019.

Other notable East Valley results:

• Division 1 singles, third place – Rujuta Sane, Hamilton.

• Division 2 singles, fourth place – Payton Foti, Mesquite.

• Division 2 doubles, fourth place – Allysa Dong and Sabrina Farias, Mesquite.