Badminton is the niche sport in Arizona high schools and even more so across the country.
Only five other states include girls badminton among its roster of sponsored sports.
Arizona has the third highest participation level (64 schools, 1,211 participants in 2016) across the country behind California and Illinois.
All seven Mesa-based high schools field a squad, and there are some historically competitive programs among them.
Here is a look at what to expect this season.
Desert Ridge – The Jaguars are coming off a difficult season, going 3-11 including 1-4 in the Central Region. It was a junior-laden squad so Desert Ridge brings back plenty of experience to turn it around.
Dobson – Historically, wins do not come easy for the Mustangs and last year was no different, going 3-11 overall and 0-5 in region action. The good news is only one player graduated.
Mesa – The Mustangs had a winning record with three matches to go last year, but lost all three. Only two underclassmen were on the squad with Sophie Chapman and Lindsey Duke expected to return for the Jackrabbits.
Mountain View – The Toros went 11-3 a season ago and second in the East Valley Region with a senior-laden squad. The returning starters are senior Brooklyn Heywood and junior Tatum Monk.
Red Mountain – The Mountain Lions went 8-6 and lost in the state quarterfinals. Seniors Abby Mann, Janae Ziebell, Caitney Smith and MJ Vander Linden will be charged with trying to top last season’s success. New coach Lindsay Gonzalez, who played at Mesquite, is excited about the team’s progress.
“This is a very good group of girls who are constantly pushing each other to improve,” Gonzalez said. “I have never seen a team so willing to help one another out and constantly wanting to give each other feedback on conditioning, hitting, serving and game strategy. This team truly understands that they are only as strong as their weakest player.”
Skyline – The Coyotes, who lost in the Division I semifinals, had a nearly perfect regular season, going 13-1 overall and winning the East Valley Region along with having a state runner-up in 2017 graduate Denise Nieves. Only two players from last year’s varsity roster are back in Michaela Daas and Maggie Trias, who made the final eight of the state doubles tournament with the departed Lana Le.
Westwood – The Warriors bring back five competitors from last year’s 8-6 squad, including a 2-3 mark in East Valley Region. They bring a good contingent of experienced players including Taskina Bhuiyan, Teddy Tolman and Sierra Madvig.
“Our girls continue to strive for excellence on and off the court,” coach Jenna Rose Hugg said. “They are incredible hardworking, and give it their all, every day.”
– Jason P. Skoda is a senior writer for MyNewsMesa.com. Send Mesa-based story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.