Badminton: Mackenzie Whitten, Natalie Weber win singles crowns

October 22, 2016 by Les Willsey, AZPreps365

Singles titles went to multi-sport athletes Saturday as Mountain Ridge's Mackenzie Whitten and Mesquite's Natalie Weber were crowned Division I and Division II badminton champs at Independence High School.

The doubles crowns landed at Xavier Prep in Division I and Campo Verde in Division II. Xavier's sixth-seeded duo of Tatum Clarke and Annie Kamps, took a 15-9, 15-10 triumph over fifth-seed Perry's Dominique Garcia and Tori Albin. Clarke and Kamps reached the final downing Perry"s No. 2 seeded squad of Jillian Lagasca and Katie Cross in a three-set thriller.

Campo Verde's top-seeded team of Kelsey Decker and Isabel Holloway managed sweeps in their three matches Saturday. They topped sister Gilbert school Mesquite ((Justine Gardner-Rebecca Farias) in the final, 17-15, 15-2. Decker and Holloway's win made them the first players from the school to win a badminton title.

Weber, a junior, completed a perfect season showing she could win with a lead or rally from behind as she topped Sunnyslope's Aimee Clifford, 11-2, 11-6.  Weber reeled off eiight consecutive points to take the first set going away. In the second set she spotted Clifford a 4-0 lead and again prevailed with an 8-0 run. Weber is the first badminton state champ in Mesquite's history.

"When I'm down I say to myself I'm not losing, Im not going to lose," Weber said. 

Being behind wasn't the case in the tournament for the top-seeded lefty. She swept her five tournament matches. Now she's looking forward to basketball season where the Wildcats will be one of the, if not the, top contender for the 5A title.

Whitten, who also plays softball for Mountain Ridge, had three tough matches as the No. 2 seed. The first one went three sets as did the finals vs. No. 1 seed Denise Nieves from Skyline. Whitten won by scores of 11-5, 8-11, 11-8. She trailed Nieves 8-5 in the deciding set, but turned on the concentration to tally the last six points.

Whitten looked exhausted yet exurberant after gutting out the finals with Nieves. They had not met prior to the the title match this year.

"This is my fourth year playing and I was fifth last year," Whitten said. "I enjoy playing. I may play club after high school."

Xavier and Perry set the stage for more competition this week where they are the favorites to meet in the finals as the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in the team competition that begins Monday. The teams split semifinal matches in doubles on Saturday. Xavier won the third-place and title matches. Only one of the four matches played between the teams was decided in two sets.