Xavier senior Cate Welch believed that there were a number of physically talented players capable of winning this fall's state singles badminton championship.
So gaining a mental edge on her opponents has been the slender left-hander's top priority all season. And all of that brain work in the form of confidence building, match strategizing and controlled emotion paid off Saturday when she took home the state title, defeating Goodyear Millennium's Stephanie Vermillion 11-2, 11-8.
Welch, who finished third with her partner in last year's state doubles tourney, came into Saturday's final round of eight as the top seed and was brimming with confidence.
“It's a mental game,” Welch said. “A lot of people here have the same physical ability, it's just if you can handle it mentally.”
She believed she could win in the finals, even though Vermillion won the only meeting against Welch earlier this season at Sunnyslope's tournament.
With emotions in check and a plan to disrupt the power game of Vermillion, Welch scored the final seven points of the opening game with several scores coming on unforced errors by her opponent.
Welch rolled out to an 9-3 lead in Game 2 and was seemingly on her way to an easy victory. But Vermillion, the No. 3 seed, rattled off five consecutive points to cut Welch's edge to 9-8.
With momentum shifted clearly to Vermillion's court, Welch took some time to tie one of her shoelaces. That seemed to help stall Vermillion's run as Welch scored the next three points to close out the match.
When momentum is against you, “you have to slow down the pace,” Welch said.
Welch has been quite the cerebral player this season, Xavier coach Karen Meyer said. “She's very mental. She thinks about her game. She strategizes. … Quick on her feet, thinking with her head and played with her heart, that's what I always say.”
The focus on the mental game has been a teamwide approach for the Gators, who finished second to Chaparral in last week's 5A state team championship. “We call ourselves the Peaceful Warriors,” Welch said. “Because the battles we fight are on the inside.”
Welch's Gators teammate, Jessica Michael, finished fourth after falling to Phoenix Sunnyslope's Jasmine Fuller in the third-place match.
Fresh off winning the team state championship on Thursday, Chaparral's Alex Hoffmann and Courtney Foltz, who aren't even the top doubles combo on their own team, captured the state championship with a 15-0, 15-6 win over Gilbert's Callie Branyan and Brianna Layser.
The Firebirds' No. 1 doubles team and also the state's top seed – Stacey McGuire and Ashleigh Foltz – were upset in the semifinals 15-13, 15-12 by Branyan and Layser.
McGuire and Foltz rebounded to defeat Chandler's Chandler Begay and Witsada Wattananimitgul 13-15, 15-13, 15-9 in the match for third place.