All the early mornings paid off for Xavier.
The Gators' badminton team decided midseason to wake up three days a week at 5:30 a.m. to workout in hopes of making amends for a runner-up finish in the 5A Division I state tournament a year ago.
Their hard work became a reality Thursday as Xavier capped an undefeated season with a 5-1 victory over Chaparral in the Division I state championship match at Glendale Independence High School.
"We were totally prepared for (Thursday)," Xavier coach Nancy Meyer said. "To make a difference they kicked it up a notch (by working out) and they really pulled together."
No. 1-seed Xavier (19-0) captured its third state title, including 2004 and 2009.
After Xavier grabbed a 4-1 lead, Jessica Michael finished off Alex Hoffman 13-12, 11-9, in a rousing No. 1 seed match as the Gators stormed the court and celebrated.
"I was just out there focusing on my game and to get off the court knowing that four of my teammates had won, it was just the most amazing feeling," Michael said. "I had no idea (I was the clincher) until we finished."
No. 2 Chaparral (17-3), owners of six state titles in its own right, knocked off Xavier in the finals last season but didn't have the firepower this time as the Gators clinched without having to play doubles.
"They had the better team but that's alright, it happens," Chaparral coach Carrie Davis said. "In the past 10 years we have been either state champs or runners up and there was one year we placed third, so we have had it pretty good."
To dethrone Chaparral, Michael knew Xavier would need a special effort.
"My mom runs the gym so 5:30 a.m. every Tuesday, Thursday and sometimes Friday we worked out," she said. "We hated it in the morning when we all got there but it was a team effort ... "We bonded, and we always remembered the other teams in bed. We thought if this is going to make it or break it, than this is what we are going to do."
The early mornings may have been exhausting, but when Michael and her teammates received the state championship trophy they couldn't have been more excited.
"It was completely worth it," she said. "I wouldn't change a thing."