Apparently, Natalie Weber is a pretty quick learner.
She went from giving badminton a chance to unassuming state champion from one season to the next.
“I was new to the varsity experience last year and was more of a learning year for me,” she said. “For me, it was about learning a different style of play until I felt like something clicked.”
Oh, it clicked all right.
The Mesquite junior went from being ousted in the state quarterfinals to a player that went the whole year without being truly tested to be named the Tribune Badminton Player of the Year.
Weber went 26-0 on the season without having to play a third set all year long.
“She was pretty dang good as a sophomore, so I knew she had a chance to be very good,” Mesquite coach Mark Hanna said. “Natalie was extremely dominant, but she never actually knew how good she was until the very end when she started getting awards and recognition.”
Weber had two things going for her despite not being an overpowering hitter, according to Hanna—she’s left-handed and has a deft touch with the racquet.
“Her success is attributable to her court spatial awareness,” he said. “She can slide and lunge to any part of the court. She’s not overpowering, but will absolutely pick you apart with her placement.”
Weber also plays basketball for the Wildcats and believes it is one of the reasons she adapted to the sport so quickly.
“The footwork, and conditioning really help,” she said. “The biggest part is the court awareness. I just know where I need to be and how to get there.”
First team singles
Natalie Weber, Mesquite Division II, state champ was rarely challenged, going 13-0
Denise Nieves, Skyline Division I, state runner-up makes first team for second time
Alexia Mee, Chandler Made DI, state semis before finishing fourth
Lauren Rusk, Campo Verde Senior, finished fourth at the Division II state tournament
Player of the Year: Weber
Coach of the Year: Lerina Johnson, Perry – Led the Pumas to an undefeated regular season, taking the East Valley Region title along the way, to go 13-0 heading into state meet. Fell short of team title by losing 5-3 to Xavier in Division I state finals.
Sonia Velu, Desert Vista; Riya Karla, Corona del Sol; Madison Duyck, Queen Creek.
First team Doubles
Dominique Garcia, Tori Albin Perry Duo, upset No. 1 seed to make DI finals
Amber Beeney, Ashley Church Mountain View DI ,state quarter finalists entered state as third seed
Katie Cross, Jillian Lagasca Perry DI, second seed finished fourth at state meet
Kelsey Decker, Isabel Holloway Campo Verde DII, champions rolled through state tourney
Justine Gardner, Rebecca Farias Mesquite Tandem, finished as DI runner-ups
Lana Le /Maggie Trias Skyline; Aarzoo Kumar / Marina Mehling, Desert Vista.
– Contact Jason Skoda at 480-898-7915 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JasonPSkoda.
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