Undefeated Badgers among heavy favorites for state badminton title

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Prescott slotted at No. 2 spot in Division II rankings

This year doesn’t mark the first time Prescott badminton has gone undefeated before playoff action begins. The truth is, the Badgers have been a powerhouse for quite some time — and to no one’s surprise — they’ve opened this year’s campaign with an unblemished 9-0 record, winning each match by an average margin of 7.6 points.

But despite this dominance, the Badgers have shown to usually fizzle out come playoff time, bowing out early on in playoff rounds in recent seasons.

However, head coach Bobbi Yoder explained why this year’s squad could be the one to go all the way this time around.

“This is a completely different team than we were last season in a few regards. Last season, we were ranked No. 8 in Division II out of 41 teams and No. 3 in one of the toughest sections in Division II,” she said. “That was pretty impressive for us considering we had zero returning varsity players from the previous year. This team doesn’t feel it has anything to prove, we are a different team with four returning varsity players and with a little more postseason experience that is hungry to write their own story.”

Featured players Kailey Crockett, Nicole Raiss, Cassideen Naylor, Emily Nelson, Megan Townsend and Elle Long have all returned from last season and have led the Badgers to an impressive start so far.

Having so many seasoned players on the roster has allowed Yoder to be flexible as she’s done plenty of experimenting with her seedings and has given almost every player a chance to play in the No. 1 spot at least once.

On top of this, Yoder has established a palpable sense of competition within the team by creating what she likes to call, “Challenge Day.”

Every Friday, Yoder allows her players to challenge higher seeds for their spot, which helps keep them on their toes and keeps their games sharp.

“I think it’s super helpful because you never get complacent and you know that you had to earn your spot,” Crockett said. “You’re not going to be No. 1 just because you were good at the beginning of the season and then you can slack off after that. You have to keep yourself sharp. Otherwise, you’re going to lose that spot because whoever wants that spot is going to be the one working for it.”

The current seedings feature Crokett at No. 1, Raiss at No. 2, Townsend at No. 3, Long at No. 4, Naylor at No. 5 and Riley Crockett at No. 6. For doubles teams, Crockett and Naylor are the No. 1 seed, Long and Townsend are No. 2 while Christian Carter and Riley Crockett are No. 3.

Yoder slotted Long as the No. 1 seed early in the season but after she suffered an injury, Kailey took over and hasn’t relinquished the spot since.

Kailey has filled the No. 1 very nicely for the Badgers, only dropping two matches this year against Prescott’s toughest opponents in Horizon and Barry Goldwater. She’s also meshed exceptionally well with Naylor, her doubles partner and cousin, as the duo has only lost one match this season.

“Kailey Crockett demonstrates an amazing balance between academics, sports, faith, family and Community. She has a great attitude every day and is a joy to coach and be around,” Yoder said. “She is more determined than ever this year to be successful and to help her team be successful.”

Kailey’s younger freshman sister Riley is also a young up-and-comer who has already made an outstanding impression with Yoder by filling in for Long when she went down with the injury.

“Riley Crockett is definitely one of the best freshman, top three probably in the last six years, which I have had in the program,” Yoder said.

The Badgers’ performance this season has garnered them a No. 2 ranking in Division II, right behind perennial powerhouse Ironwood, which Yoder has labeled the “team to beat” this season.

And according to Long, it ultimately is the chemistry among the players that’s gotten the Badgers to this point and it’s what the team is banking on to make a serious run at the state title.

“Honestly, we’ve had some great groups of girls from the time that I’ve been here, but this group of girls just function well together. We work well together and we work on and off the court,” Long said. “We definitely just need to remind ourselves to stay humble and stay focused. Staying focused is definitely one of the hardest parts of this game. It’s all about who can keep mentality lasting longer. It’s never about the physicality of it.”

UP NEXT

The Badgers will look to continue their tear through the season when they host Paradise Valley (3-6) at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 21.

Aaron Valdez is a reporter for Prescott News Network. Follow him on Twitter at @Valaaron_94. Email [email protected] or call 928-445-3333, ext. 2031.





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