Every sports team at Perry High School has the same motivator when a new season begins: be the first team in the history of the 10-year-old Gilbert school to win a state championship.
And this year may be the best opportunity to do that.
Three of the school’s fall sports teams are in position to make a legitimate run at that elusive state title. But there’s one team that will get a shot at it first, when the school’s badminton team starts play in that sport’s state tournament next week, a full week ahead of volleyball and almost two weeks before 6A football begins its playoff schedule.
Perry’s volleyball and football teams are both enjoying very successful seasons, with each team ranked No. 5 in 6A, the state’s top conference. The football team is riding an impressive 7-1 record, while volleyball sits at 31-5 with four games left on the 2017 schedule.
Volleyball’s three losses were all to top-10 teams, including No. 1 Xavier Prep and No. 4 Millennium High. No. 8 Basha High was the third loss, but the Pumas won two out of the three times they’ve met this season.
When the season began, football looked to be the most likely path to making school history. Perry went unbeaten through its first six games, an offensive juggernaut averaging 59 points a game and three times scoring more than 55 points.
But an embarrassing 55-27 loss to defending 6A state champion Chandler High in game No.7 called into question just how ready the Pumas are for a run at a state title. They rebounded last week by blowing out Brophy Prep, 62-20, thanks to a rejuvenated and dominant defense. However, Brophy is having a down year and isn’t the kind of competition they will face when the playoffs start; the Broncos are 1-8 on the season.
That leads to the discussion about the surprising Perry badminton team. It looks like it will be a tall order to keep that team from going all the way in its attempt to bring home the school’s first team title.
They are unbeaten this season (15-0) and came close to posting what would have been the first perfect season in Arizona high school badminton. There are nine points awarded in each match, one for each of six singles matches and one for each of three doubles, so nine points makes for a perfect match.
The Pumas rolled over 14 teams with 9-0 scores all the way.
The only team that kept Perry from racking up a perfect season was Xavier Prep. The Pumas beat Xavier (12-2 and ranked No. 4), but gave up three points — the only three points in an otherwise perfect season.
Perry badminton has fallen short of its bid for a state title the last three years, losing in the quarter-finals of the state tournament on each try. But each of those seasons have been used to build an experienced roster that is on the floor this year. The driving force among that group of seniors is hitter Ryann Davis and middle Kennedy Kaminsky, but also includes Alexis Keith, Jillian Lagasca, and Megan Crow. No other team in the state is as deep and experienced as the Pumas.
Probably the best chance of derailing Perry’s march to the badminton title would come from either Xavier, No. 2 Desert Vista HS (12-1), or No. 3 Mountain Ridge HS (11-2).
But, hey, if badminton falls short of its state-title goal, there are two more teams coming up behind them that will be taking a shot at making school history.
This should be the year the Pumas have a championship banner to put up on the gym wall.