Badminton: Seventh straight sectional title for Stevenson
There were some new faces in their lineup, but the great results were sure familiar for the Stevenson badminton team Thursday night.
The host Patriots easily captured their seventh straight sectional championship with 18 points, as Stevenson will be sending two singles players and two doubles teams to the state tournament next weekend in Charleston.
Prospect had a strong second-place showing with 12 points; the Knights will be sending one singles player and two doubles teams to the meet at Eastern Illinois University while third-place squad Hersey (8 points) had one player qualify for state. The top four singles players, and the top four doubles teams earned berths to state.
Stevenson freshman Esther Shi (33-1) showed why she is definitely one of the best players in the state as she captured the singles championship by a final score of 21-13, 21-11 over senior teammate Ashley Richardson (30-5), who will be making her third appearance downstate.
"It's a good experience, and every game I play whether it's hard or easy I can learn from it," said Shi, whose soft bloop shots were very effective in the tourney. "Of course my goal is to win (state), but most important I want to play my best and learn whether I win or lose."
Shi's only loss this season was to Fremd freshman Kelly Liu.
The title match in doubles featured two teams from Stevenson as the duo of senior May Ling and Jenny Yang (15-1) defeated junior Shirley Cao and freshman Kaitlyn Lu 21-9, 21-7. This will be Ling's third trip to state while Cao made her second state meet.
Stevenson coach Grant Johnson was very pleased with a seventh straight sectional crown, but he knows that his team is capable of much more, including a potential state title like the one the Patriots won in 2012.
"It's a long two days (at state), and we have kids who can excel in that environment so we'll see what we can do," said Johnson, who will wait for the state seeds to be announced early next week. "I think our kids came ready to play tonight. (Shi) is a great player, a hard worker, she loves the game, and she shows up every day to practice with a good attitude."
Prospect sophomore Serena Zhang pulled out a 22-20, 21-13 victory over Hersey's Kendall Krueger to reach the third-place match. Then Zhang defeated Hersey senior Mary Xu 21-17, 21-19 to capture third place.
The Knights also have two doubles teams heading to state as the team of seniors Katie Cooper and Catherine Meredith beat teammates Colleen Stanford and Katherine Ponzi (21-15, 19-21, 21-18) to close out what proved to be a marathon tourney for Prospect.
"I'm very proud of the way we played tonight, and we pulled out some matches that went three games," said Prospect coach Jean Rezny. "She (Zhang) is a quality player, she's only a sophomore and she's improved a lot since last year so it will be nice to have her at No. 1 singles the next two years."
Xu had to beat Prospect's Anna Cooper twice to earn a berth in the third-place match. The Huskies doubles team of Christina Joseph and Mo Littrell dropped a tough 21-18, 24-22 match to Cooper and Meredith in their bid to reach the third-place match.
"Mary (Xu) did a nice job and she had a nice tournament," said Hersey coach Jeanine Konkolewski. "They (Joseph and Littrell) had a chance, they had to attack more and keep the bird in the court. But they got a little anxious."
Johnson is optimistic looking ahead to next weekend.
"Our goal is to get everyone through Friday to Saturday and we'll see what happens," said Johnson, whose team went 15-1-2 in the regular season. "We're a young team, but they've performed well all year against quality competition so they've earned the right to compete at state."