Girls badminton: Stevenson falls just short of '3-peat' at state

 
 
Updated 5/11/2019 5:59 PM

Falling a half-point shy of state champion Fremd stung, Stevenson badminton coach Grant Johnson acknowledged.

For Patriots sophomore Shibani Ram, the pain was physical too.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Top-seeded in singles, Ram injured her left knee early in her semifinal match against Fremd's Kellie Liu and withdrew. She then injury-forfeited her third-place match against Fremd's Rachel Ye.

"She was playing outstanding and definitely was in the mix for the state championship at singles," Johnson said.

Stevenson did boast a champion in the state finals at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston on Saturday. For the second year in a row, sophomore Emily Hu and junior Jenny Yang defeated sophomore teammates Jyotsna Harikrishna and Benna Li in the doubles final. This time, Hu and Yang prevailed 21-14, 21-9.

"Our final was more intense this year," Hu said. "I feel like this year both teams could hold a rally more. Our shots were faster and our overall skills were higher."

Fremd finished with 20 points to edge Stevenson (19.5), denying the Patriots their third state championship in a row. Naperville North (12.5) was third.

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"There are a lot of 'what if's,' " Johnson said. "We definitely came down here with an expectation to be competing for a state title based on the kids we had coming down here. Fremd played outstanding. You can't take anything away from those kids. They worked hard as well. We were in a position to be right where we wanted to be, and some things just didn't work out. Unfortunately, that's what happens. You can only control what you can control."

Hu and Yang (6-0 at state) capped an undefeated season for the second year in a row. Harikrishna and Li (5-1 at state) have lost only five matches the last two seasons, and all five have been to Hu and Yang.

"They're outstanding, those two doubles teams," Johnson said. "The results speak for themselves. They make each other better every day at practice. They're unbelievable to watch. Other coaches down there have said in the last 20 years they're (two) of the best of the best doubles teams they've ever seen."

Stevenson junior Kaitlyn Lu played all five of her matches Friday, going 3-2. Ram had won her first four matches to advance to the semifinals. The Patriots achieved their runner-up finish despite not having two-time defending state champ Esther Shi all season. The junior, who won the singles title the last two years, is focusing on making the US National Team.

"I think we're, overall, pretty happy," Hu said. "Everyone gave their best effort, so it's no one's fault that we didn't win first this year. And Fremd's team was super strong."

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