Badminton squad takes home county championship as seniors graduate

Aaron Brezel, Staff Writer

A year ago, the girls badminton team, despite being in Conference II, shocked Long Island when they advanced to the county finals against perennial badminton powerhouse Calhoun.

Along the way, they defeated teams placed in higher conferences, showing a great degree of improvement throughout the season.

This year was certainly more difficult because the team moved up to Conference I. And despite facing mostly Conference II opponents last year, the girls have been dominating their competition.

Their hard work resulted in an 11-1 record throughout the regular season, earning them a bye in the first round of the playoffs.

Even more impressive has been the manner of their wins, with many games ending in blowouts.

In games against Farmingdale, MacArthur, and Mepham, the team won each match with a score of 7-0. The girls have also gotten key wins against Jericho and Calhoun, coming at 6-1 and 4-3 respectively.

“The win against Calhoun was especially sweet because we got revenge for both earlier this year and our loss in the finals last year,” said first doubles member senior Isha Gupta.

The season’s only loss came in the first of two games against Calhoun by a score of 5-2.

In fact the competition with Calhoun is so tight that at the conclusion of the regular season, both teams had matching records and were named co-conference champions.

Following the regular season, the girls badminton team came into the playoffs as the co-number one seed in the conference along with Calhoun. By the end of the season, the two teams would meet in the finals.

The first playoff game came on May 16, against Conference II’s third seed, Bellmore JFK, who secured a 7-3 record in the regular season.

Even with the first round bye, Port Washington did not miss a beat, blanking Bellmore JFK 7-0.

Next was the semifinal showdown with the Conference I third seed, Jericho, on May 18.

With a trip to the county finals against Calhoun at stake, Port Washington came out strong once again and routed Jericho 6-1.

“Everyone really came with their A-game. I think the team will be ready to take on Calhoun in the finals,” said second doubles participant sophomore Lauren Livingston, prior to the county finals.

“We are looking to take the finals one point at a time. We shocked people last year coming from Conference II, but this year we have expectations to fulfill. Right now, I know that if we stay on track, we can beat anyone,” said Gupta.

To reach this point in the season, the team has relied on the consistent effort of each and every one of its players, and under the tutelage of Coach Dr. David O’Connor.

“These are a great group of girls who are actively supportive of each other and are eager to win. We are playing a lot more consistent over the last year. Specifically, the doubles pairs have improved tactics and the singles have been over all impressive,” said Coach O’Connor.

He cites the team’s advantage of having experienced players returning, especially in singles roles, to lead the team, as well as having alternates who are always ready to fill in spots at a moment’s notice.

In particular, the performances of sophomore Elizabeth Kallenberg at first singles and senior Olga Kosheva at second singles have set an example for the entire team.

Both remained undefeated the entire season, and while Kallenberg went on to become individual county singles champion, Kosheva’s only loss came against Kallenberg in the individual county finals.

“I just work very hard to improve my game any way I can and to win. So far, it seems to be working out,” said Kallenberg.

First doubles pair seniors Gupta and Juliana Beall compiled a regular season record of 9-1 and received All County honors.

The county championships against Calhoun were decided by one match, and the Vikings claimed victory by a 4-3 margin. Calhoun had won the county championships in the past three years.

The Vikings got victories from singles and doubles. Kallenberg won first singles; Kosheva got the win at second doubles; Beall and Gupta won at first doubles; Livingston and Rachel Hanford won at second doubles.

“We’re super happy and we’re all just really happy and there are no words but unthinkable,” said Gupta.