Girls badminton coach Dr. O’Connor tells all

Dylan Spilko, Staff Writer

Dylan Spilko: I am here with the head coach of the girls badminton team today, Coach David O’Connor.  To begin, after the team experienced Cinderella-type season and upset Calhoun in counties last year, what are your expectations for the team this year?

Dr. O’Connor: At our first meeting after tryouts were completed, I spoke about the importance of not thinking about last year’s county title.  The team should not worry about defending a championship.  There’s nothing to defend.  Last year is over and this is an entirely new season, with a vastly different lineup that will be competing.  My only expectation is that we will improve throughout the year, and that we will compete for every point in every match.  If we do that, we’ll be fine.

DS: That’s a very reasonable way to go about your season, considering expectations from other teams in the conference.  As a very successful badminton coach, how were you able to manage the team’s emotions throughout that playoff run, as it was very unlikely that the Vikings were going to be able pull off  the kind of upset the team ended up achieving?

DO: We talk a lot about perspective. To be competitive, an athlete has to bring a lot of intensity to a match, but she also has to have fun.  Realizing that a match, whether it’s in the county finals or in a non-league contest, it is about the challenge not the result that is critical.

DS: In a top conference with some of the best badminton teams in Long Island, where do you think the team fits in the standings?

DO: This year we’re going to have three players who have never competed in singles before, which is a very challenging transition, and we have four doubles teams that have never played in a varsity match together, so it’s hard for me to see how we’ll stack up.  I’m not very worried about the regular season; we just need to focus on fundamentals to get ready for a playoff push at the end.

DS: I’m sure in-game experience during a badminton match has a huge impact on the team’s result in the end.  As a coach, how important is it in your opinion to rely on the upperclassman on the team, which only includes juniors as there are no remaining seniors?

DO: We have three juniors who have a lot of experience, and they will be very important in leading us.  Mia Froccaro and her partner were finalists in last year’s county tournament, Eileen Brickell earned all-conference honors, and Sherry Shi’s doubles team won the decisive match to clinch the county title last year.  This kind of experience is invaluable.  We also have other juniors, including Lizzy Kaplan, Nicole Calamari, Gabi Kesselman, Iris Cai, and Alice DeMarchi.  These girls have all been trying to crack the lineup for the last two years, and now they have their chance.

DS: After losing eight total seniors, how much do the underclassmen need to step up this season to repeat the same amount of success this team has achieved in the past?

DO: We will need them all to compete for positions.  It’s vital to have upwards pressure on the lineup.  Girls who are not starting need to compete throughout the season to move into the lineup.  Girls who are in the lineup at the beginning of the season need to try to move up spots as the year goes on.  Having that kind of drive as part of the team culture prevents complacency and promotes excellence.

DS: Losing that many key players on a championship team usually hurts the team in the future, but it sounds like the juniors on the team are ready to take a step up this year.  Lastly, do you truly believe that the Lady Vikings badminton team can pull off another late season push and contend for a county championship two years in a row?

DO: Yes.

DS: With the past success of the Badminton team, I also agree that there is a great opportunity to win another county title for Port.  Thanks so much for taking the time to answer these questions and letting the school know about the girls badminton team.  Good luck with the rest of your season!

DO: No problem, and thank you.