Serving at state: Girls’ badminton place fifth in doubles and sixth as a team

Grace Davidson, Sports Editor

The girls’ badminton team has ended their 2022 season after an exciting performance at state. Sophomore Sri Lakshmi Battula and senior Vijayanandini Mandava qualified for singles and seniors Vivian Kok and Sophia Wang as well as junior Anjana Viswanathan and sophomore Riya Alwala qualified for doubles at state. Dynamic duo Kok and Wang placed fifth at state, the highest placement out of the team. The Mustangs as a team at state placed sixth with 9.5 points.

Kok and Wang took down Lockport and then beat teammates Viswanathan and Alwala at sectionals, hosted by Metea. Overall, the Mustangs finished with a score of 15.5 points which secured their sectional championship win and their place at state.

“Even though we did not do as well as we hoped [or] reach our personal goals that we have for ourselves, I still think that we are really fortunate to have placed and being resilient was the best thing we could have done,” Kok said.

The atmosphere at state was as you can imagine: buzzing. Everyone wants to place, and at the state level, the competitors are only the best of the best.

“It was pretty overwhelming in the beginning,” Mandava said. “Everyone is so good, but once you start playing your games you have to knock out all of those [thoughts] in your head and play your best because we worked really hard to get where we are and we are not going to back down.”

The girls’ won sectionals with 14 points last year. That same year, Kok and Wang made it to state and were able to place third overall in the doubles category. As a team, the Mustangs were able to make it into the top seven, meaning they were able to bump up a place from last year. Returning single state player Mandava did not place this year, but still felt that this season was very fulfilling.

“I really feel like this is the best season we have had so far,” Mandava said. “I mean we placed top six at state as a whole team and we have a doubles team that went to finals. Some of my best memories are our bus rides and having fun, talking to each other and I felt this whole season has helped us bond together. We all treat each other as a family.”

The team has been preparing hard in the off season for their chance at state with extra motivation provided by head coach Nicole Liska. Each girl went through a lot of training to make sure they were not only physically ready, but mentally ready for the tough road ahead of them.

“We really have pushed mental toughness this year because that is one thing that hurt us last year,” Liska said. “Also we have really tried to focus on keeping one point at one point and walking into a match and not worrying about who we play and where they are from, just playing our game. I think that it has paid off.”

Even though Kok may have not reached all her goals for her last season with the Mustangs, the badminton team as a whole improved a lot. Kok leaves behind the badminton team’s legacy for returning players for next year.

“Overall as a team we did really well,” Kok said. “We broke a lot of not just personal records but team records [this season]. My best moment was being able to adapt to [Wang] after not playing her for a couple tournaments, but also helping my other partners grow and helping them on their skills.”

Kok and Wang have been a duo since their sophomore year. When playing any sports game with a team it is important to have communication, especially with your doubles partner. Wang and Kok make some minor callouts on the court, but also have adapted to the presence of one another. That bond is an essential part of having a winning duo.

“I think that [having a bond] is very important because skill level is one thing that both people can have,” Kok said. “But if your goals are different from each other, I do not think that pairing will work as efficiently or as smoothly because having different personalities is okay, but I think the common ground should be what a doubles partner wants to accomplish.”

Sometimes the unacknowledged aspect of sports are the supporters, in this case the parents. A lot of these badminton players would not be able to play the sport without the devoted effort of the parents that cheer them on both on the sidelines and at home.

“We can not do anything without our parents,” Mandava said. “They have been so supportive, bringing food and helping coaches here and there. It is not just us. [The parents] also played a huge part in supporting and motivating us throughout the whole season.”