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

The badminton girls team has concluded their 2022 season after an exciting performance in the state. Sophomore Sri Lakshmi Battula and senior Vijayanandini Mandava qualified for singles and senior Vivian Kok and Sophia Wang and junior Anjana Viswanathan and sophomore Riya Alwala qualified for doubles in state. The dynamic duo of Kok and Wang took fifth place, the team’s highest finish. The Mustangs finished sixth as a state team with 9.5 points.

Kok and Wang defeated Lockport and then beat teammates Viswanathan and Alwala in Sectionals hosted by Metea. Overall, the Mustangs finished with a score of 15.5 points, earning them the section championship and their spot in the state.

“Even if we didn’t do as well as we had hoped [or] To achieve our personal goals that we set for ourselves, I still think we’re really happy that we placed and being resilient was the best we could do,” said Kok.

The atmosphere in the state was, as you can imagine: buzz. Everyone wants to place, and at the state level the competitors are just the cream of the crop.

“It was pretty overwhelming at first,” Mandava said. “Everyone is so good but once you start playing your games you have to knock them all out [thoughts] in your head and play your best because we’ve worked really hard to get to where we are now and we won’t back down.

The girls won the sections last year with 14 points. That same year, Kok and Wang managed to hold their own and finished third overall in the doubles category. As a team, the Mustangs made it into the top seven, up one place from last year. Returning national player Mandava failed to place this year but still found the season very fulfilling.

“I really feel like this is the best season we’ve had so far,” said Mandava. “I mean, we got top 6 in the state as a whole team and we have a doubles team that went to the finals. Some of my best memories are our bus rides and having fun, talking and I felt like this whole season helped us grow together. We all treat each other like family.”

The team prepared hard for their chance at the state over the offseason, with head coach Nicole Liska providing added motivation. Each girl went through a lot of training to make sure they were not only physically but mentally ready for the tough road ahead.

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

While Kok may not have achieved all of her goals for her final season with the Mustangs, the badminton team as a whole has improved greatly. Kok leaves badminton team legacy for returning players for next year.

“Overall, we did really well as a team,” said Kok. “We broke many not only personal records but also team records [this season]. My best moment was being able to adjust to it [Wang] after not playing them for a few tournaments but also helping my other partners to grow and help them with their skills.

Kok and Wang have been a duo since their sophomore year. When playing a 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 field, but have also adapted to each other’s presence. This bond is an essential part of a successful duo.

“I think that [having a bond] is very important because skill is something that both can have,” said Kok. “But if your goals differ from each other, I don’t think the pairing will work as efficiently or smoothly because it’s okay to have different personalities, but I think the common ground should be what a doubles partner wants to achieve .”

The overlooked aspect of sport is sometimes the supporters, in this case the parents. Many of these badminton players would not be able to play the sport without the dedicated efforts of their parents to cheer them on both on the sidelines and at home.

“Without our parents, we can’t do anything,” Mandava said. “They were so supportive, bringing food and helping the coaches here and there. It’s not just us. [The parents] also gave us a lot of support and motivation throughout the season.”

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