PASADENA, CA — The Huskies badminton team won the state doubles team title with a 14-21, 21-11, 21-16 win against a team from Fresno City College in the CCCAA Badminton State Individual Championships.
The ELAC top doubles team of freshmen Jean Mornelle Buenaflor (South El Monte High School) and Serena Lieu (Sierra Vista HS) rallied for a three-set win. “It is the first badminton state doubles title in our school history,” said ELAC Head Coach Qui Nguy.
It is the South Coast Conference’s second doubles state title. El Camino College won in 2002. The SCC swept the Individual Championships winning all four first place medals.
In singles, Buenaflor won the Singles State Consolation Championship while 2015 state singles runner-up Rebecca Tzou of Pasadena City College won the 2016 singles title. Pasadena City won the Doubles Consolation Championship with the duo of Eugenia Mendez and Ana Espinoza.
The ELAC top doubles team, also the SCC champions, finished the season 22-1 en route to its state title. Buenaflor and freshman Vanessa “Yong Xian” Liang (Taishan No. 1 HS, China) played 14 matches for ELAC team and finished 13-1. Buenaflor / Lieu at the helm were a perfect 9-0.
After a Round 1 bye, the team of Buenaflor / Lieu won a Round 2 match 21-10, 21-11 against sophomores Carla Montanes / Rachel Lum of Skyline College.
The ELAC team continued with a 21-10, 21-18 Round 3 championship quarterfinal win against freshmen Fiona Lai / Viviana Tran of Skyline College.
In the semifinals, ELAC won a 24-22, 21-13 upset win against the No. 1 team from the Pacific Coast Conference, Irvine Valley College’s Cora Tanuwidjaja and Tracey Nie.
ELAC opened the first set with a 7-2 lead. Irvine Valley put together a long rally and tied it at 16-all. After another tie and two lead changes, Irvine Valley had match point at 20-18. ELAC survived two match points to tie it twice more before taking the set, 24-22, amid the crowd noise.
“It was close,” said Buenaflor. “We needed to play smart. We didn’t hit too much to Cora (Tanuwidjaja), Irvine’s top player, and adjusted to their style of play with each point.”
According to Nguy, chemistry and strategy is needed to win at the state level. “Jean and Serena’s team strategy worked well in this match as it did in the finals.”
In the title match, the Huskies took an 11-8 first-set lead. Fresno City followed with a 10-1 rally on its way to a 21-14 win. “We struggled in the first set,” said Buenaflor. “But we adjusted to their play in final two sets.”
In the second set, after three ties, ELAC rallied to take a 13-5 lead. Buenaflor leaped into a crosscourt dive and dinked the birdie over the net for the ELAC’s eight-point lead. Lieu added two drive shots to build the lead to 15-5. ELAC closed out with a 20-11 set win.
In the final set, which would determine the state champion, it was 11-all when the teams traded rallies. ELAC took a 16-14 lead and outscored Fresno 5-2 for the state crown. “We wanted to make less mistakes in the finals. The Fresno pair made more unforced errors than (we did),” said Nguy.
It was a huge win. “People called us the team in the green,” said Lieu. “I hope they know who ELAC is now.”
“I am really glad that Jean and I had the opportunity to show the other schools that we are a strong team not just two strong players put together but a strong pair,” said Lieu.
Buenaflor defeated Pasadena City rival Eugenia Mendez (Covina HS) in the consolation final 21-11, 21-9. Buenaflor, the busiest player on the court with semifinal and final matches in singles and doubles, played three consecutive hours to earn the consolation title medal.
In Round 1 of singles competition, Tran Pham of Grossmont College won a marathon match against Lieu, 12-21, 21-17, 21-19. San Diego Mesa’s Mai Troung defeated Buenaflor 21-13, 21-7.
After a Round 2 bye in the consolation championship bracket, Buenaflor won a 9-21, 21-18, 21-16 Round 3 semifinal win against Fresno City’s Wenting Liang.
Buenaflor finished singles competition this season with a 17-7 overall record, Lieu 12-7.
story submitted by Tadzio Garcia