Girls badminton returns for spring season

High hopes drive team to work harder

Gabriella Rauf, InDepth Editor

The girls badminton team had its first practice on Tuesday, March 1. After a season of canceled games, difficulties with breathing under masks, and teams being disqualified due to COVID-19 outbreaks, the girls are back and hopeful for a normal season. 

They ended last season with many of the girls competing in sectionals, and three making it to state. Of the three was senior Aamina Qureshi ‘22, a singles player who has been working heavily during the off-season to reach her goal of making it to state again. 

“Many competitions had to be canceled because of [COVID-19], and they were not as big or long as they used to be,” Qureshi said. “This season is jam packed full of competitions, some of them right after the other. I am excited to be able to see the faces of my competitors and maybe be able to get to know them better.”

With the support of their badminton coaches, especially varsity coach Susan McClenahan, the team has been able to hone their skills and figure out what they perform best in: singles or doubles matches. In the past, McClenahan has supported the team throughout their wins and losses, consistently providing helpful advice and encouragement, Qureshi said. 

“Coach Mac has been one of the pillars of the team, in that she jokes with us, but also makes sure to limit our excitement to a reasonable amount and remind[s] us to be serious during important moments,” Qureshi said. 

The badminton teams that LT plays are generally competitive, with talented players from York, Hinsdale South, Downers Grove North, and Hinsdale Central, to name a few, McClenahan said.

“There’s a level of excitement in all of the games that [the girls] play, just because our conference is so competitive,” McClenahan said. “With that probably comes, [what I call] positive anxiety. It’s exciting, and it’s stressful, but it’s a good kind of stress.”

During the off-season, many of the team members practice at badminton clubs such as Midwest Badminton Club, Victory Badminton Academy, and Pioneer Badminton, varsity player Kaitlyn Vespa ‘22 said. Vespa has even had the chance to play with three-time state champion and LT alumna Stephanie Lin ‘15. For Vespa, badminton runs in the family. Both her mom and her aunt played badminton at LT, and each won MVP awards. 

“When I came [to LT] I thought it’d be fun to try [badminton],” Vespa said. “Since joining intramurals my freshman year, I’ve improved through playing with my friends and going to Midwest Badminton Club.” 

Badminton teams do not generally have the same opportunities as most other sports, McClenahan said. It is less common in the U.S. and more popular in other countries. For that reason, it doesn’t exist at the college level as other sports do. Girls don’t have the opportunity to earn scholarships and play in college. If they continue playing they do so in an intramural program or club for fun.

“[If] badminton [were] to progress and take, that’d be awesome,” McClenahan said. 

Despite the limited opportunities to continue their badminton careers beyond high school, the girls are still clearly driven, and have individual goals for the season. For Vespa, she wants to improve on her long drops. Qureshi plans to improve on her serving skills, and will practice in and outside of actual practice, to be able to compete in state, Qureshi said. 

“I’m excited to bond with my new teammates and have a proper final season,” Qureshi said. 

The badminton team’s next match is an away match scheduled for April 4, against Downers Grove North, from 4:30 pm to 7:00 pm.