The Lancers, unbeaten in the conference season, received silver medals as 2019’s second place badminton team in a ceremony at the CCCAA state championships, after playing Fresno City College (FCC) on Thursday, May 9, in the Hutto-Patterson Gym.
Ten teams of the CCCAA (known formally as the California Community College Athletic Association) came to PCC for the three-day event. In competition, PCC played against nine teams, starting with FCC.
“They’re a stronger team,” head coach Jen Ho told her players between games, as they huddled on the gym floor. “This is your moment to relax … now let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!”
The Lancers scored 3 points in the singles games by Xiaoming Yao and Jessica Lee. Yao and Sophia Nguyen added 2 points in doubles, for a total of 5 points over four games.
Like PCC, FCC also was undefeated in their northern California conference. FCC was the only team to beat De Anza College, who earlier served the Lancers two defeats in 2019’s non-conference play.
Benedictus “Benny” Azali, FCC assistant coach, watched closely as his players faced Yao and Nguyen in doubles.
“Your number one and two, they are pretty strong,” Azali said, referring to Yao, and to Lee, who was playing in his line of sight on the next court.
FCC won 11 games in the match, resulting in the final 12-5 score.
Immediately after, CCCAA officials bestowed the player medals and team trophies. The friendship among the badminton players was obvious. Everyone in the gym cheered as each player’s name was announced from both teams. Ho received resounding applause when her name was announced.
“I am very proud of you. I’m content, I’m happy,” Ho told her team after the ceremony.
The Lancers also appeared in the state individual quarterfinals and semifinals on Friday, May 10, and Saturday, May 11.
With ten teams playing, the gym was full, particularly for the quarterfinals. Umpires and line judges officiated every game, as multiple coaches looked on. Spectators carried portable chairs around to get prime viewing, while many players sat courtside on the floor. As games finished, eliminated players joined in loudly cheering on their teams.
In Friday’s state individual quarterfinal championships, the competition was strong.
The Lancers got four spots in consolation play. Nguyen and Huyen Diep each had a singles game in Friday’s quarterfinals, but neither advanced to the semifinals. They also were bested in doubles by City College of San Francisco.
Annjie Li and Emilee Kintanar won quarterfinal consolation doubles against East Los Angeles College. However, Grossmont College, from El Cajon, later defeated Li and Kintanar in the semifinals.
“We tried our best,” Li said, disappointed, but smiling as she left the court. “They’re really tough.”
Four Lancers played in Friday’s quarterfinal singles. Diep was defeated by FCC, and Nguyen was defeated by Grossmont. Lee’s defeat by Sum Yin Ngai of San Diego City College (SDCC) advanced Ngai to Saturday’s semifinal. Yao defeated Mikayla Aguilar of San Diego Mesa College. Yao advanced to the semifinals.
Yao and Lee also played quarterfinal doubles and advanced. They served retribution on FCC by winning over two FCC teams, after FCC previously defeated the Lancers team of Li and Kintanar on Thursday. Nguyen and Diep were unable to advance after a defeat by De Anza College.
Saturday’s singles semifinals opened strong. Yao battled freshman Paola Candolada of Skyline College in San Bruno. After a three game set, Yao won, 21-11, and moved on to the singles’ final later on Saturday.
“Finally finished,” Yao said, catching her breath while surrounded by her teammates, offering high-fives and hugs, as she stepped off the court. “Almost dying! Thank you, thank you.”
Yao had little time to rest from that win. She and Lee took the court for doubles against the Irvine Valley College Lasers.
IVC’s Lasers played aggressively from the first serve. Early in both games, Lee and Yao’s birds struggled to land any points for the Lancers. Their momentum picked up in the middle of each game. However, the Lasers remained focused, and led the day in points. Yao and Lee were defeated in two games, 21-16 and 21-18.
“My mental game was not there,” Lee said afterward. “It’s too bad that I can’t come back next year.”
Lee’s day ended with that defeat. But she also wanted to encourage next year’s team.
“I think all the people on the team this year have willpower,” Lee said. “They all step out of their own way to go learn and play more. I think that’s really important, so I think we have a good potential coming in.”
Yao continued with her third appearance in the singles championship. Once again, there was only a short break. SDCC’s Ngai played strong. Singles is a running game, and Yao fought fatigue. Ngai, who defeated Lee on Friday, also defeated Yao. The defeat ended PCC’s day in the state’s individual championship.
Yao returned to her supportive teammates. They were proud of her accomplishments, leadership, and dominance throughout 2019, leading the newcomers to a silver medal in their first season with the Lancers.
“Actually, I’m very happy,” coach Ho said of PCC’s 2019 season. “I would say probably my favorite season … bottom line is this years’ outcome and the kids are more rewarding for me.”