New Trier badminton players and coaches found themselves in a somewhat unfamiliar position when they finished second at the CSL Conference Tournament.
The Trevians (67.5 points) were beaten — and not unexpectedly — by the host Warriors (81) in the nine-team event last Friday and Saturday. Prior to the tournament, New Trier had won four straight conference titles and coach Debbie Ofcky has seen her team finish atop the CSL in seven of her 11 seasons.
But the coach was full of praise for the veteran Deerfield squad and expressed pride in her own team’s performance.
“Deerfield has a strong team,” Ofcky said. “I think our kids did a great job all season, fighting for every match. Deerfield is a stronger team this year, they are senior heavy. Hats off to them. I’m happy for them, and I’m happy for our kids, who played well and didn’t back down.”
The following Trevians picked up victories over the weekend: Senior Audrey Mang (first singles), senior Emily Rutherford (seventh singles), senior Lexi Smolyar (eighth singles), the team of Mang and junior Jill Lurie (third doubles) and the team of juniors Leah Fessler and Ying Han (fourth doubles).
New Trier now shortens its lineup (two singles players and two doubles teams) and turns its attention to this week’s sectional.
Mang and Lurie are scheduled to play first and second singles in the postseason. Both played at state last year and Ofcky said the pair has been peaking at the right time.
“The last few tournaments (Mang and Lurie) have played at an expected level and, on occasion, above that,” the coach said. “Audrey is in her third year on varsity and will go to state. Jill was there last year, and she is doing an exceptional job of beating opponents maybe she’s not sure if she could beat.”
Should she qualify for the state tournament (scheduled for May 10-11 in Charleston), Lurie said she actually expects to face less pressure there than at the sectional.
“Sectionals is the most stressful part of the entire season, everyone wants it so bad, you can’t make any mistakes,” she said. “Coach (Ofcky) calls state the cherry on top of the sundae. I think sectionals is the hardest part of the season.”
Lynch shows improvement
Glenbrook South (48.5) finished third at conference with senior Mackenzie O’Brien (third singles) and junior Colleen Lynch (sixth singles) capturing titles.
Glenbrook South coach Terri Kimura said Lynch had made huge strides over the last year, and that the player had earned her singles spot at sectionals.
“Colleen was on JV last year, but she put in the work between seasons and that definitely pushed her up,” Kimura said. “Her footwork from last year has improved tremendously and the shots she picks in a game are better. Some girls just hit over the net, but she has more of a killer instinct to put it away. That’s hard to teach.”
Salgia hopes for company
Maine South (43.5) finished fifth at conference, narrowly edging out Evanston (42.5).
Maine South likely would have had more points, but top singles player Meghan Salgia played through illness during Saturday’s singles draw and second singles player Rebecca Klages, a senior, was away on a school project.
Both are expected back and healthy for the sectional. Coach Eve Muir-Wilson is expected to partner seniors Natalie Michalski and Rinya Kamber and pair senior Sharon Shim with junior Maddy Gaertner for her doubles lineup.
Salgia, who was the team’s lone representative at state last season, is hoping to qualify again, and said she’d like to have company in Charleston this season.
“It would be nice to have all my teammates come with me (as qualifiers),” said Salgia, a senior. “I think we could do it, too. Our top two doubles teams are really good and our second singles is good, too.
Hopefully, we’ll all make it out (of sectionals). That would be exciting and I could tell them more about (what state is like).”
Evanston’s Esther John competed in singles at the 2012 state meet. But at this week’s sectional, the senior is scheduled to play doubles with Anna Cable, also a senior. The two are longtime doubles partners and, according to John, have been best friends since second grade.
“Anna and I have been doubles partners for three years and we (train) together in the offseason,” John said. “We have played together for so long, we know each other’s weaknesses and strengths. She’s not only a partner, but a good friend, and I know I can rely on her when we play together.”
There were two other programs covered by Pioneer Press at the CSL Meet: Maine East (seventh place, 24.5 points) and Glenbrook North (eighth, 22).