Eastlake’s first ever badminton season kicks off with a tie
March 30, 2013
By Lillian O'Rorke
New: March 30, 3:16 p.m.
No ribbons were cut, nor did a bunch of balloons billow down on the Eastlake gym March 26 when the high school had its first ever badminton league match. But there were a lot of smiles.
One of those smiles belonged to Cassidy Hemphill. The 15-year-old sophomore had played on Inglewood Junior High School’s badminton team in seventh through ninth grade, but didn’t think she would get to play once she moved up to Eastlake.
“It’s cool because everyone was asking ‘when are you going to get a badminton team at Eastlake’ because all the girls from Inglewood wanted to move on and still play,” Hemphill said. “In the past, they haven’t been able to so it’s cool that they have it.”
The sophomore added that the sport is a lot more than just a game played at family reunions.
“It’s not just all about hitting the birdy,” Hemphill said. “You actually have to think ‘oh, she’s on this side. I should hit over there,’ and if she is in the back you do a drop shot and if she’s in the front, you do a clear. It’s just thinking really fast of where you want to hit it compared to where she is.”
The Lake Washington School District announced last summer that it was adding badminton to the spring line-up of girls’ sports. The district was already offering it at all seven of its junior highs, where 280 girls came out for the racquet sport last year. The decision to extend it to high school play was made to ensure Title IX compliance.
Leading Eastlake’s inaugural 31-member badminton team is Gene Dales, who coached the school’s football team for a little over seven years and guided the Eastlake Wolves to the 2011 4A state quarterfinals.
During that time, Dales also helped coach girls basketball in the winter and girls golf in the spring.
“This has kind of been that second sport for me that I always just really enjoyed because this is a totally different setting than the Friday nights, you know, with the thousands of people watching the ball game,” he said, adding that it’s not as big of a time commitment either.
“We don’t breakdown much film,” Dales joked. “It’s just fun to watch something in its baby stages, because this will end up being a big deal, I think, down the road. I think badminton is a fun sport that everybody kind of enjoys and anybody can play.”
For its first ever league match, the badminton team hosted Bellevue and after playing six single and four double matches, best two-out-three, the two teams ended the afternoon in a 5-5 tie.
One of Eastlake’s wins was thanks to Sahana Melkris. As a junior this year, she said she is happy to be back playing the sport that she first started to enjoy in junior high. Not leaving any doubt on the court March 26, she won her No. 4 singles match 21-9, 21-1.
“I think the whole game depends on strategy. That’s what makes a good player,” Melkris said. “I made sure to hit it where she couldn’t get it.”
As the final match finished up, Bellevue was leading 5-4. Eastlake’s No. 4 doubles team, made up of Victoria Bernacki and Angelina Babkin, had lost the first round 21-10 but returned to win the second 21-19.
Heading into the third game tied the two adjusted their strategy and played front-to-back, instead of side-to-side, Bernacki explained.
“We knew that we had to step up our game, so we planned on how we were going to play and eventually we got it right and we beat them,” she said. The duo won 21-19. “It was a really close score but it felt good and relieving that we finally beat them.”
Eastlake’s other three team points were earned when Tiffany Tsai, No. 5 singles, and Monika Kruml, No. 6 singles, both won their match 21-12, 21-6; and the No. 2 double team, Ling Huang and Emma Heidorn, won 21-6, 21-12.