Season recap: Badminton team exceeds goals despite losses

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    Freshman James Nielsen serves in a tournament against Lynbrook High School. Photo: Micaela Wong.

    After a rough season marked by surprising victories and tragic losses, the Palo Alto High School badminton team is rounding out its season with the completion of the NorCals tournament.

    At the Central Coast Section tournament in May, varsity mixed doubles team senior Flavia Stiglich and junior Michael Chau placed second, narrowly losing in the finals to Gunn High School with close scores of 17-21, 26-24 and 21-18 across three matches. The team then moved onto the NorCals competition, where they moved up the bracket, defeating duos from Lowell High School, Gunderson High School and Monta Vista High School. Stiglich and Chau eventually fell to a pair from Monta Vista at the end, placing third.

    Senior team captain Ally Zhu says she is proud of the team’s performance, especially considering Paly’s main goal throughout the entire season was to remain in the upper league of the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League.

    “That has always been the goal,” Zhu said. “My freshman year was the year Paly was finally in the upper league … 90 percent of the time when they [a school] are in an upper league for the first year they usually get kicked back down but we didn’t, so we’re trying to stay in the upper league as long as we can.”

    To remain in the upper league, the team needed at least two victories. Paly won four tournaments, one of which they won due to a team forfeiting.

    “Even though we didn’t win a lot this year, we were able to still compete well and not let the losses drag down our team morale,” varsity junior Tilak Misner said. “We had a rough start to the season but we were still able to continue practicing and playing hard until we got a win.”

    Paly’s most notable success was a surprise win on April 25 against Milpitas High School, a high-ranking team in the league. Both schools stacked their players, or had their best players compete at a lower level to score points, resulting in an unusual playing field.

    The team also suffered several severe losses, including when Paly fell to Gunn High School 29-1.

    “Usually the captains make the lineup but for some reason the coach made the lineup that day,” Zhu said. “I would just like to say that the ingame scores were close, it’s just the overall scores were 29-1. In my four years of high school we have never lost that badly before.”

    Due to the continued gym construction, the team was forced to practice each day at Gunn, which senior team manager Kogulan Paulmurugan says negatively impacted the team.

    “It was a annoying for most players, and we probably would have had more returning and new players if we still had the Paly gym,” Paulmurugan said. “The athletics director did a great job of making it easier for us to commute to the Gunn gym by using a school bus.”

    According to Misner, many varsity seniors graduated last year, leaving the team with a shortage of experience that negatively affected the overall performance.

    “We are losing a lot of seniors this year too, but we have a lot of underclassmen who can hopefully step up and fill their places for next year,” Misner said.

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