In winning its first-ever CCCAA state title last year, the Pasadena City College women's badminton team has raised its own bar of success. Now, the Lancers, directed by fourth-year head coach Jen Ho, will shoot for the stars again as they embark on the 2018 season.
On Friday, the Lancers extended three streaks in a 21-0 blanking of visiting Compton College at Hutto-Patterson Gymnasium. PCC's regular season win string is at 36 matches (since Ho took over program in 2015), its South Coast Conference streak at 31 matches (since '15), and an overall victory streak at a modest 14 in a row.
PCC is carrying nine players this year returning only a pair, and a pretty good one at that in the All-American doubles team of Natalie Ong and Amy Huang. Ong-Huang made it to the CCCAA State Individual semifinals. Ong was the team's No. 3 singles and Huang at No. 4. Both players recorded two singles triumphs in the state championship match, 11-10 win over Fresno City College. Ong-Huang scored the key doubles win that allowed PCC to beat Grossmont in the SoCal Championship, 11-10. Ong recorded four team points in that key playoff win.
Ong and Huang have moved up the chain as the respective No. 1 and No. 2 singles players this season.
"Even in winning the state title last year, I feel like our 2018 team has more camaraderie already," Ho said. "The big hurdles are can we play well when challenged and deal with adversity when presented to us. Natalie is a better player than a year ago and is primed to have a great year. Amy is also better, but so is our middle ladder."
Of the freshmen, Ho is excited about the progress of Xiaoming Yao (from Chu Neng High in Shanghai, China) and Jessica Lee (Mark Keppel High). The two are expected to pick up points in the second part of the ladder. Grace Bajar (St. James High, Phillipines) and 54-year-old Asiana Pitackul, a strong athlete, originally from Thailand, who completed her GED at PCC's Community Education Center a few years ago are in the third wave. Also in the rotation depending on competition are redshirt freshman Pinky Cheung (Booth High, Hong Kong, China), Mikaella Reamico (Glendale Hoover High), and Quynh Trinh (from Nguyen Cong Tru High in Vietnam).
"Asiana is a great story because she took a P.E. badminton class a few years ago, asked a lot of questions, and she was eager to get better. I saw potential in her and she trains hard. She has a son who is in the U.S. Navy. She's older than me (by a year)!"
Ho decided to play everyone in the opener, moving Lee to No. 1 and Bajar to No. 2 in singles against Compton. Lee won over Tartars' No. 1 Rosalyn Ascencio, 21-4, 21-5, and beat Barbara Najera, 21-8, 21-6. Bajar beat Ascencio, 21-11, 21-4, and defeated Najera, 21-10, 21-11. Pitackul's collegiate debut at No. 3 singles was a piece of cake as she routed the younger Marisol Mercado, 21-7, 21-7, and Diana Gonzalez, 21-2, 21-4.
Cheung had the team's toughest individual match at No. 4 as she rallied to beat Mercado, 17-21, 21-16, 21-13. She beat Gonzalez, 21-8, 21-6. At No. 5, Reamico won her only match over Sequoya Gatson, 21-3, 21-2 while Trinh also beat Gatson, 21-5, 21-3. Compton played with only five players, one less than the traditional six-player ladder.
In No. 1 doubles, the heralded Ong paired with Trinh and beat Najera-Mercado, 21-10, 21-5, and waltzed over Ascencio-Gonzalez, 21-5, 21-5. The letterman Huang coupled with Xioming Yao to win their two doubles contests (21-9, 21-9 over Najera-Mercado and 21-6, 21-9 over Ascencio-Gonzalez.